By Cassandra Balentine
On busy streets, parking lots, and highways, vehicle wraps present a mobile marketing canvas. However, the opportunity expands to non-traditional vehicles such as snowmobiles, ATVs, dirt bikes, boats, and garbage trucks. Media offerings featuring high-tack adhesives are designed to bond with challenging substrates such as powder-coated paints, low surface energy plastics, and fiberglass.
“Vinyl and film products used for specialized vehicles are often highly durable, can wrap around compound curves, and/or can adhere to low surface energy plastics,” explains Tim Boxeth, market manager, 3M Commercial Solutions.
Additionally, easy apply air egress features and aggressive overlaminates are available to provide ease of installation and protection for extreme environments.
The opportunity for wrapping untraditional vehicles is abundant, and media manufacturers are making it possible for print service providers (PSPs) to offer this service by introducing new products. With the correct installation techniques and media selections, PSPs are presented with a new revenue stream.
Vehicle and fleet wraps have and continue to make their mark. However, as the appeal and knowledge of vehicle wraps penetrates the mainstream, industrial and recreational applications don’t have to miss out.
Non-traditional and specialty vehicles include ATVs, boats, dirt bikes, kayaks, bull dozers, and heavy-duty maintenance trucks. All provide potential revenue opportunities to PSPs well equipped to successfully wrap these vehicles.
Craig Campbell, market manager – graphic products, Orafol Americas, suggests introducing this service to a print providers current customer base. “For example, if the provider is already producing vehicle wraps for a construction company, then what vehicles are not being wrapped? Any vehicle that is going to be seen by consumers is a potential for increasing brand awareness.”
Nicole Shokralla, product manager, Arlon Graphics, LLC, sees potential in any form of transportation that requires high abrasion resistance.
The sporting world has embraced these applications for years, and there is a trickledown effect to other non-traditional vehicles. “Heavy equipment manufacturers tend to keep their logos and graphics minimal, but that doesn’t mean the rental and construction companies that buy the equipment shouldn’t utilize the machine for their own advertising. The graphics and logos on service vehicles, like garbage trucks, seem to keep getting bigger and the same is true for dumpsters and the like,” explains Jason Yard, marketing manager, Mactac Distributor Products.
Boxeth says right now, the motorsports after market is one of the biggest areas to feature specialized vehicle wraps. “Whether it is an amateur or professional rider, dirt bikes, ATVs, and snowmobiles are steadily becoming popular subjects for graphics or wraps,” he shares.
High-tack films for non-traditional vehicles are also used to create graphics and marketing messages on construction barriers because they can adhere to more unique surfaces like plywood, adds Joey Heiob, technical sales representative, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
To wrap non-traditional vehicles, which often feature hard to stick to surfaces, vinyl and film solutions with high-tack adhesion are in demand.
“A high-bond product is instrumental in adhering to these unique surfaces,” says Blake McCleary, marketing manager, General Formulations. He explains that low energy surfaces are problematic and hard to stick to with standard adhesive-backed vinyl products.
Shokralla agrees that the most critical media feature for these specialty wraps is the adhesive system. “The adhesive determines whether or not the film will bond to your substrate and stay down. For these types of applications, you primarily need a film compatible with low surface energy plastics.”
McCleary suggests that wrapping specialty vehicles and surfaces requires a durable product with a soft adhesive to wet out and spread over the substrate surface. He says low surface energy products can be used on flat to slightly curved surfaces and will create a long lasting bond.
“Today’s adhesive technologies make installing newer films to low energy substrates much easier,” admits Heiob.
While it depends on the application, Yard also believes that adhesive is the most important consideration for wrapping complex and exotic vehicles. “When you consider the low surface energy of fiberglass, on for example a dirt bike, or the environmental conditions of a service vehicle, like a garbage truck, you need to be certain that you are selecting a product with the right adhesive for a non-traditional wrap,” says Yard. He stresses that the adhesive needs to hold up and choosing the correct option for a specific vehicle is important.
“When we recommend pressure-sensitive adhesive products for more industrial-type applications, we really want to understand the type of vehicle the product will be applied to as well as what that vehicle will be exposed to on a regular basis,” agrees Campbell.
In looking at industrial equipment and recreation vehicles, he says it is important to know graphics produced for these applications will likely have to accomplish two tasks, the first being able to adhere to low energy surfaces and the other enduring a lot of abuse over the course of their use.
“In order to meet both of these requirements, the product may need to have a high-tack adhesive, be conformable, and be accompanied with a really durable matching laminate,” continues Campbell.
