The first part in this series profiled Sharp Mill Graphics of Tinley Park, IL. The print service provider (PSP) specializes in a number of services, with 25 percent of its work involving fleet graphics. These jobs are mainly partial wraps or decals. To get a larger picture of how intensive fleet graphics can be, we turn to SightLine Signs and Graphics, which offers full wraps to its clients.
Juggling All Sizes
Located in West Columbia, SC, SightLine began in early 2003. Richard Larson and his wife made the decision to refocus their existing business to large format printing. Larson already held a background in installation and felt that he could combine this experience with his computer, network, and mechanical skills to succeed in the new endeavor. As such, the husband and wife team purchased a Mimaki USA, Inc. JV3 printer, GBC laminator, and SA International’s FlexiSIGN-PRO and “dove in head first.”
Today SightLine is primarily a large format print shop, but it also offers embroidery, promotional products, and small format printing in house. The company boasts one of the largest install bays for wraps and fleet graphics in the state of SC, according to Larson. It fits full tractor trailers, large motor coaches, and city buses.
In recent years, the company’s focus has shifted to federal, state, and local government projects in addition to larger corporate clients. However, it still works closely with several small business customers. It also manages all aspects of the local city bus advertising program.
Fleet graphics take up about 30 to 40 percent of its work. The PSP designs and prints for ambulances, police cars, and state fleet vehicles. These jobs range in size. For example, at press time, SightLine was currently working on printing wraps for a local HVAC company. 30 vehicles were set to be wrapped, from pickups to service beds, full size vans, a box truck, and an antique car.
Depending on the size of the job and the intended deadline, Larson relies on his four full-time staff members to assist in installs. If a larger project calls for it, he will bring in contract installers whom he maintains a running relationship with.
Visitors can find a number of digital printers on the production floor. A Mimaki JV33-160 runs with INX Digital Triangle JVV solvent inks. “I have always run full solvent inks. In my own experience they give the best long-term durability. Yes, the odors are strong, but we have a very unique dedicated room just for the Mimaki with a strong exhaust system,” explains Larson.
The Mimaki JV33-160 was added after the original JV3—which still runs in the shop—proved to be successful. The newer JV33-160, according to Larson, runs with a single eight channel printhead, which almost eliminates any alignment issues. The quality of both printers has always been superb, and Larson does attribute some of that to their own processes—such as creating custom color/print profiles.
In addition to the Mimaki printers, a Gerber Scientific, Inc. EDGE device and an Epson Stylus Pro 9600 printer are also part of the equipment lineup. Larson says neither is used as frequently as the Mimaki. OEM inks are utilized in both printers.
At the Bus Stop
SightLine recently helmed a complete rebranding of a set of city buses. Rebranded as New Flyer, the high-profile project had a long lead time. SightLine was involved in the conceptual planning stages all the way to the request for bids until winning the job. The entire process took almost ten months.
Once it was awarded the contract, the PSP had 45 days to paint the roof and rear, wrap the rest of the exterior, and wrap the entire interior ceiling of eight 35-foot buses. It outsourced the painting portion of the job to a local paint shop with the capabilities and paint booth large enough to fit the vehicles.
All of the wraps were printed on the Mimaki JV33-160 with Triangle JVV solvent inks on 3M Commercial Graphics’ Controltac Graphic Film with Comply Adhesive 180C and Scotchlite Removable Reflective Graphic Film with Comply Adhesive 680CR. These were then laminated with a matching 3M gloss laminate. ORAFOL America’s ORAJET 3675 Window Graphics Film was also used.
The print provider was tasked with choosing consumables designed to last for up to five years. The bus system plans to have the vehicles remain wrapped for the long term. “This requires some extra effort to remove things like fender flares, lights, brackets, as well as existing decals to ensure the best possible installation,” explains Larson.
Other challenges included the short time frame of 45 days to wrap essentially the inside and outside of eight buses. To resolve this, SightLine brought in additional contract install crews locally and from two other states. The wrapping of the ceilings also proved to be challenging, but the issue was overcome and the team provided a high-quality finished graphic.
In the end, the city was thrilled with the completed fleet. According to Larson, the visual impact in comparison to the older look is stunning and everyone who has seen the buses loves the new design. As such, SightLine is just starting on 11 more buses with a two month deadline.
Fleet graphics come in a range of sizes from decals for cars to partial wraps of buses. In either case, a PSP must be able to manage a number of blank canvases simultaneously in the ever challenging small window of time and maintain consistency across all of the vehicles. The experienced print shop, like SightLine and Sharp Mill Graphics covered in the first part of the series, recognizes when to take on the job and request additional help from trusted partners. This way, they ensure customers the highest quality product and present them with the opportunity to come back for more.
Click here to read part one of this exclusive online series, Hit the Road.