By Cassandra Balentine
Print service providers (PSPs) transform many surfaces with the help of media. In addition to printable, adhesive-backed pressure-sensitive vinyl and films, non-printable color-change solutions provide a substitute for paint.
Emerging as an alternative to color change films and traditional paint offerings on vehicles, reflective, retro-reflective, and color shift products demand attention. Many of the media manufacturers that PSPs are already familiar with offer specialty offerings that reflect, shimmer, and shine.
PSPs realize the benefits of specialty materials that reflect light and offer metallic effects to their client base. Applications that incorporate them are prevalent from the more traditional vehicle wraps to adhesion to walls and other inanimate objects.
Tammi Johnson, business development manager, 3M Commercial Solutions, sees many attractive benefits for reflective films, including extended, 24/7 visibility of a company’s brand, as well as safety and regulatory considerations.
Both PSPs and their customers want to separate themselves from the ordinary or in many cases this is referred to as the competition. “Including retro-reflective graphics helps attract attention and visibility at night,” points out Dan Rozzo, corporate specification manager, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
“When light plays across reflective, sparkly, or shimmering surfaces, that surface attracts attention,” adds Amy Swaile, associate marketing manager, Mactac Distributor Products. “Creating a high-impact, high-quality impression is certainly a main driver for increased demand,” she adds.
George Marsh, VP/GM, FDC Graphic Films, Inc., says popularity in personalization and customization support the sale of specialty materials that reflect light or offer metallic effects, especially vehicle graphics. “It is easy to create a unique look with an accent color or pattern,” he admits.
The market requires more visible graphics at all hours of the day. Stephanie Kline, operations/product manager, Arlon Graphics, LLC, shares that currently, only two options make a graphic work at night, either an external light source, which can be expensive—or even impossible—depending on the environment; or a reflective material, which she says is the more cost-effective method.
Emergency responders and postal vehicles often use these materials for the enhanced visibility benefits. “Reflective films have been used for years on emergency, police, and fire vehicles,” notes Rozzo. However, because reflective substrates provide visibility at night, commercial graphics, such as bus and trailer wraps, are popular.
More businesses implement marketing strategies to ensure visibility at any time of day, says Johnson. She suggests that telecom companies and those who specialize in service and repair will wrap their vehicle fleets with an emphasis on keeping employees safe and branding as a secondary motive.
Craig Campbell, graphics products market manager, Orafol Americas, says its Oracal 970RA series is primarily integrated into the vehicle restyling space. “If this type of effect and finish was to be duplicated with paint, the price tag could easily go over $10,000, where a vehicle enthusiast can now get this look for a much lower cost and smaller timeframe,” he explains.
Rozzo points out that use of reflective vinyl was illustrated in Avery Dennison’s recent Wrap Like a King contest. Winner Kevin Kempf from New Orleans, LA-based PG Nola used HV 1200 black reflective film on the sides and wheel spokes of a Lamborghini Huracan to gain added attention for a chrome wrapped car. “Car wrap installers and their customers add details like these to make exotic cars really stand out,” he shares.
Marsh believes that reflective materials are not limited to vehicle applications. “The way reflective films bounce light back catches the viewer’s eye and makes designs visually interesting,” he says. “Anyone looking for a new way to make a design pop should look into using a reflective film.”
According to Swaile, reflective products and other specialty finishes have always had a strong presence with both vehicle wraps and signage and continue to show growth. “With more effort being used to educate designers, reflective and specialty films are now also used in wall murals, accent designs, furnishings, and electronics,” she says. “Designers are finding new ways to accent their imagery with the use of sparkles and enhance visibility through light reflective films. The bottom line is that reflective film gets noticed.”
The dominant purpose of reflective media is for long-term branding on a graphic that is adjacent to road traffic. “You will see the most use on vehicle graphics and roadside signage, but also on storefront graphics in parking areas gaining popularity,” admits Kline.
“We see this type of product anywhere there is a need for a space to be accentuated or attention drawn to it,” adds Campbell. “These types of colors are found as backdrops on wall murals and architectural spaces, just to name a few.”
Specialty media options are also utilized to create outdoor signage when minimal lighting is available, such as for roadside applications. Johnson suggests the use of these products in moving assets such as forklifts and bicycles. Other instances include dropboxes—like UPS or FedEx; United States Postal Service remote mailboxes; wayfinding signage; and items found near higher traffic areas that you wouldn’t want to run into while driving—such as dumpsters, ice fishing shacks, and sides of buildings by parking lots.
