Window graphics serve both creative and practical purposes, whether to promote product or message, display a work of art, block out the sun, or provide privacy. Various industries rely on print service providers (PSPs) to help them achieve this large-scale vision.
Monster Route Custom Fabricators is a full-service, one-stop shop servicing the architectural, design, engineering, and construction industries since 2005. Located in a 11,000 square foot building in Menlo Park, CA, approximately 12 employees provide customers such as airports, museums, sports venues, healthcare facilities, corporate centers, and retailers with custom wide format imaging, as well as thin gauge metal fabrication, renderings, shop drawings, and installation.
Experience Pays Off
Sai Chiang, founder, Monster Route, celebrates over 30 years in the imaging industry. Entering the business with years of experience under its belt, the shop has offered custom window films since the beginning.
“The beauty of window films is that they create a high-impact visual statement with relatively few challenges,” shares Tina Dominguez, director of new business development, Monster Route. “Communication and proofing with the client before production begins is very important in order to meet expectations,” she advises.
If not done properly, file preparation and installation is costly. “When creating and prepping the print file start with a precise measurement of the windows,” recommends Jaime Giannantonio Sherman, marketing manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc. “Once this occurs files should be set up with a certain amount of bleed to allow for error and even possible shrinkage. You can always trim accordingly afterwards.”
The best method for printing onto perforated or clear vinyl window film is determined by the end application. “There are various technologies for printing, which are suited for different environments,” explains Dominguez. “The key is to have experienced digital technicians creating the print files and knowledgeable installers who know how to avoid common pitfalls.”
“Most of the value of producing window graphics comes at the end of the process—that is, during installation,” says Jim Halloran, VP sales and marketing, Lintec Corporation of America. “I recommend getting to know your installer and be sure they understand the materials they are using.”
Sometimes the biggest challenge is working within a budget. PSPs such as Monster Route advocate for newer, high quality, eco-friendly technologies, however this option tends to be overlooked due to premium pricing. “Clients need to commit to valuing more sustainable products so they eventually become more cost effective,” notes Dominguez.
Landing the Image
Monster Route recently produced two large format images for internationally renowned artist Gordon Huether for the Jacksonville International Airport. The images covered three-story high airport hangar windows.
The process began with the artist supplying a B&W digital file. The shop then used a high definition thermal encapsulation (HTDE) process to image onto fluoride-based window film. HTDE is a newer imaging technology whereby heat embeds the dyes into substrates—it is not surface printed. “HTDE is great for indoor, outdoor, and underwater applications,” explains Dominguez. “It allows for more UV resistance, durability, and a vibrant color gamut.” HDTE film is installed the same as any traditional film with a squeegee and soapy water.
While background images were made from HDTE film, suitcase and briefcase images were HDTE film mounted onto CNC routed dichroic composite from 3form, Inc. The composite provides the installation with an interactive element so that colors change depending on where the sun is.
Using a Hewlett-Packard Scitex FB6100 for most film applications, the direct-to-substrate printer’s inks are cured to the film using a UV light, adding durability and longevity.
Monster Route often prints on Lintec’s Wincos E-2100ZC polyester clear window films. “They are cost effective and pass clients’ most stringent safe building requirements,” shares Dominguez. “These films are also a great alternative to PVC-based vinyl films, which cannot be used in environments with certain with health codes.”
The entire production process for the airport took approximately four weeks to complete. Working with circulated air and from a lift three stories high added to the complexity of the process. Dominguez explains that install was the most challenging aspect because it was difficult to keep the glass clean.
Judy Bellah, public relations manager, Clear Focus Imaging, Inc., advises against using a solvent-based glass cleaner, such as Windex, to clean the windows prior to application. “The solvent in the glass cleaner breaks down the adhesive on the window film, causing it to lift. For best results, use mild soap and water to clean the glass and dry it with lint-free towels. Use 85 percent isopropyl alcohol, if desired, to remove any residue but allow it to completely evaporate before installing the film. Always follow the film manufacturer’s instructions on the recommended installation temperature range and other important guidelines,” she adds.
Elements of Success
With the right combination of experience, a commitment to high quality, and use of sustainable products and practices, shops such as Monster Route appeal to businesses and buildings that abide by the same principles.