Vehicle wraps are the marketer’s choice for establishing brand identity cost-effectively. Mobile advertising has flowered into a tool of choice thanks to advancements in software, media, and hardware.
"Roughly 40 percent of our business is vehicle wraps—this figure has increased over the years considerably," notes Rolando Villasenor, art director, Modern Image Signworks. The CA-based company is internationally known for a body of work that includes logos and graphics for The Fast and The Furious movies.
The Highet Kräcker Design Group in NC is a full service shop offering design, outdoor advertising, Web services, and more. They estimate that 60 percent of their business is from vehicle wraps, and they expect the figure to grow. "In 2006, we grew 15 percent in vehicle wraps, we expect that 2007 will be a 20 percent jump with the marketing we are doing," notes Trevor Kräcker, one of the company’s owners.
Headquartered in Dallas, TX, SkinzWraps is a full-service vehicle wrap company with five locations spanning the U.S. With clients like Clear Channel Communications, Pepsi, Sony Records, and the U.S. Marine Corps, SkinzWraps announced in January that its raw material orders were up 180 percent in 2006 from 2005. The company also boasts NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace as its official spokesperson.
Villasenor attributes the growing popularity of vehicle wraps to, "word of mouth marketing." He adds, "as people see more wraps on the road the businesses gain interest, especially in such competitive markets like automotive and real estate. Everyone is trying to push the envelope and advertise to the fullest potential they can, even while driving home."
A vehicle wrap requires design, printing, and installation. It is the marriage of a number of tools, from design software and templates, to specialty substrates, inks, printing systems, and cutters.
Christopher Dyson, president, Ads On Wheels, Inc., says that, "As vehicle wrap specialists, we have to remain on the cutting edge of technology. We design and print all of our wraps in-house." In addition to the latest in vehicle templates, the company uses a number of design programs including Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and Alien Skin Software’s Xenofex.
At Modern Image, "Most of the template work is done right from the client’s vehicle," notes Villasenor. "We take digital pictures of the vehicle and design around that. We see a lot of custom work that generic templates cannot account for. We also use Art Station Templates for stock vehicles or as a starting point on a customized car that cannot come into our shop."
Another source for vehicle templates is Pro Vehicle Outlines from Digital Auto Library, featuring over 7,300 outline templates for vehicles from 1993 through to 2007.
Key hardware options for printing vehicle wraps include those from EFI’s VUTEk, Gerber Scientific Products, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex, Mimaki USA, Inc., Mutoh America Inc., Roland DGA Corporation, and Seiko I Infotech Inc. Of the service providers we spoke with, Ads On Wheels currently uses three solvent printers, the HP Scitex TURBOJet, Mimaki JV3 250SPF, and Seiko ColorPainter 64S. Modern Image uses a SOLJET Pro II SC-540 and a SOLJET Pro IIv SC-545EX, both print/cutters from Roland, with the company’s ECO-SOL MAX ink.
Perhaps the most important component is the vinyl film used for the vehicle wrap.
"3M recommends only cast vinyl films for vehicle wraps," notes Tim Boxeth, market development supervisor, 3M Graphics Market Center. 3M’s offerings are available for piezo inkjet, screenprint, and electrostatic. They fall into two categories—long-term removable films and short-term, or changeable, films. The long-term line of films, "apply faster than any other vinyl graphic films on the market," states Boxeth. Short-term films, "are used for promotional applications, and in addition to being easy to apply, they can be removed from vehicle paints without heat."
3M’s most recent advances include the release of Comply v2 adhesive—IJ180Cv2, 180Cv2, and 8620Cv2. "We sell a screenprint, an electrostatic, and two inkjet versions today," says Michael Stavreff, technical service specialist, 3M Graphics Market Center. "This technology provides the air release for easy application, but since the adhesive channels are much smaller, there are no tell-tale lines on the film. This is especially preferred for wraps that might be viewed up close. The additional gloss provided helps create the painted look."
Arlon has been making vinyl films for over 40 years. The company’s print media line features several options suitable for vehicle wraps. Their best-selling digital media, DPF 6000, is a white cast vinyl with a repositionable adhesive. "This film is ideal for use with the contour shapes and demands of vehicle applications," states Gabe Maxwell, director, print technology, Arlon Inc. "DPF 6000 not only offers print providers easy installation but also provides superior printability and performance with today’s inkjet printers—whether solvent or UV."
Arlon also offers a full line of film laminates. Maxwell says series 3220/3230 is, "a cast overlaminate created to improve image durability as well as enhance the image’s appearance," while, "series 3200 is an optically clear cast overlaminate for use with Arlon’s DPF 6000 and window films."
