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Vehicle Wrapping Material

Personalisation is still the top trend in many sectors and transport is no exception. Harriet Gordon investigates the most exciting developments in vehicle wrapping

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The new 3M IJ180mC print wrap film includes its new Micro Comply adhesive

A material world

There are many ways to express your personality. Whether it be a punk-rocker with a mohawk or a business with its branding, outward appearance has long been a signifier for what is at the heart of a person or organisation. Over the past decade, these creative expressions have been transferred to transport. In both the commercial and the private sector, the popularity of vehicle wrapping has grown exponentially over recent years. Whether for the purposes of personalisation, advertising, or branding, more and more drivers are looking to adorn their vehicles in interesting or unique designs.

And, of course, businesses have responded. With continued developments to wrapping materials, it has never been easier to portray your personality through your car. Talking to a number of industry experts, we will uncover the newest technologies influencing this creative sector.

Spice of life

When considering recent developments in a sector, it is probably those suppliers that stock a wide range of different manufacturers’ products that are best placed to comment on the changes. Spandex is one such firm. Supplying products from brands such as Avery Dennison, 3M, Orafol, and Arlon, the company has seen a number of new technologies introduced over the past few years, as Leon Watson, general manager at Spandex, explains: “We have seen and are still seeing a number of new developments in the vehicle wrapping industry.

Leon Watson of Spandex highlights Arlon’s latest print wrap film, the SLX, featuring Flite technology

“There are continuous expansions of colour ranges, such as 3M Flip Psychedelic to their 1080 series, which caused a real stir as well as adding a number of exciting new colours. The addition of the Scotchlite Print Wrap Film, 780mC reflective, enabled wrappers to create unseen before designs and create one off wraps. Avery Dennison introduced a new set of pastel colours, as well as enhancing their print wrap laminates, with the DOL 1460Z now featuring a synthetic liner to create a super high gloss finish.

“Other developments we have seen are the introduction of new adhesive systems. Arlon have produced their latest print wrap film, the SLX, with their state-of-the-art Flite technology. 3M have also introduced a new structure with their micro Comply adhesive added to their new ranges.”

William Smith are another company perfectly placed to analyse the trends impacting the vehicle wrap sector. Marketing executive, Clare Robinson, also highlights colour as an area of exciting development. She explains: “Recent additions to Avery Dennsion’s Supreme range and 3M Series 1080 ensure customers continue to have access to on trend colours with a variety of finishes and affects. Flip/Colour Flow colours are proving to be more and more popular with our customers, along with the latest options for brushed metal, sparkle, satin, and metallic affects, these are also very fashionable at the moment.

“Considered a ‘game changer’, Arlon SLX Cast Wrap, a premium cast 50 micron gloss white repositionable film with Flite air release technology, is fast becoming a favourite digital print wrap film with industry professionals. Easy liner release and a light contact adhesive system, which allows graphics to float over a substrate until firm pressure is applied, makes applications that were previously a two-man job light work for a single installer. This huge saving in time makes the film ideal for fleet work and sees Arlon SLX Cast Wrap set to make great headway in vehicle wrapping.”

A focused approach

This is not to say, of course, that companies specialising in one brand of wrapping materials have less to say on the development of the sector. These companies can focus in on the detailed changes to their specific products, as Ian Simister, sales director at Metamark, demonstrates: “Here at Metamark, we’ve taken our product development on a journey with a view to making wrapping more accessible. We looked at the challenge broadly, but from two narrow points of view. One, the general economies of wrapping, and two, making the art easier.

Faster, easier, and more economical wrapping is delivered as standard with every roll of Meta Wrap MD-X, says Metamark

“A few years ago, we design and introduced Meta Wrap MD-X. We’ve refined the product since so it’s now much more than just an imaginatively designed next-generation wrapping film: it’s a genuine reflection of what hands-on wrappers want from a wrapping product.

“Our product design and formulation tactics for Meta Wrap MD-X have given us a product that we can sell to the wrapping market and which changes the whole economic basis of wrapping. Traditional wrapping films make traditional wrapping an expensive undertaking. With Meta Wrap MD-X, we have a product that prints brilliantly, applies really easily, and which helps signs and graphics producers get a wrap in front of the market at prices the market is very happy to pay.”

Simister goes on to state that the tangible benefits of working with Meta Wrap MD-X really are tangible, explaining: “This product was designed expressly with wrapping in mind so its elongation properties are such that it can be applied to complex surfaces and it will endure application stresses. It has a mechanically matched laminate too. So a printed and laminated sample feels just the same in the hand as the unlaminated film and the two materials play really well together.”

Award-winning wrap graphics by Elite Signs Gainsborough using Metamark materials

APA is another company taking the focused approach. During the last year, the company has implemented some significant enhancements to its entire series of vehicle wrapping products, as sales manager, Roberto Vallebona, explains: “The performance of our adhesives has improved; likewise, the technical characteristics of each of our films have been remarkably boosted.

Vallebona from APA says that the firm has used vinyl special pigments to create additional colours and finishes to its films. Pictured: Super Candy Gloss Red wrapped by Vinyl Art Wraps (Spain)

“In virtue of the ongoing research and development in our laboratories, we have been able to create adhesives that are more and more efficient, both during the processing and application stage (upgrading their repositioning properties) as well as durability over time on varying types of surfaces. The dimensional stability and conformability of APA vinyl films have been further augmented. Moreover, using new, special pigments, we have added colours and finishes (Super Candy and Ultra Matt are just two examples of the latest series of materials bearing unique traits) and significantly prolonged their resistance over time.”

