As we all know, fleet-footed is an expression used to describe someone who runs quickly. But shouldn’t there also be a term called “fleet-fleeted”?
The expression would describe those companies whose vehicle wraps are handled by providers that have found the right mix of materials, manpower and methodology to produce vehicle fleet graphics in a highly expeditious fashion.
In fact, such providers do exist, and we tracked down several for this look at vehicle graphics. Here they share their thoughts on their own tested installation techniques and technologies, along with insights into how they work with clients during the design stage, and how they effectively market their work.
According to Todd LaBrie, president of Carwraps Inc. in Los Angeles, the biggest thing to happen to vehicle wraps since the invention of control-tack vinyl are the new stretch vinyl product offerings from Avery and 3M.
“It is really, really stretchy vinyl,” he added. “In Europe, they do a lot of vinyl paint replacement. It has to conform perfectly, and it has to be seamless. So a new kind of vinyl was developed, and it was just brought to this country a few years ago. A lot of installers don’t know how to use it, because it stretches so much that if they do too much, they run the risk of damaging the print job.
“But if they know how to do it, it makes wrapping complex vehicles and compound curves much easier, cleaner and more efficient.”
The other new development is the advent of what LaBrie calls “band-free printing.” A new method has been developed in which print head nozzles fire intermittently, so banding—if it exists—is hidden within the pixels and is impossible to be seen by the naked eye. “You wind up with band-free printing,” he said. “Banded printing has been a plague of the industry for years. You had to profile or linearize the machine to try to minimize that as much as possible. As far as technology goes, this anti-banding technology is a huge breakthrough.”
When it comes to developments that have transformed this segment of the wide-format industry, however, few are bigger than the arrival of ecosolvent inks, LaBrie said. They allow for print jobs to be run in small spaces, without risking exposure to dangerous VOCs. “That’s huge, and it’s why so many wrap companies have sprung up,” he said. “You can run these in your garage.”
Economies of scale in printer manufacturing have also had a significant impact, he added. Ten years ago, large-format inkjet printers ran up to a quarter million dollars. Even five years ago, they set shops back $30,000 to $50,000, he estimates. But now they can be purchased for $8,000 to $20,000. “The barriers to entry have been lowered tremendously,” he added. “We went from a handful of wrap-specific companies a decade ago to literally thousands today.”
Other veteran vehicle graphics providers report streamlining installation is very much a matter of choosing the right materials for your business, and making sure installers are well trained. Many of them assert their best move is staying with proven, well-known materials. At Garage Graphics, a Huntington Beach, CA-based printer established 12 years ago in a Downey, CA garage, president and CEO Eric Goodwin says he has lots of people telling him to economize.
“Everyone says, ‘Oh, you can save money.’ Realistically, you’re saving $40 a roll, but you’re winding up spending more time installing the product...I install a lot of stuff, and I prefer 3M. You know what you‘re getting.”
Rod Voegele, CEO of Gatorwraps.com, a four-year-old company with shops in Las Vegas, NV, and Ontario, CA, noted, “It’s really about the material. Use the latest and greatest material. That will make your installs go as fast as they can. Speed is based on experience of the installer, combined with the proper material, which allows you to squeegee the bubbles for a nice, clean install.”