In terms of how these products differ from media selections used on more traditional vehicles is a matter of reviewing the vehicle’s surface or finish before selecting a substrate.
“In many cases, typical wrapping films may be the product of choice,” shares Campbell. “However, if there is a case of where the graphics will come in contact with heavier cleaning chemicals or petroleum-based products, the type of laminate may need to change in order to withstand the increased exposure to uncommon, non-environmental influences.”
Yard says traditional wrapping films may work in some instances, but it really comes down to knowing the surface that you’re adhering to and finding a product that provides the best solution.
Aside from the right adhesive, other features—such as conformability—apply to wraps on untraditional vehicles which are odd or irregular in shape.
“Features really do differ for each application. A boat, for example, would require a durable and conformable vinyl. An ATV or dirt bike would probably require a high-tack adhesive to overcome the hard-to-stick surface of the plastic. Commercial equipment would probably require both characteristics, conformability for complex curves and high tack to overcome powder-coated paints or dirty components. There really is a product out there for everything, the most important aspect is knowing what characteristics you need and how to apply them,” explains Yard.
Campbell also believes that identifying the right media for non-traditional vehicles is critical to the application’s success. “Many times, if it is an industrial piece of equipment, it may be relatively flat. However, if we consider an ATV, then the material must be conformable and the adhesive aggressive enough to stick to low energy plastics,” he offers.
Since a vehicle has both complex curves and flat panels, it is important to use a conformable film, agrees Shokralla. “The film also needs to be durable to protect from dirt and abrasion along with withstanding UV exposure.” Ease of install is important as well, she adds.
In regards to lifespan, Campbell says PSPs must be clear that mechanical damage is not part of their guarantee or warranty. “The reality is that most of these types of graphics are damaged well before the end of their service life,” he warns.
In addition to the right base material and proper adhesive, overlaminates are typically recommended when wrapping non-traditional vehicles.
Boxeth says overlaminates are still necessary. “That is, unless one doesn’t care about how the graphic looks after the first ride or race,” he states.
Shokralla recommends overlaminates for several reasons. “First, the overlaminate protects the ink and the graphic since most overlaminates have UV inhibitors that can protect from everyday UV exposures from the sun. Second, the overlaminate helps in terms of ease of install and removability because it gives the film that extra body in order to help installers get a better grip. In addition, an overlaminate can provide abrasion resistance depending on the type,” she says. For example, 12 mil is more abrasion resistant than 1.5 to 2 mil.
Most specialty vehicle wrap applications require a matching laminate for protection purposes. “Generally, the overlaminate is thick and will protect the printed film from abrasion and the elements. Off road vehicles, work equipment, and fiberglass objects will all be exposed to a greater amount of abuse than typical substrates,” offers McCleary.
Yard agrees, noting that overlaminates provide protection and a polished look upon application. “A laminate, especially for an outdoor application like these wraps, is critical to long-term success,” he advises.
“In cases where the PSP knows the graphics will encounter more chemicals, a urethane-based laminate should be considered as it will be able to withstand prolonged exposure better than traditional laminates,” suggests Campbell.
Before You Go
So what should PSPs know before offering specialty vehicle wraps? “The short answer is… everything,” says Campbell. “There are so many variables to consider when approaching these types of wraps. In an effort to narrow it down a bit, the PSP should make sure they have the whole scope of what the wrap is intended to accomplish, including how long it is expected to last. In regards to the vehicle itself, the main questions would need to be centered around the type of coating or material the vehicle is constructed of, what elements—including potential mechanical damage—it will be exposed to on a regular basis, and how the vehicle will be cared for,” he continues.
It is also critical to know the limitations and intentions of the products you choose. “Not all wrap products are created equal or with the same application in mind. It’s also important to know the customer’s expectations,” says Yard. “Think about the wear and tear that a commercial vehicle like a garbage truck or snow removal truck takes on during its life. You need to consider the durability of your products for the intended application.”
“Make sure you know the type of surface you’ll be installing upon, as it can influence the type of product you use and longevity of the installation,” cautions Boxeth. “If you have the opportunity, try it out a bit first.”
Shokralla says a PSP should understand the customer’s expectation of the product life and the surface that the graphic will stick to in order to ensure that the ink is compatible with the media.
Exploring New Wraps
The latest high-tack media products enable PSPs to expand vehicle wrap services to the non-traditional space. Adhesion, conformability, and durability properties offer the recipe for success. In addition to choosing the correct media, it is recommended to approach install differently than traditional wraps, manage client expectations, and most importantly, think outside of the box.
Mar2016, Digital Output