Wraps Attain Great Heights
By Gretchen A. Peck
When you think of building graphics, images of brands in gigantic proportions come to mind. Creatively, building graphics don’t always focus on selling a product or service, but are leveraged for beautification or to hide unsightly structures. From a print service supplier perspective, building wraps and building-sized banners are easily printed, but factors including cost, logistics, and geography limit volume.
Real Hit Media of White Plains, NY, is a pressure-sensitive vinyl installer. “I’m a vehicle wrapper,” explains Shad Interligi, owner, Real Hit. “That’s been my thing and wrapping cars turned into buildings.”
Interligi travels the nation and abroad to transform structures in this way, but the building graphics market that spans the Northeast corridor between Boston, MA and Washington, DC is so ripe, it is where Interligi and his team spends most of their time and attention.
“I give advice to clients about different substrates, whether it’s brick or glass, aluminum or marble. Buildings are comprised of many textures, and there are different materials for all of them. Ultimately, the printer is responsible for coming up with the right material,” cautions Interligi.
A trusted installation partner offers other value adds as well. Real Hit constructs building templates for media companies. The team goes out and surveys the scene, takes photographs and measurements, and creates a design template.
A flat approach is hit or miss, according to Interligi, who says that some of the most successful building designs incorporate aspects of the building into the creative.
Preparing the Canvas
So much of the success of a building wrap project’s success is dependent upon the print media and the surface.
Tim Boxeth, business manager, 3M Commercial Graphics, explains the need for carefully selected media. “If it’s a really smooth surface, they may use 3M Controltac Graphic Film with Comply v3 Adhesive IJ180Cv3. A printer may want to apply 3M Scotchcal Matte Overlaminate 8520 to prevent glare.”
Holly Curtis, director of marketing communications, Arlon Graphics, LLC, says Arlon DPF 8000 with Series 3220 overlaminate is popular for building wraps. It is made out of 3.5-mil satin, white, engineered vinyl, which is best suited for installations subject to cold temperatures or hard-to-stick surfaces. Series 3220 extends the life of the graphics by two years.
Clear Focus Imaging, Inc. also supplies media. JetVue exterior mount film is suggested for exterior mount window graphics. It may be combined with a liquid or overlaminate—such as CurvaLam—in cases where windows are curved.
Supplier as Maestro
No one knows how elements and geography impact the installation of grand scale graphics more so than Cheryl Frenette, account executive, Vomela Specialties Company, of Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. The window of opportunity in MN is limited to May through October.
It’s because of these constraints that the building wrap market in Frenette’s area isn’t as hearty as large cities. One building wrap project was considered a huge success despite environmental and architectural challenges, the Orchestra Hall in downtown MN.
“It was the first time that I’ve ever done something of that scale,” recalls Frenette. “It called for 23,000 square feet of graphics, and the challenge was the architecture, because we worked with rows of metal panels and windows, and the materials used differed based on the application.”
A lot of measuring was involved. Despite having the original blueprints, specifications were not exact. Based on the plans, the building had 20 windows, but there were actually 21. The job was printed on a 3M Scotchprint Printer 2000 on 3M films. Installation took three weeks.
Gene Chambers, VP, Vision Graphics, of Salt Lake City, UT, began his career hand painting billboards. Today, the print provider has ten five-meter presses, as well as several flatbeds and three-meter presses.
Building wraps are done on five-meter EFI VUTEk 5330s. “With four of those, we have the capacity to knock these kinds of jobs out quickly,” he adds. A new UV press from Durst Image Technology US LLC was recently added to the mix to handle higher resolution jobs
Navigating the substrate learning curve was challenging at first for Vision Graphics. “In the early days, we wanted to make sure that the media was strong enough to withstand the elements, so we used a heavy vinyl. More recently, we’ve used media as light as seven ounces,” notes Chambers.
Vision Graphics produces graphics for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, displayed in Time Square in New York, NY, and frequently refreshed. Chambers notes that the graphics are updated approximately every three weeks.
The company has the luxury of 70,000 square feet of space, including clear spans that enable the graphics to be laid out, measured, adjudicated, and then finished if necessary—pocketing and the application of grommets, for example.
“We check to make sure that the printed sections match up and there aren’t any problems with it,” stresses Chambers.
Bringing Big Ideas to Life
With big ideas come big price tags, according to John Rodriguez, president/owner, BigIdea Signs & Graphics, based in Hollywood, FL. The cost of producing building-sized graphics can make even the most stoic media buyer balk, he confides. These are not cheap marketing ventures. He estimates that his company fields between 20 and 30 inquiries a year.
When these types of jobs happen, Rodriguez says he prefers to be involved in all aspects of the project—from creative and logistics to printing and installation
BigIdea deploys two printers for building graphics, a 64-inch Mimaki USA, Inc. and a 126-inch DGI Polajet. For banner installations, Rodriguez says that one of the standout vendors is Serge Ferrari Group, which has a range of architectural media. The company also uses 3M’s Scotchcal Graphic Film for Textured Surfaces IJ8624.
To serve this market the right finishing tools are essential, suggests Rodriguez. He acknowledges that volume certainly drives those investments. Outsourcing finishing proves a better option for BigIdea.
“We try to outsource as much as we can, because if you don’t have many projects, it doesn’t make sense to maintain that kind of inventory, hardware, and staffing,” asserts Rodriguez.
Building wraps are a growth area for print providers. Graphically transforming the environment in this way represents an investment in a static graphic. It must be vibrant, eye grabbing, and perfectly installed. There is no room for error or compromise.
Dec2011, Digital Output