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Furious, Fast Pace Install

Experience in Floors

By Melissa Donovan

Most applications in wide format printing have similarities. Often, they are found within the print process—as ink lay down and color quality are important elements in any project. When it comes to installation, this step in the process is unique.


Vehicle wraps provide their own set of challenges. For one, wrapping around contours and curves is difficult for a beginner. Getting the media around nooks and crannies is essential to a final product that brings the design justice.


Window graphics present other issues. A decision of whether the application will be placed inside or outside is a major consideration. Another is cleaning the window for maximum adhesion. Weather also comes into play here, if the graphic is being adhered outside, it needs to be the correct temperature with no precipitation. If inside, try and avoid an overly sunny day, as that could make installation difficult.


In every scenario issues of time, space, and client satisfaction are factors. This special feature takes an up close look at a floor graphic installation.


With floor graphics, there are multiple issues including the time one has to place the graphic down. If it’s a busy area, it cannot be done in the middle of the day. Then there is the challenge of the floor—will the graphic adhere? Also, if the project butts up against the edge of a wall, it must be ensured that the graphic is cut at precisely the correct length and width for no messy overlap.


School Days

Maryland Signs and Graphics (MS&G), based in Towson, MD, started in 1996 out of its owners’ home with three large format plotters to offer print and design services. In July 2010 the company moved into its current location, which is about 4,000 square feet in space. Five employees, including David Kurniawan, co-owner, MS&G, and his wife, Frida, run the shop providing work to commercial customers, public interest, and trade groups.


The print service provider (PSP) has offered floor graphics as part of its portfolio since it began and displays samples of its work in the shop’s show room—both inside and outside. Popular verticals MS&G creates floor graphics for include—but are not limited to—schools, hospitals, trade show exhibitors, gyms and health clubs, convention centers, and airports. While Kurniawan says that today about 20 percent of its offerings are considered floor graphics he expects it to grow.


“I see an increasing trend as people start to realize that this application is not just for indoors or dry places only. Also, now that we are capable of printing directly to rigid board with a recent flatbed printer acquisition, graphics can be applied directly to flooring tiles or sheets,” he shares.


MS&G uses its Hewlett-Packard (HP) Designjet L25500 with latex inks for floor graphics. The PSP purchased the device because it is a firm believer in staying “green” as much as possible. In addition, the printer allows it to laminate a substrate right away without outgassing, providing for quick job completion.


The Children’s Guild, a non-profit, child-serving organization, is a repeat floor graphics customer. MS&G at press time had done two projects for the non-profit and was in the planning stages of a third. The customer was looking to liven up the floors of its day schools in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County with as realistic looking a product as possible. In addition, they hoped it would be eco-friendly to encourage a safe school environment. Based in an area with lots of traffic—especially younger children with the potential to pick at or pull up the graphic—the media also had to be durable. It was a daunting project, with a little over 1,100 square feet of material printed and laminated in three days and installed in around 24 hours by Kurniawan and his wife.


Relying on the HP Designjet L25500 mainly for its green attributes and high-quality output, the next step was to determine media choice. MS&G went with substrate and laminate from Oracal USA. Reasons why included a great warranty, “terrific” support team, and “superb” ICC profiling. These were all characteristics that needed to be in place for a job with a high probability of human interaction. Floor graphic media was ORAJET 1663 PVC Digital Media for Floor Graphics. This was laminated for protection of the image, slip resistance, and glare with ORAGUARD 255AS Skid Resistant PVC Laminating Film for High Load Exposure.


Once the printer and media were selected the team went to work. The graphic itself is very creative, depicting a sidewalk with grass on either side and items commonly found in a school yard interspersed throughout, this includes a jumping rope, Frisbee, and sheet music.


When the design was determined the graphic went to press. 32 panels were printed in all; each was around 112 inches long and 54 inches wide. It was necessary to print the panels in this way due to the width size of the media rolls and printer, so Kurniawan says they were very meticulous about overlapping about one inch of each panel every time it connected with the one before. The panels were then trimmed in the middle for durability and safety.


While mathematical accuracy played a large part in proper installation other elements helped. “Using the right tools like cutting blades and squeegees were ideal. Also, the air channels that form in the Oracal substrate help,” he explains.


To ensure the best adhesion possible, prior to install, a cleaning crew from the school came in and stripped the floor of flooring wax and then cleaned and scrubbed the surface as suggested by Oracal. Then the MS&G team used a static roller vacuum cleaner to vacuum each panel as it was placed down. Each panel was cleaned to pick up any loose dirt as well.


With many floor graphic installations just cleaning the surface may not be enough to aid in proper adhesion. The actual surface itself must be the ideal fit. In the case of The Children’s Guild project the flooring was better than most. There was no grout in between tiles, but simply flat. “This assured us that the applied product stayed down well to give the school maximum longevity,” says Kurniawan.


Despite the tile being flat, the surface was a little uneven, this provided a bit of a challenge during the install process. Also, any skew in the walls made it difficult to line the graphic up. The PSP’s experience in floor graphics prepared them for all of this, as well as tips they’ve picked up along the way including working with an air channel substrate that helps to get bubbles out easier. In addition, Kurniawan suggests laying down all the panels in advance to compensate for any skew in the install.


Superior Results

Floor graphic projects present many challenges, such as avoiding high levels of foot traffic during installation. Much of the application process is used to ensure proper adhesion from media to floor and that is difficult with constant feet moving around. MS&G is an ideal example of how to work within the parameters given and provide a superior result. A PSP who does this wins continuous jobs and stays ahead of the curve in installation experience.


Sep2012, Digital Output

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