Graphic Rappin' on Windows

Many wide-format shops al-ready have the equipment necessary to produce window graphics. So why aren’t they jazzin’ up customer glass?

“Everything is being wrapped,” observed Tammi Johnson, business development manager for 3M Commercial Graphics. “Window film is appearing on stores, quick-serve restaurants, cafes, and anywhere a short-term sale needs promotion.”

There always are spaces where customers can add graphics to promote products or services, or to offer a decorative element, Johnson added. And the best part for wide-format shops, she noted, is that “window graphics can be produced on the same equipment PSPs [print service providers] are already using in-house to produce signs, point-of-purchase materials, vehicle wraps, and other graphics.”

Claude Crumley, production manager at wide-format print shop Studio Imaging, Bensenville, IL, agreed: “Whether you’re printing banners, vehicle wraps, board, or window graphics, the principles are all the same.” There are three basic types of window graphics, according to Wayne Bohl, president of DSI Chicago:

  • Adhesive-backed vinyl graphics, which usually are opaque
  • Static-clings vinyl with a clear-background effect
  • Perforated films, such as One Way Vision from Clear Focus, used on bus and train wraps

“The latter two are more specialty types of window graphics,” said Bohl, who owned a prepress/separation house called Color Works Graphics before delving into large formats in 2005. DSI prints much more of the straight-up, opaque vinyl variety for its retail and shopping mall customers, including General Growth Properties (GGP), one of the largest mall owners in North America. Bohl noted that the shop now has seven large-format printers, both roll- and sheetfed: a trio each of high-end Durst and EFI VUTEk devices, including P10 250 and GS 3250XL models, respectively, as well as an HP Scitex TurboJet.

In late 2012 its latest installation was the 126-inch Durst Rho P10 320R UV inkjet, roll-to-roll printer. While colors are vibrant and overall print quality is excellent, Bohl reported that the 320R’s productivity and top-rated speed of up to 1,440 square feet per hour is what lured him to make his latest grand-format equipment investment.

Parts of the Printed Whole

Often, window graphics are part of an integrated image campaign that includes other printed elements. Take Prism Graphic in Phoenix, AZ, for example, which used its 10-foot EFI VUTEk QS3220 UV printer to output window clings, backlit menu boards, and posters for more than 145 Port of Subs fresh-to-order restaurants throughout the western US. Prisma also produced smaller posters and tent cards using traditional printing methods. A critical factor for the customer was ensuring the color-matching quality between the various substrates used in every campaign and between the large-format materials and the traditionally printed materials. Prisma also handles the kitting and shipping of the materials to all the Port of Subs locations.

Back east in Chicago, Bohl said DSI shops media on a per-project basis, usually choosing Avery or 3M products. Among 3M’s latest offerings is Scotchcal Clear View Graphic Film IJ8150, which offers the benefits of durability and special effects in its optically clear, cast vinyl printing film. “When you apply it to the surface, you’re not going to end up with any hazing, and you will have an optically clear image on a long-term durable material,” 3M’s Johnson explained. “If you have the ability to print white ink, you have more flexibility to create special effects, like one-way vision, with one film,” she noted.

Scotchcal brand Clear View Graphic Film IJ8150 is compatible with digital and screen printing systems, features a PET polyester liner to prevent static charge or discharge during processing, and is optimized for wet applications. It also is easy to apply and remove, according to the manufacturer, and is offered with the 3M Performance Guarantee or MCS brand Warranty from 3M—and boasts an effective performance life of seven years.

Fifteen miles west of the city in Bensenville, IL, Studiocolor is a classic example of a color separator turned commercial printer that got into digital print and, eventually, added wide-format to the mix. The firm’s prepress roots date back to the early 1990s, explained Crumley, the production manager for Studio Imaging, a digital print and signage division begun seven years ago. Today, more than 10 percent of Studiocolor’s $2.4 million in annual sales is derived from its wide-format print business—and window graphics account for between 10 percent and 15 percent of that $280,000, he reported.

Studio Imaging runs window graphics on a 64-inch Roland VersaArt RS-640 eco-solvent printer. Even though five-year materials (Avery is his preferred media) with three-year inks are used, Crumley insists on laminating jobs for the extra UV protection. “Everything [used] outdoors should be laminated,” he noted, adding that the Roland RS-640 was installed three years ago to keep up with large-format digital print technology. It outputs at up to 230 square feet per hour, which he said is plenty fast for what Studio Color is doing with it.

