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Simplifying the Vinyl-Selection Process

(April 2011) posted on Tue Apr 26, 2011

If you’re having trouble picking from the myriad vinyl films on the market, read on to find out how to get rid of the guesswork.

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By Dean Strohmenger, Lisa Humrich

Using the matrix, a vehicle wrap is considered a long-term, outdoor project requiring a high-performance calendered or cast film with a solvent-based adhesive. Choosing a solvent-based vinyl film for vehicle wraps is critical if you want to avoid potential vinyl failures.

The decision to use a high-performance calendered or cast film is based on the need for conformability. As in the example of the Volkswagen Beetle, a cast film is required to handle the extreme conformability needed for the contours of the fenders. However, if the vehicle is relatively flat, like a box truck, then a high-performance calendered film would work well.

Whether to use a digital or plotter vinyl film for the project depends on whether there is a need for digital images within the wrap or whether a solid-colored wrap is required. After you have chosen, don’t forget to select a laminate. This will add longevity to your vehicle wrap. When choosing a laminate, remember to match the grade of the film with the grade of the laminate. For example, if you are using a cast vinyl film use a cast laminate. Cast and calendered films expand and contract differently. Choosing the same grade
of film and laminate will keep graphics from buckling.

Prior to installation
It is highly recommended that you determine whether the vehicle has an OEM factory paint job before installing any graphics. If the car has ever been repainted, there is a possibility that when the film is removed the paint may be removed as well. Just as a doctor informs his patients of potential risks of a procedure, it’s a good idea to prepare your customer in advance that this could occur with a non-OEM factory installed paint job.

A little prep work is needed before any graphic installation. For vehicle wraps, it is highly recommended that the car be thoroughly cleaned with an industrial degreaser, followed by soap and water, to remove any degreaser residue. Once the car has been washed, follow by wiping the car down with isopropyl alcohol to remove any soap and water residue. Now let’s talk about preventing vinyl failure. Before printing Use vinyl manufacturer color profiles for specific films when printing to avoid edge curling and adhesive failure.

After printing Allow graphics to properly outgas prior to laminating, cutting, or installing; install graphics when the surface of the car is approximately 70°F; and create a mental game plan for the installation to think through potential challenges and pitfalls.

After installation Go over all contours, seams, and rivets with heat and pressure to ensure adhesion and bonding. Allow sufficient time for the vinyl’s adhesive to bond to the car before moving the vehicle to an extreme difference in temperature. For example, if installation environment is approximately 72°F and the outside temperature is 30°F, then do not place the car outside until the adhesive has a chance to adhere sufficiently to the car.

Making your vinyl decision final
Now that you have figured out how to make vinyl decisions for future projects, take some time to learn more about the wide variety of manufacturers and the products that are available. The good news for you is that most vinyl manufacturers have a wealth of product information in the way of Websites and collateral materials to further educate you.

Technical data sheets, features and benefits, product bulletins, color charts, digital guides, and a variety of other marketing pieces typically are available. All of these informational materials provide additional data concerning product thickness, shrinkage, typical applications/uses, and durability. Samples may even be available.

If you have chosen a digital film, check out the latest color profile recommended by the manufacturer. Each product has its own unique color profile that will provide the best settings for your printer, RIP software, and ink combination.

Last, but certainly not least, if you ever have questions about a product or what to use for a particular application, we highly recommend that you contact the vinyl manufacturer’s technical-support team. They are usually the best people to call when you ever have a concern. In a lot of cases, they’ve worked in sign shops and have a wealth of product and application knowledge.

Lisa Humrich is marketing manager for Black Creek, GA-based Oracal USA, Inc. Dean Strohmenger is a product-support specialist at Oracal USA, Inc.


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