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Cash In, Wrap Out

Untraditional Vinyl Wrapping Takes Center Stage

By Melissa Donovan

The art of vinyl wrapping expands from vehicles to untraditional objects. Customers request such novelties as wrapped refrigerators, mailboxes, and instruments. With a background in vehicle wraps print service providers (PSPs) should consider expanding offerings to wrapping obscure items.


“As time has passed and inks and media evolve, a range of substrates and surfaces become wrap friendly and the PSPs who master the techniques of vehicle wraps make the natural transition into wrapping other objects

and structures,” explains Ritchie Daize, international digital sales manager, Arlon Graphics, LLC.


Many of the tools and methods used in vehicle wrapping translate to non-traditional items. Working around curvatures, deciding the best media for the job, trimming, and paneling are factors that arise in even the most uncommon projects. With this knowledge, a PSP is readily equipped to branch out into other wrapping options.


Wrap Expansion

Comfort is a large part of deciding whether or not to expand a service portfolio. If you are an experienced wrapper, the ability to wrap uncommon items may arise on its own—a customer may ask you to wrap a helmet to complement the motorcycle you just worked on.


“People are not happy out of their comfort zone, so they stick with what they know. But the industry has shown the sky is the limit where pressure-sensitive graphics are concerned, so if you are not at least open to these additional services, you may be missing the boat,” admits Jason Yard, marketing specialist, MACtac Graphic Products.


In such a competitive industry, it is important to offer standout services that keep you ahead of the shop across town. As Shawn Adams, manager, LG Sign and Graphics, shares, if your business isn’t thinking creatively and searching for non-traditional advertising solutions, then you are probably losing ground to another company that is.


Wrapping non-traditional objects is a natural extension for many PSPs. It makes good business sense to apply those skills to additional revenue and grow business. However, for a novice print provider—it is important to do your homework. For example, taking installation classes and working closely with technical experts from your media manufacturer is a good initial step.


Additionally, Tim Boxeth, business manager, and Adam Larson, marketing, 3M Commercial Graphics, suggest asking important questions involving your business plan. Does expansion require capital investment; skills enhancement; new legal requirements; or additional marketing, sales, and employees?


A PSP should also consider if they have a target customer in place and whether new pricing will need to be instituted. “Part of the challenge is simply imagining the possibilities available and then promoting them to customers,” notes Judy Bellah, public relations manager, Clear Focus Imaging, Inc.


As long as these first cautious steps are taken, it makes sense to dive in.


Master of Translation

Non-traditional objects and vehicles are structurally similar. The skills, tips, and tricks translate well from one to the other. Two important considerations are curvature and surface.


PSPs are accustom to applying graphics to a variety of surfaces because each vehicle uses a different type of metal or plastic—for example the bumper. “Vehicles vary with certain amounts of to different types of plastic to metal with multiple materials used—and objects compare in this same way as a variety of materials are utilized,” shares Jodi Sawyer, product manager, product branding business unit, FLEXcon.


Complex curves—both convex and concave—are readily present in vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Mastering wrapping a bus or complex hub cap provides a PSP with the ability to wrap such things as newspaper boxes, appliances, or even park benches.


“If you can wrap a car, you can wrap just about everything. Because some vehicles have complex curves that require a certain expertise, for those with the expertise, wrapping objects with complex curves is very similar,” recommends Jeff Leto, product manager, LexJet Corporation.


What to Look For

While the tips and tricks to wrap may translate, the actual media used on a vehicle may not be the best substrate for say a refrigerator. As with any application, it is important to match the media to the job. This means understanding the environment it will be placed in and the factors that play on it, such as weather, UV exposure, human touch, and whether it will be short or long term.


“PSPs seeking to wrap non-traditional surfaces are typically looking for a short-term graphic. The primary considerations then are price and performance. They will want something their clients can afford, yet will be easy to install and meet their durability requirements,” says Adams.


The normal rule of thumb between cast and calendered film should be observed. If the object in question utilizes compound curves, then cast film is preferred, where it is stretched and conformed easily. Calendered film works well for anything else.


For example, Daize points out that for personal electronics, a conformable intermediate film with a permanent adhesive would be the best choice, as the object may be toted around and touched by human hands, so it must withstand wear and tear.


Adhesion also plays a factor. Questions that should be considered, according to Yard, are whether the job is permanent, whether it will be removed, or if it being applied to a hard-to-stick surface.


