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Vinyl Effects

Vinyl has so many uses – especially in the sign-making business. Summer Brooks talks to the companies stretching the capabilities and ascertains the latest vinyl effects available

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The possibilities are endless with vinyl, so what are the latest trends

Stick it to the man

Say the word vinyl to anyone outside of the industry and you’re likely to reminisce about the first record you bought on 12-inch. In the world of sign, vinyl has a slightly different meaning – with even more uses. 

Humble beginnings

Andy Fisher is the signage and graphics manager at Lustalux, which specialises in the supply and installation of window film, graphics and signage. The firm began its life in 1991 when two friends, Jeff Simnor and current managing director Richard Lancaster, merged their small window film businesses together. In 2015, the company doubled its capacity to cater for its signs and graphics divisions as well as a further unit to support vehicle graphics installation.

“We have a nationally renowned window film division installing a range of films including blast and shatter protection, solar control and security,” says Fisher. “Over the years we experienced a growth in demand for glazing graphics and manifestation which ultimately evolved into a full signage service.”      

Elsewhere, Creative FX has found its business success by mastering the use of vinyl in vehicle wrapping. Sean Davis started his business from the boot of a car. He would drive around to all the local car dealers and put pinstripes on the cars to make them look more sellable – as they would have done in the 1980s. “As the eighties grew, so did our requirements,” comments Davis, speaking as he drives to a meeting with Audi. Creative FX started out doing mostly trade work, but almost 30 years in the game has seen the company benefit from custom and retail work.

“We then began working with motor manufacturers,” Davis says. And it’s no small feat – Creative FX is responsible for every Union Jack roof on Mini Coopers in the UK, in a deal with BMW Group. The company has wrapped former F1 driver Jenson Button’s Nissan GT-R and an Audi R8 for Elton John, to namedrop a few of Creative FX’s more exclusive clients. 

Amy Cattanach is the vinyl products specialist at Pyramid Display which supplies large-format printers and sign-makers with boards, sheet plastics, aluminium composite, self-adhesive rolls, sheets and laminates.

Big retailers are demanding a film that can be recycled at the end of its life and of course, PVC ends up in landfill and in our oceans

“PVC alternatives are becoming more and more sought after,” Cattanach says. “Price has been prohibitive in the past, but we are seeing a positive change here. Big retailers are demanding a film that can be recycled at the end of its life and of course, PVC ends up in landfill and in our oceans.”

The dot adhesive technology used in Mactac’s JT 8300 DOT CG-RT series makes it an ideal vinyl for retail environments

Pyramid Display stocks a range of vinyl from Mactac, Avery Dennison and LG, as well as stocking its own Simply brand. Launched in 2002, Pyramid Display now has four branches – its latest in Castleford in 2015. The firm supplies vinyl for all applications, from 12-month exhibition vinyl to high-end textured indoor wall films to 12-year cast vehicle wrapping films.

Cut from the same cloth

The use of vinyl has gone so much further than its traditional applications, as Cattanach explains: “We also see architectural wrapping companies using vehicle wrap films to wrap furniture such as kitchen cupboards and office spaces.”

Lustalux is one such firm that has recently moved into working with architectural surface films, opening up a new world of applications in vinyl. Fisher comments: “Our most recent development has been a move into architectural surface films where we can refurbish and restore a host of surfaces with replica finishes for doors, desks, counters and walls to name a few. Architectural films provide a wide range of replica finishes that, to the untrained eye, are difficult to distinguish from the real thing.”

In vinyl wraps for vehicles, Davis says there are certain effects that are proving desirable among clients. “With standard vehicle wrapping, we’re finding the satin materials are becoming really popular,” he says. “On the commercial vehicles we’re finding reflective materials and much more professional looks are required – even for one-man bands.”

A Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen wrapped by Creative FX to match the client’s rose gold Rolex Daytona

By offering paint protection film in its service portfolio, Creative FX has discovered a whole new client base – customers with supercars. “There’s not often a week that passes where we haven’t got a Lamborghini in the workshop!” says Davis.