Vallebona continues: “Elevated quality standards, the hallmarks of APA, are decisive factors in the evolutionary manufacturing process of our materials. APA supplies products that have distinctive attributes, enduring materials that entwine technological innovation with new colours and textures. These are traits that will certainly be appreciated by professionals in the field. We are a team of experts that, over four decades, has been working with passion and dedication. Day after day we have been providing experience, quality, and flawless service: the quintessence of the Made in Italy brands worldwide.”

Dare to diversify
While the recent developments in wrapping materials are significant to sign-makers at any stage of their vehicle wrapping journey, those hoping to diversify into the sector will have some specific questions and concerns. The industry experts commenting here today are all aware of the challenges of diversification and are ready to provide the help you might need.

As a major UK distributor of the Orafol brand, Antalis offers an extensive range of vehicle wrapping materials. Mike Collins, product manager for visual communications at Antalis, comments: “With an increasing number of sign-makers looking to diversify into vehicle wrapping, we are ensuring Antalis is the ultimate one-stop-shop for their application needs.

“Antalis offers the full range of both Oracal 970 Premium Wrapping Cast for full vehicle wrap, and also the Oracal 751C range for panel graphics. The Rapid Air technology version of 970 is easy to apply, eliminating air bubbles and helping create a considerable time-saving advantage for experienced and new applicators alike.”

Last year the firm developed its offering by extending this range of vehicle wrap vinyl (the Oracal 970), as Collins goes on to explain: “This multi-layered, high performance, cast PVC film (110 micron) has been specially developed for complete product wrapping, particularly of vehicles. Having been engineered to the highest technological standards, the product is highly durable, dimensionally stable, and comes in a variety of both gloss and matt colours.”

O Factoid: The first commercial advertisement vehicle wrap is thought to have been created for Pepsi Co in 1993, which used vinyl to wrap a bus promoting its Crystal Pepsi product.  O

Metamark is also committed to making vehicle wrapping available to more sign-makers, as Simister explains: “We think wrapping has a simply huge future. We’ve succeeded in making it more accessible and in bringing the economies back to earth. We’ve made its application broader too with our colour-change product MM-CC. We’d invite anyone interested to get in touch. We’ll quickly get you over wrapping’s learning curve and get you out there and working in a very profitable market.”

Indeed, on the subject of the MM-CC, Simister states that the Metamark team apply all they have learned about wrapping to developing new wrapping products. He continues: “Our MM-CC Colour-Change film shares a lot of its DNA with MD-X. It’s used to wrap entire vehicles so as to change the colour of them. It’s not a print film. It’s a coloured product. Our formulation ensures that it inherits the benign handling that’s attracted so many wrappers to the MD-X camp, and it does some pretty clever stuff benefitting its specialist wrapping brief too. This is one coloured film that keeps its colour when it’s elongated.”

Changing times

So while the new developments in wrapping materials are sure to spark the interest of sign-makers already profiting from this creative sector, it seems each advancement only makes it easier to move into the business.

Spandex’s Leon Watson certainly thinks so, as he comments: “All of these new additions make the wrapping world, if anything, more accessible to anyone wanting to get involved. The ability to now be able to complete a wrap with one person is a real advantage and means business productivity can increase in a short space of time.”

He refers specifically here to the Arlon print wrap film, the SLX, with Flite technology, continuing: “It enables new businesses to get straight into the sector, with the ease of application being a massive bonus. During our Arlon SLX days in both our Bristol and Lancaster premises, Flite technology was in full view to a range of vehicle wrappers. The product demonstrates how wraps can be completed by one installer, due to the forgiving nature of the material and the incredible lack of initial adhesion, allowing for corrections to be made with ease.

“The result of the adhesive having a lite contact system, allows the film to float over substrates until a firm pressure is applied resulting in quicker installation times and overall productivity.

Another development really easing the way for new wrappers is the inclusion of micro Comply adhesive to 3M’s range of digital wrap films. Watson comments: “The adhesive was incorporated to their newest range of print wrap films, the IJ180mC, introducing six separate styles. The initial release of white, clear, metallic, and now the recent low surface energy, ultra-removable, and stainless steel. The upgraded system allows even more slide ability with microscopic air channels, whilst further enhancing the aesthetics of the product.”

Of course, we cannot discuss the cutting edge of sign-making technology without a brief reference to environmental factors. Clare Robinson from William Smith explains that PVC-free options are becoming more prominent, with 3M’s 480mC product and Avery Dennison’s MPI 1405 EA RS.

“Both provide outstanding durability and dimensional stability, great image clarity, and long-term clean removability”, she concludes.

Antalis’ Collins agrees that we can expect to see environmental considerations become more significant, commenting: “This may result in a shift away from PVC. Orafol has developed Orajet 3981RA Premium Eco Digital Print, which essentially is the environmentally-friendly alternative for car wrapping solutions. This is a premium polyurethane high-performance polymer film, which features a glossy surface, as well as being 100 percent free from PVC and plasticisers. It has the additional benefit of not requiring post-heat fixing.”

Antalis’ Collins says that the Rapid Air technology version of the Oracal 970 Premium Wrapping Cast is easy to apply, eliminating air bubbles

So there we have it. The latest developments in wrapping materials are delivering exciting new colours in new varieties and providing adhesive technologies aimed to ease the application process. In short, they are making it simpler and more attractive than ever to move into this expanding sector.

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