By Olivia Cahoon
Part 2 of 2
Using digital print technology, transit graphics support advertising campaigns promoted across multiple media channels including buses, subways, and trains.
Originally founded as VM Corporation in 1962, Visual Marking Systems (VMS) is a leader in high-performance printing and custom graphic design services for the public transit, OEM, and fleet graphics industries. The company is located in Northeast, OH and has more than 50 years of experience in serving customers with custom-designed labels and decals, overlays, point of purchase displays, nameplates, and vehicle graphics.
VMS began with 20 employees in a 7,000 square foot work area in North Royalton, OH. The company specialized in truck identification programs for corporations with fleets of vans. In 1982, the Kahle family purchased the company and focused on producing equipment labels and decals for manufacturing customers—the OEM division now makes up more than 65 percent of the company’s core business.
“It is essential to provide important information in a clear and effective way that safely guides passengers through the transit system,” says Dolf Kahle, CEO, VMS. VMS specializes in producing high-performance ADA compliant signage, TransGrafix Anti-Graffiti decals and signs, photoluminescent marking for emergency egress, exterior rail and bus wraps, revenue collection overlays, wayfinding and station platform signage, BraillePrint maps, and window, wall, and floor graphics.
“VMS strives to manufacture high-quality products with an innovative, aggressive, and ethical approach that exceeds our customers’ expectations while promoting a positive, fun, and satisfying experience for all members of our team, which is now 117 members strong,” shares Kahle.
Today, VSW operates in a 50,000 square foot production facility with screen, digital, narrow web, wide format, and latex roll-to-roll (R2R) printing. An 8,000 square foot building houses vehicle wrap installation and removal.
The company’s list of OEM and fleet customers include Davey Tree, Diebold, Enterprise Fleet Management, Lincoln Electric, Stryker Medical, and Rockwell Automation and Ridge Tool Company.
It’s customers in the transit industry include manufacturers like Alstom, Amtrak, Conduent Transportation Solutions, Cubic Transportation System, Keolis Commuter Services, Stadler, and metropolitan agencies across the U.S. and Canada.
VMS’ digital equipment portfolio includes the Fujifilm North America Corporation Acuity Advance UV 98×48-inch flatbed and the Fujifilm Acuity Advance HS X2 UV 98×120-inch flatbed. The company also uses an HP, Inc. HP Indigo 5600 sheet feed 12×18-inch press and an HP Indigo WS4600 13-inch press.
For digital R2R printing, VMS operates an HP Latex 3000, HP Latex 570 64-inch latex printer, and an HP Latex 360 latex 64-inch printer. The Latex 3000 handles single rolls up to 126 inches and dual rolls up to 2×63 inches. It has a maximum print speed of 1,290 square feet per hour for outdoor quality. HP 881 Latex Inks offer scratch resistance and do not require lamination for short-term applications.
According to Ron Gizzo, COO, VMS, the company chose these brands and ink technologies based on factors like ink adhesion, durability, and avenues into new markets. The company uses all three types of its digital presses for transportation graphics.
Specifically, Gizzo says the HP Latex presses are used for exterior graphics and wraps, the Fujifilm Acuity presses are used for sub-surface printed durable graphic applications, and HP Indigo technology is applied to interior graphics.
“We provide printing solutions to a wide gamut of industries, so a diverse offering of ink technologies was important to ensure the most durable and economic solution for their requirements all while creating strategic partnerships with our suppliers,” says Gizzo.
With its wide format capabilities, VMS prints on acrylic, aluminum, coroplast, expanded vinyl and PVC, corrugated materials, HDPE, PETG, polycarbonate, polyester, and wood. The company has partnerships with 3M Commercial Solutions, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, HP, Mactac Distributor Products, and Ritrama, Inc. “These partnerships coupled with our purchasing volume allows VMS the buying power to obtain our materials direct, which allows us to offer the best pricing in our market and minimizes costs for our customers,” says Gizzo.
