By Melissa Donovan
Media manufacturers continue to keep pace with demand from consumers and commercial buyers for vehicle wrap materials. Many vinyl and film products are designed for vehicle wrap applications, some are strictly printable while others are used for color change purposes. This article focuses on printable wrap media.
When it comes to printable wrap media, print service providers (PSPs) and installers require printability across multiple platforms, enhanced material composition, and longevity. In response, new products are introduced. While these address the many features on a printer or installer’s wish list, specific attention is placed on advanced adhesive technology that ensures a tight bond around rivets, curves, and channels while simultaneously remaining easy to reposition during the install process.
Above: 3M Print Wrap Film IJ180mC-10UR can be removed without heat.
Not just for traditional marketers and brand owners, vehicle wraps are found on personal cars as well as a full variety of other machines from trucks, busses, and boats to planes and trains. With more variability between customer needs, demand from printers and installers for the best product is high.
“Demand for advancements in wrap media come directly from PSPs and the installer community. Both are printing and handling the materials on a daily basis and are on the forefront of what makes a media easier to handle, more efficient to install, and more consistent to print on,” says Craig Campbell, market manager – graphic innovations, Orafol Americas.
What is requested and how it is printed depends on the type of PSP or installer. “They may demand to improve the consistency in printing, versatility, appearance, ease of install, reducing scrap, durability, or weathering. Some customers are more proactive by anticipating a shift or breakthrough in the graphics industry while some are reactive as a response to a product failure,” explains Louie Calma, technical specialist, Arlon Graphics, LLC.
Let’s not forget about the end user—whether consumer or commercial—they have demands too. “From a consumer standpoint, there’s always the desire to create a unique, one-of-a-kind wrap for personal vehicles. This desire continues to push the visual appeal and creativity of printable wrap vinyl. As it pertains to commercial markets, businesses still want to standout, but it’s also important to be efficient with installation when working on a large volume of wraps,” shares Tim Boxeth, business manager, 3M Commercial Solutions.
Factoring in Specifics
The sheer magnitude of opportunity vehicle graphics present is not lost on media manufacturers, especially when considering how to enhance printable material. Printability, material content, and longevity are all factors when creating the newest products and improving on legacy media portfolios.
Technology is constantly changing, with new printers and inks introduced on regularly. In response, media manufacturers must create printable media that is reliable across all platforms—latex, solvent, eco-solvent, and UV-curable, shares Molly Waters, senior technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions. “Print providers and their customers demand vibrant printed graphics with colors that pop and we are constantly testing and working to bring films to market with these characteristics,” she continues.
Appearance isn’t the only consideration when it comes to printability across multiple platforms. Calma points out that manageability after printing is essential. Traditionally, legacy products struggled with solvent prints as the material softened, even after outgassing. However, media like Arlon’s SLX Cast Wrap premium gloss white repositionable cast film remedies this by improving the face stock to minimize the softening of the material, which in turn nearly eliminates overstretching during install.
The base content of the substrate is a topic of interest. A majority of vehicle wrap media is PVC based, but vendors do offer alternatives. Orafol provides a urethane-based film. According to Campbell, this provides a higher gloss, is more conformable, lasts longer, and tends not to become brittle over time. “We truly see a film like this becoming more prominent in the wrap market as clients are looking for ways to make their wraps look like new for the life of the wrap,” he adds.
“Longevity is always being increased,” according to Jason Yard, marketing director, Mactac Distributor Products. However, he concedes that with the exception of different adhesive patterns, advancements have really not been seen in overall performance or features. “Most cast vinyl wrap films are of good quality and performance. It mainly comes down to preference.”
It is important to note that one characteristic can’t be forced over the other. Print providers and installers aren’t looking to compromise in one area to make gains in another. Media must be “quick and easy to install on complex curves and deep recesses, but also long-term removable,” advises Waters.
In addition, installers and PSPs may have different priorities when it comes to feature sets. “While print providers’ main concerns are consistency in print quality across all platforms and cost, wrap installers on the other hand are more concerned with how efficiently they can install the graphic,” shares Calma.
Adhesive technology is one of, if not the biggest factor in vehicle wrap material. Printable wrap media must adhere well to the vehicle in question and for the right amount of time, all while offering the installer some level of repositionability and conversely, when uninstalling—removability without damaging the paint job underneath.
“When vinyl graphics were first introduced, they were designed for long-term application on flat surfaces, providing little flexibility and customization. As the industry continues to evolve, projects become more complex and intricate. Since the introduction of pressure-activated adhesive systems, installers can find the perfect placement of a film, without having it prematurely adhere to a substrate,” says Boxeth.
In today’s landscape, a manufacturer must consider the installer’s needs before revamping the adhesive used with a vehicle wrap media. “Installers dictate the increased performance in adhesives. They demand easy repositionability and easy air egress,” explains Yard.
And in response, companies comply. For those looking for an easy removal process, 3M Print Wrap Film IJ180mC-10UR can be removed without heat. Non-visible air release offers a smooth appearance and finished look. Comply adhesive enables bubble-free installations with micro technology. “This advancement is great for promotional wraps and graphics that still require the features that make wraps and installation perform at their best,” explains Boxeth.
Arlon announced its new SLX Cast Wrap with FLITE Technology in Spring 2017. This lite initial contact system allows the graphic to float over the substrate until firm pressure is applied. Calma shares the adhesive also offers low initial tack and repositionability, while still ensuring a long-term bond even around rivets, complex curves, and deep channels.
Avery Dennison Easy Apply RS technology paired with long-term removable adhesive offers ease of application and removal. The adhesive’s low initial tack and repositionability characteristics allow new installers to apply graphics confidently and experienced installers to apply graphics faster, according to Waters. This is found on the company’s MPI 1105 Easy Apply RS product, which offers repositionability and slideability for exact positioning.
Campbell admits adhesive technologies seem to always be changing, especially wrapping films and vinyl, where the right balance between initial tack and long-term durability is hoping to be achieved. “The biggest change we’ve seen over the last five to eight years is the difference in initial tack of the adhesive to the vehicle and the advancements in air egress liners,” he explains. Orafol’s RapidAir technology found on many of its vehicle wrap products—such as ORAJET 3981RA Premium Eco Digital Print—features a multi-directional, micro-channel release liner that allows air to escape easily and completely during installation all while leaving a smooth surface.
Other changes include, “the adhesive patterns have gotten smaller and less noticeable on the face stock. Many wrap adhesives are also easier to remove, leaving little or no residue,” explains Yard. In Fall 2016, Mactac launched IMAGin B-free GRUV Cast. An enhancement of its legacy product IMAGIN B-free GRUV, it features a proprietary omni-directional air egress invisible adhesive pattern, which eliminates visible texture in the face stock for easier installation.
With the recent hype focused on color change media used for vehicle wrapping, printable materials don’t receive a lot of attention. However, they are still a prominent piece of the vehicle wrap puzzle. Manufacturers continue to fill demand from PSPs and installers alike for material that offers repositionability, conformability, printability, and longevity. Announcements regarding new products with enhanced capabilities—especially in regards to adhesion—further this point.
Sep2017, Digital Output