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Technology and Networking Propel an Industry Segment


Educated Vehicle Wrappers Grow with Advanced Materials


By Kim Crowley


Part 1 of 2


A decade ago, printed vinyl vehicle wraps began to appear in print providers’ shops. However, this specialty application required a skill and expertise in the areas of both design and installation. Installation in particular involved unforgiving vinyl that often resulted in wasted material, time, and money. Today, the demand for vehicle wraps is bigger than ever due to media that provides flexibility for even the most amateur wrapper. Other advances in software, printers, ink, cutters/plotters, laminators, and application tools allow for an easy entry into vehicle wrapping.



Although marketing spend is carefully scrutinized and dwarfed from previous years, the economy did not significantly affect the vehicle wrap market. Agencies, firms, and high-profile corporations recognize the worthy investment in high-impact vehicle graphics. “In the early 1990s, transit authorities discovered they could increase revenues by wrapping buses with advertising. It’s not surprising that the vehicle wrap business evolved to include commercial and consumer autos as part of the customization trend made possible with digital imaging. This created an entirely new revenue stream for print shops of all sizes,” states Judy Bellah, public relations manager, Clear Focus Imaging, Inc.


Wrapped vehicles increase brand identity and make use of a canvas that is constantly on the move in front of new audiences. In research highlighted by American Trucking Association, 3M Graphics Market Center finds that a single intra-city truck with graphics can generate up to 16 million visual impressions in a year.


Wraps are also popular beyond consumer marketing and branding. Boats, motorcycles, and other personal vehicles are frequently adorned with graphics. Stacy Clausen, VP of marketing, FELLERS, admits that these wraps are commonly mistaken for a high-end custom paint job.


Trends in personal vehicles include solid color wraps and the “murdered” black matte look gained from media manufacturers like 3M and Oracal USA. Martin Kugler, corporate communications manager, Hexis S.A., adds that there is a growing tendency for using technical colors such as varichrome shade shift tints or carbon fiber.

New Business

The emergence of wrap providers is boosted by advances in digital print technology, which affects cost of entry. “I always thought the vehicle wrap industry would gain popularity because of the technological advances in high-resolution digital printing,” shares Larry Lopez, owner, Art Station Vehicle Templates.


Ritchie Daize, international digital account manager, Arlon, Inc., agrees. Citing that wide format printers generating high-quality output are found in just about every sign shop thanks to their affordability. Technological advancements such as faster speeds and UV lamps, which heighten drying time, also aid in wraps’ popularity. Instead of waiting a week to install a wrap due to wet ink, a day is enough proper drying time.


However, Dave Dorsey, president, Aurora Graphics Inc., regularly speaks to vinyl shops that are so busy they need to turn away business. This is one sure sign that the wrap market remains steady.



Application is the most important part of a wrap project. “A great design with shoddy installation isn’t going to fly,” notes Clausen. FELLERS Certified is a large nationwide network of providers.


Installing a vehicle wrap takes skill, time, and practice. It requires tools such as rollers, scrapers, special cleansers, and cutters. Precise media placement is necessary while hugging the unique curves of the vehicle. Sometimes wipers, boat fixtures, or other body parts must be removed before the process commences.


Several media options feature air egress technology for more forgiving, repositionable placement. This advancement saves time and prevents waste.


Business is competitive. With more providers in the industry, it is essential for print service providers (PSPs) to know what they are doing. “Skill levels increased a great deal partly due to the need to provide high-quality service in the face of growing competition,” notes Michael Chramtchenko, director of marketing, CADlink Technology Corporation.



Training is available from many media and printer manufacturers, private consultants, and industry associations. Options include online tutorials, videos, on-site consulting, seminars, and certifications. Many shops entered the wrap market, but the successful ones continue to grow business by investing in ongoing training to turn production personnel and installers into the best in the industry,” notes David Conrad, product manager, finishing, Neschen Americas.


Even if you are a seasoned wrapper, continued education is recommended to enhance skills. “Any networking opportunity between car wrappers should be used, at trade shows, workshops, social media, and vehicle wrap events,” says Dirk Moebes, co-owner/CEO, Digital Designware. The company offers a toll-free hotline to aid customers with any problems, free tutorials, and Webinars. It also hosts events and contests at the major industry trade shows, which promote wrapping skills and excellent prize packages.


Industry trade associations such as International Sign Association (ISA), FESPA, and the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) are respected resources for design, printing, and installation skill development. The groups offer a range of online tools, training, events, certifications, and networking opportunities.


The Professional Decal Application Alliance (PDAA), founded in 1976, is an organization uniting vinyl manufacturers and other key players in the vinyl graphic community. The PDAA Graphics Application Zone at the October 2010 SGIA Expo, held in Las Vegas, NV, featured demonstrations by sponsor companies 3M, Avery Graphics, Clear Focus, FLEXcon, Hewlett-Packard, and MACtac Graphic Products.


Another installer association is the United Application Standards Group (UASG). Established in 1999, the UASG requires companies to meet criteria to be members, including professionalism, a proven track record, and hands-on installation skill. UASG members may promote their services as 3M Certified Graphics Installation Companies.


The Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) is also a source for information. FLEXcon suggests that printers and installers follow the organization to network and expand their business.


Trade groups aren’t the only organizations offering training services and educational seminars. Many media vendors also provide helpful information in the form of in-person sessions to Webinars. Read more about them in the November print issue of Digital Output. The next part in series on the evolution of vehicle wraps discusses template software.

Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

Oct2010, Digital Output

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