One major client is the 2nd Appellate Court of Illinois in far west suburban Elgin. “We do the window lettering for all the new judges’ names,” Crumley said. “It’s gold with black around the outside—elegance in simplicity. Another customer is bridal and prom dress retailer Jasmine, Inc., which may need window signs that read, ‘25% Off for Prom.’” A larger project, literally, of which Crumley is especially proud, is the colorful 15x30-foot wall murals at the Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago. “We applied 4.5-feet-wide sheets like wallpaper,” he explained.

“Most of our work is business to business. We do very little with retail direct. Our large-format services allow the sheetfed side of our business to get a foot in the door at advertising agencies,” Crumley said, explaining his firm’s diversification strategy.


Transforming Glass into Canvasses

In June, Lintec Graphic Films showed off a range of its latest PVC-free, premium window films at the FESPA show in London. Large glass panels allowed visitors to view new ideas and opportunities for architectural and promotional applications. All films in the range offer excellent see-through vision, and allows for images of photographic quality to be printed in vibrant colors, the manufacturer reported. Show-goers could test and view UV printable E-2200ZC and eco-solvent printable E-1000ZC films. In addition, E-1000ZC media also was displayed with a matched over-laminating film that offers excellent scratch resistance and produces an ultra clear end-result, the manufacturer reported.

The versatile Lumisty window film, which has a unique ability to control what can and cannot be seen by changing from translucent to transparent depending on the viewing angle, was also showcased at FESPA. It is often used to create privacy effects, draw attention to retail displays, or block unsightly views, making it ideally suited for creative, architectural, security, and promotional applications.

“Lintec Graphic Films’ wide range of PVC-free media offers a wealth of new opportunities for printers and specifiers to create vibrant canvasses for corporate branding, privacy, decoration, and advertising,” commented Andy Voss, managing director. “These films doesn’t stretch or shrink like PVC material, and remove in one piece, which allows for quick changeovers.”

Last October, MACtac Graphic Products launched the 600 series of window décor films featuring four privacy-class textures: rice paper, small squares, lines, and small lines. “These finishes are ideally suited for locations such as hotel lobbies, banks, and offices,” said Jason Yard, MACtac’s printable media product manager. The 700 series of frosted and dusted films extended its line in late 2012 with seven additional colors, including seafoam green, cool blue, yellow, and pink.

Also last year’s ISA and SGIA sign shows, MACtac exhibited its optically clear PermaColor ColorTrans CT2200 mounting film with permanent and removable adhesive. “CT2200 works as both a removable mounting film and as an optically clear mounting film,” Yard noted. The double-sided film is specifically intended for face- and back-mounting transparencies to glass, Plexiglass, and other clear or transparent substrates for indoor, outdoor, and backlight applications. In addition, it helps protect mounted images from fading caused by ultra-violet (UV) light exposure.

PermaColor ColorTrans CT2200 is a 2.0-mil glass clear polyester film coated with a permanent clear acrylic pressure-sensitive adhesive on one side and a removable, clear acrylic pressure-sensitive adhesive on the other. A clear polyester release liner protects each side and permits complete visual inspection of the product as well as easy liner removal and a distortion-free adhesive surface, the manufacturer reports. Typical applications include temporary mounting of graphics to retail windows and light boxes requiring superior clarity and smoothness. It is available in a variety of roll sizes, including 150 feet by 41, 51, 54, or 61 inches.


High-tech Window Graphics

In late 2012, MACtac rolled out a pressure-sensitive, rear-projection, screen film for motion graphics. Called GlassMovie, it can be applied onto window glass or clear acrylic panels to provide a dynamic visual impact by creating the illusion of floating images for in-store displays and for projections onto storefront windows. Similar to 3M’s Vikuiti Rear Projection Film introduced six years ago, GlassMovie transforms ordinary displays into extraordinary moving promotions.

GlassMovie is patented, polymeric translucent vinyl with a permanent, clear solvent acrylic adhesive featuring high cohesive strength for long-term durability. Protected by an 83-pound Kraft liner, it applies to clear glass or acrylic and provides optimal visual impact under all brightness levels, both day and night, MACtac said.

Wide viewing angle is close to 100 degrees, with good visibility from back or front. It offers five-year indoor and outdoor durability and comes in roll sizes of 48 inches by 16 feet and 48 inches 84 feet.