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Vehicle Wrap Horizons

Vehicle wrapping has continued to be a growth sector, but it is a constantly changing market. Brenda Hodgson takes a look at how things are shaping up for the future

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Boss Dog sees racing liveries as a growing trend, with distressed, rusted looking liveries that are digitally printed being particularly popular

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Starting with printed vehicle liveries, moving on to colour change options for both commercial and private vehicles, followed by the addition of innovative textured and special effects wrapping materials, the vehicle wrap market is like a constantly shifting kaleidoscope, in which sign-makers are creating an infinite variety of innovative solutions for their customers.

This has been driven both by end-users becoming more aware of the options available and a consequent increase in demand for customisation, and by the availability of ever more technically advanced and easier to apply materials.

Materials manufacturer 3M works closely with a number of Authorised Vehicle Wrapper (AVW) companies that all share the same high standards, and these have reported a significant growth in customers looking for digitally printed wraps for their commercial fleet vehicles.

3M has seen a year-on-year increase in the different types of vehicles that are being wrapped, and this range of vehicles clearly demonstrates the versatility of 3M IJ180 digital print wrap film

Amy Golding, territory account manager at 3M Commercial Solutions, comments: “We believe this has come about as business-to-business customers understand and appreciate the worth of a personalised business wrap for branding and promotion on their vehicles. We have also seen an increase in the different types of vehicles that are being wrapped, with tractors, boats, and motorbikes more frequently coming through the doors for personalisation.

“As the graphics market becomes increasingly competitive with more products being introduced, companies are on the constant look out for new, innovative ideas to give them an edge. Installers and graphics designers are also being asked to push the boundaries of designs and achieve greater levels of creativity and customisation than ever before,” continues Golding.
Ian Simister, sales director at Metamark, offers his view that, if sales of wrapping specific materials are a reliable indicator then the market is still growing in both volume and value.

“One of our customers, Elite Signs in Bridgend, recently made the point to our territory manager in the region that vehicle graphic design has moved on. Whereas once, identity was contained in terms of design to areas of a given vehicle that are bordered by panel boundaries or dramatic changes in surface direction, these days, the designer can use the whole van as an expansive canvas,” explains Simister.

These days the designer can use the whole van as an expansive canvas

He continues: “If a point is beginning to emerge, it’s that total coverage wraps are but one dimension of a market that uses wrapping skills and materials like Metamark’s MD-X to deliver high impact output with dramatic design elements that can venture anywhere on the vehicle.”

This wrap by Elite Signs in Bridgend, using Metamark’s new MetaWrap MD-X, clearly demonstrates how an entire vehicle can be wrapped to convey a range of marketing messages

Simister goes on to say that the changed economic basis of wrapping has even produced vans and vehicles serving the needs of short-term advertising campaigns: “To rotate a wrap design on a production cycle dictated by the duration of a campaign would have been out of the question just a few years ago. Now wraps, or even parts of them, can be used for short-term promotion. Technical and commercial advances like MD-X have made that possible.”

Materials supplier William Smith offers a wide range of wrapping materials, with a portfolio that includes products from 3M, Avery Dennison, and Arlon.

William Smith reports an increase in demand for digital print wrapped fleet vehicles, as demonstrated by this van wrap by Vinyl FX, using Arlon SLX wrap film

Head of marketing Chris Bradley, corroborates the continued growth in the vehicle wrap sector: “We are seeing a definite increase in sales of vehicle wrap materials as manufacturers add new and exciting colours, and new adhesive systems, to help wrapping reliability and efficiency. More fleets are also using digital print wrap films.”

The growing interest in vehicle wrapping is also reflected in the take-up of vehicle wrap courses offered by William Smith to enable sign-makers to learn and hone their wrapping skills and techniques.

 “These courses are proving to be more popular than ever,” says Bradley, who adds: “The number of enquiries from different customers keeps on rising year on year.”

