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.
Today, the demand for vehicle wraps is bigger than ever due to media that provides flexibility for the most amateur wrapper. Other advances in software, printers, ink, cutters/plotters, laminators, and application tools allow for 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,” 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 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 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. Martin Kugler, corporate communications manager, Hexis S.A., adds that there is a growing tendency for technical colors.
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.
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 vehicle curves. Sometimes wipers, boat fixtures, or other 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.
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 various sources. 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,” notes David Conrad, product manager, finishing, Neschen Americas.
Even for seasoned wrappers, continued education is recommended. “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 hosts events and contests at trade shows, which promote wrapping skills.
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 online tools, training, certifications, and networking.
The Professional Decal Application Alliance (PDAA) unites 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 sponsors 3M, Avery Dennison, Clear Focus, FLEXcon, Hewlett-Packard, and MACtac Graphic Products.
Another installer association is the United Application Standards Group (UASG). It requires companies to meet criteria to be members, including professionalism, a proven track record, and installation skill.
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 business.
3M recommends the Certified Graphics Installation Company title administered by the UASG and/or the 3M Preferred Graphics Installer title. “These options validate the company or the installer, while offering networking and continued education,” explains Tim Boxeth, business manager, 3M.
Arlon offers wrap classes through distributors, instructional videos on the Web, and exclusive application training sessions with high-volume customers.
Clear Focus customers can access technical staff and resources online, via email, and by phone for design, printing, lamination, and installation information. The company offers Webinars to distributors that include guidance on choosing the most suitable Clear Focus products for vehicle wraps.
Hexis offers training courses for vehicle wraps and window films at beginner, advanced, and proficient levels. One or two day courses are held in English, French, German, and Spanish.
MACtac’s Application Nation, launched in 2007, is a seminar-based training program and community forum designed to educate and emphasize the correct methods of vehicle wrapping along with trouble shooting and support.
Neschen provides an education and training facility in Elkridge, MD where printer OEMs send their own personnel, customer installers, or dealers to learn tips and tricks of the vehicle wrap business. Application, printer, and software training is offered in a classroom environment.
Oracal USA offers a technical support team, along with an instructional DVD and wrap academy classes throughout Canada and the U.S.
Ritrama Inc. aids customers by offering a large number of printer profiles, an instructional video, an application guidelines booklet, and in-house instructional seminars. The company’s cast vinyl products and overlaminate materials are designed to ease application and removal.