Before he joined the band Survivor, classic rocker Jim Peterik wrote the 1970 hit “Vehicle” with the Ides of March. Amid brass riffs that shook woofer speakers back in the day, the Chicago west-sider sang, “I’m your vehicle, baby; I’ll take you anywhere you wanna go.” And where print firms always have wanted to go is to the Profit Promised Land. These days, all roads point to car wraps and vehicle graphics as a potential profit center for printers nationwide.
However, advertising on cars, SUVs, trucks, and buses is not a value-added area into which you can dive, headlong, without preparation. Technical tools are needed to enter the vehicle wrap, paint-protection, and tinting markets—along with about $30,000 if you don’t already have a wide-format digital print device (see below). Robust software programs are required, not to mention design and other basic application tools, such as squeegees, knives, air-release, and heat tools. One versatile installation tool is the Wraptor, a patent-pending device for applying adhesive backed vinyl media—both ready-to-apply and digital.
The Wraptor facilitates deployment and suspension of any graphic film to any surface. Its design features are flexible, based on configuration specifications, to allow for deployment of any image on vehicles, trailers, airplanes, walls, floors, ceilings, etc. The unique gimbal joint that joins the vertical expanding stanchion to the horizontal expanding stanchion allows for deployment to 360 degrees vertically and 360 degrees horizontally. And the Wraptor expands to 240 inches wide and vertically to 16 feet, said its manufacturer.
You’ll need media, too, of course. In early October, Oracal USA, an Orafol company, added 23 new colors and textures specially developed for interior design, automotive trim, and interior/exterior accent restyling. Series 975 Premium Structure Cast is 5- to 6-mil. film featuring a transparent, solvent-based, repositionable adhesive with dimensional stability and conformability over uneven, arched, curved and flat surfaces.
On the creative end, vehicle wrap templates make designing faster and easier. There are website resources for template programs, such as www.provehicleoutlines.com or www.thebadwrap.com. To design an appealing and effective wrap, an extensive library of backgrounds, fills, and vector elements also is required.
The keys to your $30,000 ‘vehicle’
Hardware, software, media: You’ll need it all to start up a wrap business. As an example of what print firm owners can expect to spend, Sign Warehouse of Denison, TX, offers Wrap EXPRESS equipment packages ranging between about $30,000 and $35,000. One starter package includes a 48-inch PrismJET VJ48 Plus eco-solvent printer (with firmware), an automated media take-up system, vinyl cutter, cold laminator, media and tools starter kits, ink, cleaning fluid, graphic design and RIP software, and training DVDs all for under $23,000.
To successfully get into the wrap business, you will need at least the basics of facility, tools, equipment, materials, and training, according to Fellers, which bills itself as the world’s largest wrap supply company. Ideally, an automotive wrap facility should be about 75 to 100 feet long with 14-foot entry doors to accommodate tractor-trailers, motor homes, and box trucks. A facility that's too small is often the very thing that keeps a wrap business from being able to stay busy, as installers cannot prep tomorrow’s job while they wrap today’s, advises Fellers.
The facility should be climate-controlled, too. If it’s too hot, wrap vinyl will be too soft. (Note that the installer's perspiration may even compromise the adhesive.) If it's too cold, the vinyl will be brittle and not behave in a cooperative manner, often "breaking" rather than stretching. Temperature and humidity fluctuations also can be the enemy of large-format printers and laminators. If the air is too dry, you can experience mass quantities of static electricity, dried-up print heads, and excess dust build-up in the shop. If the air is too moist, prints can take too long to dry.