Shifting sands

So how is this shifting market changing and what is driving that change? Bradley draws some conclusions: “While there is still demand from window tinters, body shops, and vehicle wrap companies, we are seeing an increasing number of enquiries from individuals who want to set up their own wrapping businesses; and a lot more sign companies are getting into the vehicle wrap business.

We are seeing an increasing number of enquiries from individuals who want to set up their own wrapping businesses

“In terms of materials, there is more emphasis on colour flow and textured finishes than previous years.” 3M Commercial Solutions reports that colours and textures are the biggest trend changes the company has seen in vehicle wrapping recently.

Golding elaborates: “Requests for certain car manufacturer colours, mainly consisting of matt and metallic colours, are ever more popular, with Military Matt Green and Stealth Line Grey having an especially heavy influence. We have responded to this trend by introducing similar colours into the Wrap Film Series 1380 and Wrap Film Series 1080 from 3M, available in a number of different finishes, including matt, metallic, satin, and gloss.”

Golding adds: “The visually-appealing carbon fibre look is a popular choice, with partial wraps being requested on the roof, door handles and wing mirrors, to interior dashboard fascias, to add the same level of detail that a high end sports car may have. The Car Wrap Film Series 1080 carbon fibre film option from 3M has an embossed finish resembling true carbon fibre, reflecting light as expected and changing the highlights of the pattern depending on the viewing angle.”

(Above & below) Colours and textures, such as this Series 1080 Satin Vampire Red, are the biggest trend changes that 3M Commercial Solutions has seen over recent months. Also pictured, 3M Series 1080 Gloss Flip Psychedelic used to eye-catching effect

3M AVWs are reporting that many of their clients are now asking for digital bespoke wraps for their own personal cars, to give a unique smart finish and they choose elaborate logos and designs including 3D designs. Embossed logos have also become increasingly popular.

“Clients are becoming much more aware about the pitfalls of using the wrong wrapping products and are asking for more durable conformable products that they can trust,” notes Golding.

Launched in the UK and Ireland in early 2016, the 3M Select partner programme is an initiative that gives customers the assurance of dealing with a qualified partner backed by certification and a comprehensive warranty, for the printing and application of print wrap films in the rail and fleet markets.

“End-users also understand more of the benefits and importance of using a sustainable wrap film, such as 3M’s Envision brand Print Wrap Film 480,” Golding observes, before continuing: “These high-performance, non-PVC films have excellent flexibility, and are designed for the application of large format graphics onto contours and 3D corrugations, and offer a PVC free digital print wrap option to our wrapping community.”

Through a national sales force, Metamark’s Simister has frequent and detailed contact with the market.
“Our products tend to reflect market need,” says Simister, “and Meta Wrap MD-X is no exception to the rule. We were being told by our customers that there was a need for a film that was situated at a price point that would allow its use more widely. In other words, not everything that is applied over challenging surfaces on a vehicle is a full wrap, and that there’s an appetite for wrapped elements within conventionally applied designs on vehicles too.

MD-X is a specialist wrapping film that fields all the premium features, such as impressive elongation and benign handling but which changes the economics of vehicle wrapping.”

According to Simister, Metamark set itself the goal of making its MD-X wrapping film behave in terms of printing like MD5.

“Prints like MD5 is something you’ll hear often at Metamark,” Simister confirms, before adding: “MD5 is our quality benchmark. Metamark has met its goals and MD5 and MD-X graphics frequently grace the same vehicle because they match so closely. That helps the sign-maker produce graphics that perform exactly as required for the most economical price that ever graced a quality wrapping offering.”

At the coal face

Two companies ‘at the coal face’ of vehicle wrapping are Paul Turner Signwriters and Boss Dog, who both provide good evidence of how this market is progressing.

With over 45 years’ experience in vehicle livery and signage solutions, Leeds-based Paul Turner Signwriters focuses largely on commercial vehicles. Whilst the company has seen a slight decline in demand for vehicle livery and graphics for large fleets (which managing director Paul Turner believes is due to companies changing livery less frequently and the need to keep costs down), there has been a significant upturn in demand for light commercials.