Rozzo states that Avery Dennison’s Diamond Supreme Wrapping Film are also used to wrap items like musical instruments to smaller consumer items like key fobs and cell phone cases. “They can add sparkle and shimmer to a variety of applications,” he offers.
Swaile says one area catching on is the use of Mactac’s 5700 Reflective Series films for shelf markings at warehouses. “The reflective finish makes seeing and scanning shelf labels on the upper shelves much easier, saving time and reducing mistakes,” she explains.
Outside of sign and graphics, the craft market is also participating. “FDC 3700 Series is a premium ultra metallic vinyl film popular with hobbyists because it looks like glitter,” says Marsh. “The craft market buyer likes to see films that have unique patterns and finishes. That is why reflective or metalized vinyl films can grow the market.”
When embarking on new media selections, it is important to consider installation differences to ensure optimum performance and prevent media failures.
Johnson says PSPs need to consider different installation techniques when it comes to reflective materials. “Because of the nature of the product, it’s important not to damage the characteristics that cause reflection and stretch them throughout the application process.”
Reflective film has less stretch and is more brittle, according to Kline. She notes that it is often more difficult to remove and features shorter durability. “It is always a good idea to look at the application recommendations from the manufacturer,” she suggests.
Marsh agrees, adding that the reflective layered construction may cause reflective films to be stiffer and more brittle than regular sign vinyl and wet application is not recommended. “Generally, the application process is the same as applying any other vinyl film. Installers can help offset the stiffness by applying the film in a warm environment because the heat increases the film’s flexibility,” he explains.
Rozzo says that Avery Dennison’s retro-reflective films and reflective sheeting are ideal for flat surfaces. “Installing reflective films can be a bit trickier because the sheeting is thicker and typically features an aggressive adhesive,” he shares. “Retro-reflective films need to be repositioned with care because an issue known as bruising can occur, which means there will be lines in the film where it was lifted.”
It is important that graphic manufacturers play close attention to the conformability of the material because not every substrate will be able to handle compound curves or rivets, which are common issues in vehicle applications, points out Marsh.
In addition to color change films and printable vinyl, specialty offerings including reflective, retro-reflective, and color shift products are stand-out solutions.
3M offers its 3M Scotchlite Removable Reflective Graphic Film with Comply Adhesive 680CR, available in 11 colors including black, which reflects white. The film provides a similar day and night appearance that retains most of its reflectivity when wet and features pressure-activated adhesive for easy sliding and tacking.
The company also provides the 3M Scotchlite Reflective Graphic Film Series 680. The product is designed to retain 90 percent of its retro-reflectivity when wet. It features a positionable and pressure-activated adhesive and is available in 11 colors.
3M Scotchlite Removable Reflective Graphic Film with Comply Adhesive 680CR and 3M Scotchlite Reflective Graphic Film Series 680 are color change products. Alternatively, 3M Scotchlite Reflective Graphic Film IJ680-10 can be printed on.
3M Scotchlite Reflective Graphic Film 5100R and IJ5100R provide a similar day and night appearance that retains most of its reflectivity when wet. This series is available in 15 colors, including black. 3M Scotchlite Reflective Graphic Film 5100R is available in white and colors, and IJ5100R can be printed on.
Arlon offers reflective vinyl for both its digitally printable and cut graphics line. DPF 2400 is the company’s premium grade reflective film, which is designed for decoration of decals on fleets and vehicles. Arlon’s Series 2400 reflective vinyl film is designed for cut graphics use.
Arlon DPF 2400 is printable with solvent and eco-solvent inks, while Series 2400 is recommended as a color change product only. The color offerings feature many options including white, yellow, black, blue, and gold.
Avery Dennison provides reflective sheeting and films for sign shops, vehicle marketing, as well as marking and traffic and safety industries. The company’s reflective sheeting films are engineered with omni-directional performance, allowing for maximum reflectivity from every angle.
The company also offers a portfolio of reflective conspicuity tapes used to mark commercial vehicles, trailers, school buses, agricultural vehicles, and rail cars.
The HV 1200 High Visibility Beaded Series of films and retro-reflective films that are designed for screenprinting and computer sign cutting can be used for fleets, bus graphics, railroad cars, and emergency vehicles such as police cars and ambulances. Avery Dennison retro-reflective films can be printed or plotter cut into decals and letters for graphics applied to flat surfaces. HV 1200 films are available with a variety of adhesives and technologies such as Easy Apply RS.
