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When Reliable Products Go Wrong

Vinyl Warranty Expectations

By Thomas Franklin

For print service providers (PSPs), product failures are, if not inevitable, certainly in the back of one’s mind. How to prevent and prepare for them and knowing what warranty options are available are important to running a successful business.

Vinyl graphics are often subjected to harsh conditions—water, sand, dust, UV-rays, urban traffic, and mud. Vinyl vendors support media offerings with performance guarantees.

Because print performance hinges on many variables, many manufacturers offer variants of total system warranties. These programs offer a guarantee—of varying generosity—provided the PSP uses a specific ink set, printer, and laminate. If a PSP follows the guidelines provided by the vendor’s warranty and the vinyl still fails, they justly qualify for compensation. This could mean a replacement for the media or monetary return.

Other companies, such as Oracal USA, offer certifications to PSPs working with approved hardware, ink, and media on a regular basis. To qualify, shops must document their equipment and processes and submit a print sample, which is evaluated by Oracal. Media warranties of this nature, including certification procedures, are offered free with the purchase of manufacturers’ media products.

Warranties serve two confidence-boosting purposes. First, PSPs requesting warranty coverage generally provide a vendor with confidence that the PSP is demonstrating best practices—thereby reducing the likelihood that the failure was due to an error in the print shop. Second, PSPs feel reassured that their shop’s warranty claim will process expeditiously. It also provides them with a marketing tool.

"We hang the certification in our lobby, and it absolutely reassures our customers that we stand behind our projects," shares Joshua Loring, founder, Loring Studios, based in Elsinore, CA.

Arlon Inc.’s Total System Warranty covers the print performance of its major media lines. After evaluating the print process, if Arlon determines that the media was at fault, it will issue a replacement for the material or a credit to the customer, explains Claudia Lazar, technical director, Arlon. The entire process takes 15 days from start to finish. Lazar believes the process gives Arlon customers "the confidence that the company stands behind its products," she says.

In 2007, MACtac Graphic Products introduced its Open Image Warranty. "In the past we had strong coverage for vehicles and floor graphics, but we wanted to make it simple for customers and give them a general blanket that says, ‘if you have an issue with a MACtac product, you’ll be covered,’" says Rick Moore, director of marketing, MACtac.

The Open Image Warranty covers a variety of OEM ink, printer, media, and laminate combinations. Customers participating in the warranty constantly pre-file reports on current jobs. MACtac then a record on file in the event a claim is registered. "If a customer is using an ink that is not currently covered, they can submit a print sample of what they’re going to use and we test it to qualify for warranty coverage," adds Moore.

Oracal’s Oralife Component System (OCS) warranty functions much the same in that it encompasses materials, inks, and printers. "We receive a lot of response from average to small shops who are excited because it’s a great selling tool," shares Josh Culverhouse, product support specialist, Oracal.

One recurring issue regarding warranties is geography—varying temperatures across the continent directly affect vinyl application and general wear and tear. If you’re working in the Southwest—for example, where humidity looms large—check with your supplier to ensure that the same warranty coverage applies. As with all warranties, the devil is in the details, and it behooves PSPs to review paperwork carefully.

Jan2009, Digital Output

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