The company’s lamination equipment includes a 60-inch thermal laminator, 40-inch pressure-sensitive laminators, liquid laminate aqueous and infrared drying up to 65 inches, cold laminators with upper heated rolls up to 67 inches, and a D&K Group automated laminator with a maximum 26×30-inch sheet size. The company partners with Drytac for clear coating.
Other finishing equipment includes a Zünd digital cutting system with 40×30-inch maximum sheet size and a Zünd digital cutting and routing system with a maximum width of 107 inches.
For file creation and preparation, VMS utilizes Adobe Systems Incorporated Creative Suite and Corel Corporation CorelDraw. “We find the Adobe Creative Suite great for design work and the CorelDraw package excellent for the production side of the process,” offers Gizzo.
Graphics for Transit Systems
In 2002, VMS started offering digitally printed signage and graphics for the transit industry after the acquisition of Globe Transportation. In 2016, transit graphics made 17 percent of the company’s business.
“VMS began printing the previously screenprinted products on our digital equipment to offer customers more versatility by providing cost-effective graphics that highlighted high-resolution artwork for transit authorities and revenue collection equipment,” says Kahle.
With digital printing capabilities, VMS offers lower costs than screenprinting and produces detailed images. According to Gizzo, the benefits include greater options for art, inline costs, improved lead times, and digital inks that perform just as well as screen inks for transit use.
The company has completed digitally printed graphics for a variety of transit systems including Amtrak, Los Angels Metro, MTA Maryland, MTA New York, NJ Transit, NYCT, SF RTA Miami, SF RTA Muni San Francisco, VRE, and WMATA.
For transit systems, Scott Laps, business development manager, transportation graphics solutions, VMS, says that clients often request directional signs, exterior wraps, system maps, ADA compliant maps, revenue collection graphics, ticket vending machine overlays, and smartcard targets. “All industries within the transit space have requirements in which digital printing is often the solution,” he explains.
Despite the steady follow of transit graphics requests, VMS still experiences challenges. Decals, graphics, and signage for the transit industry are in many cases required to stay within the code of federal regulation and the challenge is to educate customers on the requirements. Specifications focus on design, placement, and usage—all of which VMS operates in a consultative and advisory capacity.
In 2017, repeat customer MTA Maryland approached VMS for its first vehicle wrap completed by the company. MTA Maryland requested a durable exterior wrap that would hold colorfastness for the longest time possible. The client hoped to bring awareness to the recently refurbished light rail vehicles and their new Light RailLink public outreach initiative. “They wanted to wow their riders with a home state flag design,” says Laps.
VMS used 3M Controltac Graphic Film IJ180Cv3-10 with 3M Scotchcal Gloss Overlaminate 8518 laminate printed on the HP Latex 3000 press using OEM ink. 3M Controltac is a two-mil white, vinyl film with a luster finish. It is a pressure-activated adhesive for simplified sliding, tacking, snap up, and repositioning. 3M Controltac is often used for trailer and box truck graphics for fast and bubble-free installation.
The company finished the vehicle wrap using a Zünd cutter. “Installation was easy due to a superior layout/tiling and the understanding that the vehicle travels in two directions,” explains Labs.
During the MTA Maryland job, there was several communications involved with the client and the project which required approval for designs and physical attributes. As a result, VMS experienced challenges with educating all parties interested in material selections and the advantages and disadvantages of different materials.
“VMS overcame these challenges with open communication, relaying what solutions we were able to offer other customers for similar projects, and sending mock-up artwork to aid these conversations,” admits Labs.
From job submittal to installation, VMS took one month to print 20,282 square feet of transit graphics. According to Labs, the finished wrap appeared vibrant on light rail vehicles and the client was impressed.
According to Laps, understanding the ability to wrap vehicle types besides cars and trucks is increasing in the marketplace. “Revenue collection understands that previous underutilized space for advertising is now available on machinery and other areas featuring digital printing,” he says. As digitally printed transit graphics continue to serve their marketing purposes, exposure and demand increase.
Feb2018, Digital Output