Avery Dennison Diamond Supreme Wrapping Films feature a combined colored film and protective layer in one construction. Car wrap colors include Diamond White, Diamond Amber, Diamond Red, Diamond Purple, Diamond Blue, and Diamond Silver. Supreme Wrapping Films feature patented Easy Apply technology from Avery Dennison and provide excellent conformability around curves and recesses. Avery Dennison Diamond Supreme Wrapping Films are ideal for color change wraps or to create sparkly accents for vehicle, trailer, bus wraps, and point of purchase displays.
Marsh says FDC provides three different types of products that could fall under reflective media, which include retro-reflective films, metal flake PVC, and metalized films including polyester and vinyl films. “Each offer different visuals and a unique effect,” he shares.
FDC offers two lines of retro-reflective sign vinyl. FDC 2407 Series is an engineer-grade retro-reflective film with a seven year outdoor durability. It can be used for a variety of applications, including fleet or vehicle markings. FDC 2409 Series is an intermediate utility grade reflective film that can be used in applications that do not require the same longevity as the FDC 2407 Series. Both are more traditional retro-reflective films.
The company also provides small and large flake metallic films for automotive, sign, and craft applications. The FDC 3700 Series is ideal for users looking for a metallic film that resembles glitter and is available in a range of colors.
FDC is a master distributor of RTape Corporation and carries the full line of VinylEfx films. VinylEfx features several visually dynamic metalized embossed decorative vinyl films.
VinylEfx films are split into several product lines containing multi-lens films, metal flakes, chrome colors, iridescent effects, and films that have a brushed or leaf finish. These films capture and reflect light and are available in a range of patterns and colors.
For more imaginative looks, Marsh says some of the films are digitally printable. For example, FDC’s two retro-reflective products can be printed using thermal transfer or screenprint technologies. RTape’s VinylEfx line can be printed on eco-solvent, solvent, latex, UV, or thermal transfer printers.
Mactac manufactures specialty films, including its 5700 Reflective Series, which are five year, engineering grade, decorative vinyl. Other specialty finishes offered by the company include its TuningFilm Iridescent, 6400 Series Lustre Pearlescents, and 6700 Series Sparkle Metallics.
Swaile says Mactac decorative reflective films are one of the only reflective options on the market warranted for printing. Other Mactac specialty finishes are designed for either being plotter cut or installed in panels.
Orafol manufactures retro-reflective products for vehicle applications. As it pertains to vehicle wrap products for color change, the company recently introduced Oracal 970RA Premium Shift Effect Cast, which is designed to change colors based on the viewing angle and light direction. The company currently offers six color/finish options and is looking to add more in the near future.
Oracal 970RA Premium Shift Effect Cast is not designed to be printed on, but for solid color wrapping. However, Campbell points out that he’s seen users get creative with their products in the past.
Stand Out Effects
Depending on the line of media and its intended use, colors and patterns differ. Johnson suggests some colors are inherent in emergency types of vehicles, including white, yellow, and red.
Kline agrees, noting white, red, and black as the most in-demand reflective colors. While printable white is fastest growing.
Rozzo says the most popular graphics are effects that stand out and are innovative, such as adding reflective, chrome, or sparkle into a wrap or graphics. “PSPs, installers, and customers want to create a new or different look and often achieve that by using films in unique ways.”
FDC sells more white retro-reflective than any other color, reports Marsh. For FDC 3700 Series and RTape VinylEfx, customers are drawn to silver and gold in smooth, flaked, or patterned finishes, he adds.
Of the specialty effect products on the market, Swaile sees reflective film increasing in demand the most. “Customers have long raved how reflective films really make their printed images pop, while the film itself is super easy to work with and apply. Mactac has seen sales for its 5700 Reflective Series consistently increase year over year due to these features. Similar options are designed for plotter cut graphics only,” she adds.
In the vehicle restyling space, the more dramatic the effect, the more popular it becomes, according to Campbell. “Since the launch of Oracal 970RA Premium Shift Effect Cast, we’ve seen more demand for color shifting products, both from our user base and on our social media channels,” he says.
Specialty media including reflective, retro-reflective, and color shift offerings enable users to stand out from the crowd, whether it be for safety or marketing purposes. As different uses for these solutions are discovered and new products enter the market, exciting possibilities for vehicle wraps and beyond take shape.
Feb2016, Digital Output