The scale and drama of printed graphics generate maximum viewer attention and brand recognition. Large corporations, entertainment venues, and sports teams are potential customers for building wraps. They are used to launch and promote major retail products or events with large scale impact and mask unsightly construction or rehab projects.
The opportunity for print service providers (PSPs) producing building wraps is as large as the graphics. Wraps pull PSPs top dollar from high-end clients.
Beyond print savvy, building wraps necessitate a grand format digital printer—which runs from the tens- to the hundreds of thousands of dollars. These devices print on a large scale—sometimes over 200 inches, using aqueous, eco-solvent, solvent, UV-curable, or latex ink.
Building wrap media includes see-through perforated window film from vendors like Clear Focus Imaging, Inc. Options from manufacturers like 3M Graphics Market Center and Avery Dennison include media applied to rough surfaces such as brick.
Established over 50 years ago as a screen printing company, The National Print Group (NPG) is a full service print provider that services in-store point of purchase as well as out-of-home advertisers, with manufacturing facilities in Las Vegas, NV, and Chattanooga, TN, as well as field sales offices throughout the U.S. NPG prints between 1,500 to 3,600 square feet per hour using one of its five-meter eight-color Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex presses and proprietary inks and substrates.
NPG modifies its presses to work to their specific specifications. With help from various substrate manufacturers they develop substrates to meet exacting specifications and requirements for durability and longevity. Collaboration with a few premier ink manufacturers has also led to the development of inks that meet NPG’s specifications for outdoor longevity, color vibrancy, and color gamut. “It may cost a little more for these materials but it is well worth it. We have equipment and trained individuals in-house and we test all substrates and inks against the perils of outdoor sun, wind, moisture, and temperatures,” states Doug Newson, president, NPG.
Although grand format printers such as NPG’s HP Scitex XL1500 produce large prints, the output needs to be welded or sewn together in some cases. This makes finishing devices necessary. “Building wraps are as small as 500 square feet or as large as 115,000, like the project we completed earlier this year for the NBA All Star game in Dallas,” says Newson.
Very large building wraps do require piecing or welding, but very little sewing is done if any, because it punctures a substrate, which leads to tearing. “Our vinyl and flex materials are double RF welded together. The pressure-sensitive materials are overlapped when installed but there is no sewing,” he says.
Shop space is essential for housing a grand format printer and finishing equipment. The Rho 500R superwide five-meter UV roll-to-roll printer from Durst Image Technology US LLC used by Fusion Imaging, for example, requires approximately 43x33 feet of space. “We lay out the pieces on our floor and mark them for alignment. Then the panels are stitched per our engineered drawings,” says Wayne Boydstun, COO, Fusion Imaging, based in Kaysville, UT. “Every banner is different depending on the size, attachment method, and duration of the project.”
Speed is still a high priority for wrap buyers, although turnaround on a building wrap from job submission to installation is usually unique to each project. Time is based on client demands, graphic size, building scale and architecture, weather conditions, permitting, and traffic issues. “It varies depending on the customer’s needs,” notes Boydstun.
Print time and consumables depend on size, selected resolution, and ink coverage. Fusion Imaging recently printed a job with a solid black background. The 30-hour project used 50 liters of ink because of the solid black coverage and 25,000 square feet of media.
Newson stresses that color accuracy and high resolution are important. “Advances in technology during the past two decades played a significant role in large building wraps. Clients want products to look good. Some companies cheat by using lower resolution in the printing process, but it is very obvious. Printing at higher resolution takes more time but the final product looks much better and yields better results,” he states.
PSPs unlock tremendous opportunity by expanding into building wraps. They profit by providing graphics that advertise, promote, and mask on a sky-high scale.
It takes years of print experience to excel. Fusion Imaging and NPG line up state-of-the-art printers, consumables, and finishing tools; and highly trained print production and sales staff to find success with these applications.
Part two of this building wraps series discusses what it takes to produce successful building wraps and provides details on installation.