Cattanach agrees there has been an increase in demand for vinyl use in vehicle protection. “Vehicle protection film is a big growth area and an adjacent market to Pyramid’s traditional customer base. The demand is especially growing for self-healing high gloss products. The dot adhesive technology of the Mactac Dot 8300 range is proving popular for the ease of application when retail staff have to quickly apply and cleanly remove decals in-store.”

Perhaps the increase in demand is down to improve on the quality of paint protection films, as Esro Boro, product segment manager, wrapping EMEA at Avery Dennison, says: “FESPA 2018 in Berlin saw us introducing our brand new ‘self-healing’ paint protection film, SPF-XI – a high-end material that can eliminate scratches at ambient temperatures. We also introduced a range of automotive window films for high performance, non-reflective and infrared applications. Avery Dennison now offers a complete solution for aftermarket vehicle customisation needs and applications.”

Lustalux created these digitally printed vinyl designs and infill panels using Cover Styl’ wood grain vinyl

Lustalux uses vinyl products from 3M, Avery Dennison, Mactac and LG. “We pride ourselves in selecting only the best brands for every type of application,” says Fisher. “Whether that be commercial window film, graphics, signage or architectural films, we only use the highest quality materials backed by strong warranties and after-sales service. We stake our reputation on the support and backup we receive from brands that are trusted throughout our industry.”

Factoid: Inventor and chemist Waldo Semon invented plasticised polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in the early 1920s and it is now considered the world’s most versatile plastic.O

It is the continued investment and development of the production of vinyl that keeps the innovation going in the sector. Boro of Avery Dennison, says: “For installers, a quality wrap generates three key benefits: a more professional finished result that they can take pride in; reassurance that customer complaints will be few and far between; and much better productivity – wrapping more cars in a day translates into a better bottom line.”

In February, Avery Dennison unveiled the DOL 1400Z series of digitally printable films

New effects in vinyl are becoming increasingly popular in retail applications, where the changes are seasonal and often planned far in advance. “We became Aslan stockists in 2015 via a group acquisition and their range of special effect vinyl is varied and attractive,” says Cattanach. “For example, the Illustra Snow, which is a snow effect vinyl for windows with an air egress adhesive, has proven to be an interesting range for our retail customers for the seasonal Christmas campaigns which are decided as early as Q1.”

These wall graphics were printed on specialist wall vinyl by Lustalux to create a calming atmosphere in a care home

Lustalux is looking to vinyl effects to recreate a range of surface effects, in a range of architectural or interior applications. “For me personally, I am very excited about 3M DIN-OC after recently becoming a 3M-endorsed installer,” says Fisher. “A host of surfaces can be uplifted and transformed at a fraction of the cost of replacement. With a vast range of smooth and textured finishes available, we can replicate wood, leather, concrete, stone and metal.”

Grow with the flow

“Vinyl is a growing part of our business and we see this as important to our future,” says Cattanach. “We see a growth in wrapping films for vehicles but wrapping is only limited by the imagination. Recent projects have included pianos and horse boxes. More and more often we are being asked for self-adhesive textiles which are coming soon from Avery Dennison as they expand their indoor wall film portfolio.”

We see a growth in wrapping films for vehicles but wrapping is only limited by the imagination

Davis agrees that the vinyl market is seeing healthy growth that is expected to continue. “I definitely think it’s a growth market. We don’t have to explain or sell what we do anymore – people come to us now.”

There are definitely further growth opportunities for those using vinyl in the vehicle wrapping sector, according to Avery Dennison. Boro comments: “There is a lot of investment taking place in the wrapping market, and we anticipate substantial growth over the next 3-5 years at least. That growth comes from all segments of the market, with particular opportunities in personal car customisation – customers want to be unique and look cool.”

The Illustra Snow vinyl from Aslan is proving popular for Christmas displays

And as demand shifts for more colours, more effects and stand-out looks, the manufacturers are responding. Boro concludes: “Colours and effects are crucial, with a trend towards more ‘pop’ and new visual experiences, but there are also real opportunities in paint protection and window tinting. Our goal is to continue providing on-trend colours and options to suit all tastes.”

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