To create innovative effects and graphics on light commercials, Paul Turner Signwriters frequently prints onto clear vinyl and then drops this onto, for example, a metallic wrap

“Work is booming on light commercials—both fleets and one-offs,” says Turner, who adds: “Wraps on vans are very popular as people look for innovative effects and graphics. Sometimes we print onto clear vinyl and then drop this onto, for example, a metallic wrap. This has been very popular for the past few years.”

Turner further notes: “We have also seen an increase in demand from owners of campers and motorhomes who are looking to create different and highly individual effects.”

Specialist vehicle graphics, vinyl wrap, and branding company, Boss Dog, based in Redhill, Surrey, also reports a definite increase in vehicle wraps over the last 12 to 18 months, with a significant incline in colour change wraps in particular.

(Above and below) Boss Dog says that with the wide range of choice in colours and finishes currently available, you are not limited to a single colour and the permutations are endless when digital printing is introduced into the mix

“People seem more open to the idea of a wrap over a respray nowadays. I think this is partly due to the simplicity and ease of a wrap,” explains Boss Dog manager, Lisa Bridgman. She adds: “There are many choices of colours and finishes available on the market, with a lower price tag than a high-end re spray. You’re not limited to a single colour either, with the limitations being endless when you introduce digital printing into the mix.”

Emerging patterns

Looking to the future, I wondered what emerging trends are on the horizon for vehicle wrapping.

“The latest trend I would say is related to racing liveries,” observes Bridgman, who adds: “Although these have been around for decades and are nothing new, they seem to be making an appearance in the car scene but have now been taken to another level, as distressed, rusted looking racing livery can now be created. This has been made possible with digital printed wraps, usually matt laminated to add to the weathered look.

“This trend has taken off in Europe and America, and we hope to introduce this creative form of wrapping to the UK. Printed wraps are the way forward if you want your vehicle to be unique, and stand out from a crowd.”

Turning to Bradley again from William Smith, he predicts that, “new developments in wrapping products, such as digital print reflective wrap film, digital print metallic wrap film, and more iridescent colours coming online will provide wrappers with an even wider scope to flex their creative skills.”

This is a viewpoint also firmly upheld by 3M which is seeing mixed finishes, flip colours, and matt colours as the main emerging trends.

Golding elaborates: “Clients are always looking for new and exciting ways to stand out from the crowd, and have started asking for more of a contrasting finish which includes both gloss and matt films, which creates a really unique and eye-catching wrap. Matt black is still very popular but now wrap designers are layering gloss detailing over the top of matt undercoats.

O Factoid: A large milestone in the shift from small production vinyl lettering to a full vehicle vinyl colour change took place in Germany in 1993 when the vinyl manufacturer Kay Premium Marking Films (KPMF) was asked to produce a film to be used in place of paint for the purpose of converting cars into taxis.  O

“Flip colours are on trend and customers are very excited to see new colours constantly emerging. A trio of new flip colours have just been added to the Wrap Film Series 1080 from 3M, including Gloss Flip Deep Space, Satin Flip Volcanic Flare and Gloss Flip Psychedelic—all of which evoke cosmic depth and gleams for a unique and individual touch that can be viewed at different angles to create a dramatic and enticing look.”

Golding continues: “Private car enthusiasts are increasingly opting for matt vehicle wraps in place of paint for a contemporary look. Gunmetal greys and deep reds remain popular, and the latest matt wraps from 3M have a metallic sheen that gently reflects light, for a subtle way to show off the shape of the bodywork without the glare of a gloss.”

Whatever comes with the next shake of the kaleidoscope, it is clear that materials manufacturers, vehicle wrappers, and end-users alike will continue to look for new and exciting images and effects to ensure that they turn heads as they stand out from the crowd.

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