Avery Dennison Graphics
"Avery Graphics provides total solutions for vehicle wraps for all conversion technologies—digital, screen, and sign cut," notes Lance Hutt, global product manager, digital, Avery Dennison Graphics and Reflective Products Division. He adds that, "Avery Graphics Easy Apply and accompanying Digital Over-Laminates (DOLs) are our best-selling vehicle products because of their premium performance."
Avery Graphics’ most recent release came in January with the new Easy Apply RS technology. "It makes accurate application easy and fast—the fastest in the industry," states Hutt. "The vinyl can be draped over the surface and positioned. If it’s not exactly where you want it, you can slide and reposition it. Air egress channels create paths for air to escape during installation, so bubbles and wrinkles can be wiped away without compromising the vinyl’s ability to mold and stick to compound curves, rivets, and corrugations." Avery says other Easy Apply RS features include a glossy paint look when laminated with DOL 1000, support from free ICC color profiles, and application time which is not effected by season or environment.
Gerber Scientific Products
Gerber Scientific offers a full range of cast and calendered film in a number of colors. The company boasts a Matched Technology System that marries printer, cutter, software, and substrate to ensure the best possible output. For the Gerber EDGE FX system, the company offers nearly 30 films in its EDGE READY line.
Gerber is unique in that it uses a dry-ink process using resin-based pigments. The company states that this process protects output from UV rays and other damaging effects.
Hexis USA LLC
Hexis promotes its new cast vinyl film with HEX’PRESS adhesive technology for vehicle wraps and fleet graphics. According to the company, the HX100WG1 carries a 2-mil cast vinyl film and an adhesive compound that make the product repositionable during application and allowing easy elimination of air bubbles. The film is suitable for solvent and eco-solvent printers and Hexis provides ICC color profiles for most printers.
Also available is the HX200WG1 with a 2.5-mil high performance vinyl. According to Hexis, both products feature an embossed liner with a structured adhesive and extremely conformable vinyl formulation for fast and risk free transfers.
MACtac manufactures two products for vehicle wraps, both with air-egress adhesive technology. Jennifer Payne, digital product manager, MACtac Graphic Products, tells us, IMAGin JT5529 B-Free is a 2.1-mil highly conformable film designed for long term vehicle wrap applications on complex curves, corrugated and riveted surfaces. IMAGin JT5929 B-Free is a 2.7-mil conformable film designed for medium term vehicle wrap applications on flat to slightly curved surfaces.
To complement the B-Free products, MACtac manufactures Permacolor RAYZor LF3648, a 1.5-mil gloss laminate. "The uniqueness of the combination of JT5529 and RAYZOR LF3648 is that it is the thinnest most conformable vehicle wrap solution on the market and it applies over almost anything," states Payne. "Customers say the best kept secret in the marketplace for conformability and print quality is the use of RAYZor on our window perf."
Oracal manufactures a wide range of wrap materials, "from economical ultracalendered films to high-performance cast films and laminates," says David Grant, VP of marketing, Oracal USA. At the close of 2006, the company introduced two films—ORAJET 3951RA and ORAJET 3551RA—featuring the company’s new RapidAir technology. Grant tells us, "RapidAir products feature an advanced air release liner to make applications quicker and easier by reducing or eliminating the incidence of bubbles and creases."
"Our best selling wrapping products are ORAJET 3951, ORAJET 3551, and ORAGUARD 290G," notes Grant. "These products have been on the market for several years and have built up a loyal customer base due to their performance, reliability, and value. They are also ideally suited for marine and other highly demanding applications where air channel products are not typically recommended. However, we expect that our newer RapidAir versions of these products will quickly gain ground as end-users become exposed to them over the coming months."
Roland DGA Corporation
To support the company’s inkjet printers, "Roland offers a certified media line featuring a variety of printable films and overlaminate films, says Brian McLeod, VP of corporate marketing, Roland DGA Corp. "Both cast and calendered adhesive-backed vinyl films are available for various vehicle graphics applications. We find cast printable vinyl with a cast vinyl overlaminate film to be the most popular choices due to their durability and ease of installation."
McLeod adds, "Often customers can use less expensive calendered vinyl such as Roland ESM-GCVP Glossy Calendered Vinyl. This media is a high-quality three-year polymeric vinyl designed for use on simple surfaces without complex curves. But for full wraps or any graphics going over either complex surfaces or surfaces with rivets or corrugation, we recommend cast vinyl such as Roland ESM-PCV2 Premium Cast Vinyl."
Several substrates on the market allow repositioning. The amount of time for movement varies with each vendor and product and, in some cases, the installation method. Final adhesion, life expectancy, and removal-ease can all be affected by repositioning.
"Several products on the market can be repositioned—that is stuck, pulled off, and stuck again," notes Boxeth. He adds, "3M’s Controltac graphic films are repositionable, but, more importantly, will actually slide on automotive paints for easy positioning until squeegeed. This is an important advance for users, especially in warm—above 75 degrees—temperatures."
