The older you get the more you reminisce. When the kids were younger, they would snoop in the closets around holiday time. They were hoping to get an early peek at their Christmas goodies. As they grew older, they began looking for different types of treasures in those same closets. Some of dad’s old clothes had come full circle and were now “in” again.
I’ve noticed during my trips around the tradeshow floors recently that wrapping vehicles in front of curious attendees has become keen again. As I dodge the crowds of attentive onlookers I can’t help thinking to myself about the “old” days of our young industry. People stop and stare with amazement just like they did a decade and a half ago. From vehicle wraps to exterior sign printing, AdGraphics can do it all.
THE REST IS HISTORY
We performed our first vehicle wrap at a tradeshow in 1992 – it was for Universal Studios in Florida. At the time I had been trying to convince the buyers at the various theme parks in Florida that this was a great idea and a worthwhile investment of their marketing dollars. They were not yet convinced.
To help offset the costs, we enlisted the aid of the Ocean Spray company. Yes, the juice drink people helped to sponsor this first vehicle wrap. Ocean Spray wanted to promote a new line of drinks and needed to get them into the hands of consumers. They agreed to sponsor the wrap on the condition we give out Ocean Spray drinks on the show floor to people passing by.
We received a tremendous amount of attention from that early attempt. The rest, as they say, is history. Anyone in our business visiting the Orlando area today can’t help but appreciate how the theme parks and others have taken full advantage of their marketing dollars by wrapping their vehicles.
At the time, electrostatic technology was the only game in town for this type of work. The widest material was 34″ and we were happy with a resolution of 25 ppi. Profiling of media and machine didn’t exist yet, so there was a lot of trial and error. Production was a bit cumbersome to say the least. We managed to get it done and scrape out a living, selling our prints at about $20 – $25 per square foot. Installation was extra.
The market has really opened up with the introduction of new and cheaper technologies. Instead of buying a machine that costs more than the house you live in, you can find equipment for about what you would pay for the car you drive. Along with the original technology of electrostatic toners, we now have differing solvent inks, UV-cured inks and even thermal transfer ribbons.
These new and different technologies have brought about new challenges. As I began to make my list of the pluses and minuses of each technology, I spoke to colleagues in this country and around the world. A common theme has emerged.
People love their kids no matter how ugly they might be. My point is, you are going to say whatever piece of technology you happen to possess or sell is the best, or at least that’s what you will tell your customers.
This is human nature. If you have an ugly kid – one only a mother could love you still extol their virtues in public. The same holds true for your manufacturing processes. Come on, you know it’s true. Think of the lost hours, wasted materials and plethora of profanities aimed at the company that sold you that piece of $&@# machine. But hey, to your customers, it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.
EXTERIOR SIGN PRINTING CHALLENGES
One of the biggest challenges is how different solvent inks react to films and overlaminates. We have found that whether they are called true solvents, mild solvents, or eco solvents, they are still solvents and have similar effects on the media. If you read the technical bulletins from material suppliers they all have a very common theme. Let those inks dry.
Most tell you to wait a minimum of a day or two before laminating, installing, etc. Did you notice the word “minimum?” One of these bulletins even says that you should wait at least 72 hours, and if you have humid conditions, wait even longer. Goodness gracious! Who are they kidding? Like that’s really going to happen.
The companies that manufacture printing equipment engineer their machines to produce pretty pictures. They want inks that jet well, don’t clog, and print reliably. A fast drying ink may be helpful in your production and workflow, but the faster an ink dries the more likely it is that it will dry in the nozzles and clog your heads. That’s the predicament.
We have a coater with a tunnel dryer, (heat and a lot of airflow) that is 24′ long. It is a throwback to lessons learned by screen printers years ago. Today’s solvent printers have heaters (not really good dryers because most don’t incorporate airflow) that are measured in inches instead of yards. How can something as wide as your keyboard do what it used to take a machine twice as long as your office to do? It can’t.
Vinyl manufacturers are adamant about drying the print thoroughly. This is because they know the adverse effects on films and adhesives from material that retains the solvents. A solvent’s job issimilar toone of those creatures that spawn their young so they can go off and die. It is the carrier that brings the pigments, binders, and other chemicals together on the film. Once the solvent has done its job, you have to get rid of it. You need to exhaust the solvents.