As always, “consult with the manufacturer/distributor about which type of vinyl would be best for the application at hand, that should also factor in material costs and labor,” advises Leto.


Adaption of Products

Media vendors develop products to conform to vehicles both long- and short-term. Many substrates are a fit for non-traditional objects. There is specific media available targeted toward non-vehicle wraps,


3M’s films are versatile, and so they can be leveraged into many different wrap scenarios. Many are designed, tested, and proven to work well for a variety of substrates, shapes, environments, and durabilies.


Over the past five years, Arlon has specifically developed media for wrapping low-energy surfaces such as chemically resistant finishes, textured aggregate surfaces, highly contoured surfaces, and films used for personal electronics.


Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions studies the various surfaces media will be applied to and then takes texture and paint into consideration. From that, a product is optimized.


Clear Focus has broadened its expertise from developing window films for traditional mediums such as vehicles and retail store signage to architectural and decorative uses. For example, its new DecoVue, a clear, perforated, pressure-sensitive window film is ideal for wrapping glass partitions, an atrium in an office, or glass shower stalls.


FLEXcon focuses on the film, adhesive, and liner of a vinyl product. For the film, questions arise such as how conformable, is it opaque or full screen, and what its thickness is. For adhesives, the challenge is to determine the application surface. For the liner, the company questions how will it print—roll or flat?


LexJet Infinium’s flexibility allows it to wrap almost any object, from wood, metal, plastics, bricks, tiles, ceramics, and rock, maintaining the look and feel of the substrate. The media is based on Avatrex technology, developed in partnership with Utopia Digital Technologies. Avatrex is a coating that allows the user to transport any image to just about any substrate using any print technology. Infinium is the first product introduced using the new coating.


LG develops products that stick to surfaces such as concrete and brick. It offers an adhesive vinyl for low-surface energy plastics found on consumer products such as trash cans, dirt bikes, and retail and trade show displays.


MACtac offers a range of products, so much so they don’t need to be adapted for each individual application. Instead, users simply determine what media should be used where.


Ritrama Inc.’s RI-WRAP RANGE, which focuses on vehicles, is now used by interior architects. “The many colors allow for exciting designs for contemporary indoor living,” explains Robert Rundle, viscom marketing manager, Ritrama.


Foresee the Evolution

Experienced vendors deep in the trenches of media manufacturing often foresee trends before other members of the industry. That way, they are able to develop a product ahead of the curve to cater to demand. Many of the media manufacturers interviewed shared their insight on the evolution from vehicle to untraditional wraps.


“We’ve experienced a strong and growing trend toward personalization at the consumer level for the last few years. A number of factors mobilize it. Large format graphics were once the domain of brand owners with big budgets, but with the lower cost options offered by large format digital printing, it wasn’t long before small business owners leveraged the power of personalization to build their names. Now, the trend for personalization at the person-on-the-street consumer level is driven by the development of consumer accessible marketplaces, customization, and correct pricing,” explain Boxeth and Larson.


“People are so creative and with advertisers focusing on out-of-home options, to gain consumers’ attentions by trying to reach people wherever they are, the opportunities to place graphics have grown exponentially. The consumer personalization trend has also driven the evolution of wraps,” adds Molly Waters, technical specialist, Avery Dennison.


“FLEXcon’s niche has been in the shorter term advertising space where products change over, so this is a natural fit for us. In the last several years, however, there has been an increased demand in products that change more frequently. Naturally, it makes sense that the materials would change with them,” says Sawyer.


“From the day vinyl was invented people were looking for ways to adhere vinyl to everything they could think of, sometimes not successfully. As vinyl adhesive technology improves it opens up new and exciting canvases for advertisers to market products,” shares Adams.


Try Then Buy

Adding a service, no matter how natural, is never an easy task. Many factors come into play—business plans, new employees, additional training, more media, and perhaps more marketing. Being comfortable with the addition of a new service is important. With wrapping non-traditional objects, the case can be made that it is a worthwhile investment.


“The vehicle wrap market is great and still growing to some degree, but shops need to set themselves apart and look at a whole package for a customer. Maybe they are providing van wraps to a water cooler company, well why not wrap the coolers too?” suggests Yard.


Start small and examine success slowly. Offer smaller wraps and get more confident as these sell. Wrap items around your shop to showcase your talent. Soon, this opportunity will grow into something more.


Jan2012, Digital Output

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