Avery highlights smooth sliding for exact positioning as one of the benefits of its brand new Easy Apply RS technology. "RS technology allows the vinyl to be draped over the surface and stands-off until pressure is applied," states Hutt of Avery. "Vinyl can be repositioned and will lay down smoothly after repositioning without losing tack."
MACtac’s JT5529 and JT5929 B-Free products have low initial tack. "The amount of time the product is repositionable depends on the application technique and ranges from 20 to 40 minutes," says Payne. She adds, "We recommend using high heat to accelerate the build in adhesive strength in the areas where it has been stretched or around edges to overcome the repositionability in these difficult areas."
Maxwell of Arlon notes a similar amount of time. "Our product remains repositionable for a reasonable amount of time—about one hour. Ultimate adhesion to the substrate occurs within 24 hours of application." Meanwhile, David Grant of Oracal tells us that, "Oracal vehicle wrapping media is designed to allow repositioning of the graphic for up to 24 hours after initial application."
The leading media manufacturers stand by the quality of their goods and their estimated product life.
Stavreff says the 3M, "MCS Warranty and Performance Guarantee are based on extensive testing of our films, inks, and graphic protection in both natural and artificial weathering. So we know how long our products will last. Depending on the imaging method, 180C products can be warranted on vehicles up to seven years, and the IJ180C products up to five years. The 3552C products are warranted up to one year on a vehicle wrap. Warranties are called out in our specific Product Bulletins and are based on the inks or toners used."
For its print media line, Arlon created a Total System Warranty. Maxwell says, "the warranty bulletin ensures that our digital film and laminates will perform and provide extended outdoor durability when combined with approved inkjet printers and OEM ink systems."
"The majority of Avery Graphics cast vinyls come with a nine-year durability warranty if unprinted and five-year for printed and protected. Calendered vinyl has a six-year durability warranty for unprinted products and five-year for printed and protected," says Hutt. Avery’s new Easy Apply, "is also extremely durable, up to five years applied and protected, and Avery guarantees removability for the life of the graphic."
MACtac products are all covered by a warranty, and the company includes a check list and application guide to aid the installer. "The estimated product life of the media is an industry-leading ten years for the JT5529 B-Free and seven years for the JT5929 B-Free. The warranty includes printed media that is overlaminated with our LF3600 laminates for up to five years," states Payne.
"All Oracal products are guaranteed to perform as advertised, assuming that the products are stored, fabricated, and applied in accordance with recommended product guidelines," says Grant. "By utilizing specially matched combinations of ORAJET media and ORAGUARD laminating films wrapping materials, end-users can benefit from Oracal USA’s ORALIFE Component System Warranty, providing up to seven years outdoor durability for printed images produced on a wide range of popular wide format printers using OEM inksets."
To complement its warranted inkjets and vinyl cutters, "Roland offers an outstanding warranty on matched printable vinyls and overlaminate films," says McLeod. "When installed properly, these products offer great long-term durability—up to 60 months guaranteed on the ink and media."
On the Horizon
"As the vehicle wrapping market continues to grow, customers are pushing the vinyl capabilities as far as they can," says Payne of MACtac. "The demand has been and continues to be for highly conformable films that look like a paint job." One way that MACtac continues to address this is through providing ICC profile support to ensure optimum print quality.
Roland, "has a long history of pioneering new ink formulations—Roland was first to market with both pigment and eco-solvent ink sets," says McLeod. "Roland inks are acclaimed for their superior durability, scratch resistance, density and gamut, and for imaging well on a wide range of media. Roland will continue to improve its inks to ensure exceptional print quality and durability for vehicle wraps and other applications." In addition, Roland plans to continue expanding its media line to meet customer demands.
Boxeth notes that 3M is, "seeing the introduction of some new and unique paints in the market." The company is up for the challenge, or as Boxeth states, "3M’s robust adhesive technology provides customers with a reliable solution today and should provide even more alternatives in the future."
"People are always looking for ways to make the production and installation process easier and quicker to improve productivity," says Oracal’s Grant. "That’s why we introduced our RapidAir product line in 2006."
"Challenges? Who doesn’t have them," says Kräcker. Both Villasenor and Kräcker agree that their biggest challenges are more on the front end with design and customer art than with application. Kräcker adds, "I would say the biggest hurdle is the customer providing us the correct art formats, etc. Other than that, it’s very simple."
As everyone from beverage companies, to florists, to real estate agents drive the demand for efficient, mobile marketing, vehicle wraps will present a strong piece of business to print service providers. Media manufacturers stand to gain from the growth of vehicle wraps, and they must continue to be innovative.