Printers for Wrap Shops

Printer suppliers and end users discuss the latest and greatest equipment and trends for the vehicle wrap market. 

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In the world of advertising, impressions are everything. And, probably the most cost-effective way to make a huge impression is through vehicle wraps. One car wrap can generate anywhere between 30,000 and 70,000 views per day.

If you are considering expanding into vehicle wrapping, or just looking for an equipment upgrade, or adding another printer then read on to see what types of printers you should be looking at and why.

To give you a better idea on what are some of the best printers on the market for vehicle wraps, we spoke to a number of the top printer suppliers and some of their wrap shop customers who are providing cutting edge graphics for all things on the go.

The Competitive Advantage

“Today’s wrappers are looking for a printer that goes beyond entry-level capabilities-one that can help provide a distinct competitive advantage for higher productivity and profits without compromising quality,” says Kelly Gornick, marketing communications manager, OKI Data Americas, Wide Format Division, Escondido, California (Editor’s note: The wide-format printing group of Seiko Instruments (SII) joined OKI Data in October 2015.) “A durable printer with consistent image quality at fast speed, that is reliable and continues to run without compromising quality,” she adds.

Gornick says a printer upgrade can provide a platform to either compete or help gain higher margins for shops. “This is where increasing your speed can affect your business.  For example, if you are producing jobs at 120 square feet per hour, but an upgrade allowed you to produce quality work at a minimum of 350 square feet per hour you could be at least three times more profitable. This example is considering all things are equal including media and ink costs. An increase in volume can also help drive down your price of media, allow you to take on larger jobs and be profitable in more ways.”

She points out that as a result of the consistent, bold color their ColorPainter printers have proven to produce; wrap shops are discussing ways to print and sell their own versions of short-run or custom-color wrap film to other shops and color-change specialists.

“Instead of being limited to the wrap film shades provided by media manufacturers, wrap shops are printing their own color of choice and applying a textured laminate to give it dimension. Color-change specialists are no longer limited to the colors and size of wrap film rolls provided by media manufacturers. When you print your own brand of wrap film using a 3M adhesive vinyl on the ColorPainter M-64s and protect it with a 3M laminate, it becomes warrantable under the 3M MCS warranty.”

David Conrad, director of marketing, North and Latin America at Mutoh America Inc., Phoenix, Arizona, adds that wrap shops are looking for simplicity, production, reliability and quality output.  “These are all key to making the life of the print production manager in any wrap shop job’s easier,” he says.

Printing on Specialty Materials

“Printing on specialty materials is another way wrap providers can differentiate their services and get their customers’ wraps to stand out,” says Eric Zimmerman, product manager, Color Products, Roland DGA, Irvine California.

“We’ve seen prints on reflective materials and matte-colored materials along those lines. A couple of wraps-one from Roland customer Sticker City, Sherman Oaks, California that was printed on reflective silver, and another from 54 Blue Communications, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, printed on matte black-really stand out. Combining large printed areas with layered or separate print and contour cut graphics makes for a really interesting look. This approach doesn’t require as much coverage or ink and material as other vehicle wrap jobs, yet produces results that are just as profitable and impactful.”

Wrap Models from Roland

Zimmerman says Roland’s SOLJET XR-640 printer/cutter delivers not only high quality imaging and outstanding productivity, but also unmatched versatility. It includes integrated contour cutting and offers 7-color or 8-color ink configurations, with CMYKLcLm plus Light Black, White and Metallic Silver ink options.

“Our new SOLJET EJ-640 printer is specially designed to provide high productivity and lower operating costs, making it ideal for shops that want to do large quantities of fleet graphics, but may not require the versatility of a printer like the XR-640.”  “Similar models are also available in our VersaCAMM and VersaExpress lineups for wrap operations that are looking to make a smaller investment and are willing to sacrifice some of the print speed, ” Zimmermann adds.

James Naccarato with Iconography Studios in Los Alamitos, California says their Roland units empower the shop to print, laminate and wrap non-stop. “The quality, versatility and low running costs enable us say ‘yes’ to any job that comes our way.”

“We laminate everything we produce, sometimes within an hour of printing,” adds Nick Woodward, graphics manager for Richard Childress Racing. “The Roland inks are durable and the colors are right on. Our graphics hold up at over 200 miles per hour!”

Mimaki Users Wrapping Inside Vehicles Too

Ken VanHorn, director, Marketing and Business Development, Mimaki USA, Suwanee, Georgia reports that some of their users are not just wrapping the exterior of a vehicle; they’re using Mimaki products to enhance interiors, from custom printing seating surfaces to providing dashboard graphics. “Expanding beyond wrapping the outside to offer custom graphics and decorated goods is a way for wrap shops to grow their business incrementally.”

VanHorn points out that Mimaki offers several products that are used by shops for wraps. “The Mimaki UJV500 UV-LED printer offers exceptional weatherability for vehicle wraps,” he says. “This model uses Mimaki original LUS-200 UV inks that were jointly developed with 3M Company. When applied onto select 3M media and installed using 3M guidelines, this ink carries the 3M MCS Warranty, widely recognized as the industry’s most comprehensive finished graphics warranty. These inks offer 200% flexibility and are ideal for applications with curved surfaces such as vehicle wraps and fleet graphics where stretching could crack other UV inks.”

Other Wrap Options

Other models for wrap shops include the Mimaki JV400LX roll-based printer uses eco-friendly, water-based latex inks that are fast-drying for immediate handling or secondary processing. “Prints don’t need to outgas before lamination, so installation isn’t delayed. This cooler-running model is more energy efficient yet still delivers breathtaking print quality. It features orange and green ink-plus the world’s first White latex ink-to produce a wide range of applications. The addition of orange and green inks greatly widens the color gamut so that more colors can be accurately reproduced. This is especially important when matching corporate colors on different surfaces,” VanHorn explains.

He says the Mimaki CJV Series of cut-and-print devices use eco-solvent inks in a variety of colors. “The CJV Series printers (available in a variety of widths and production levels) can print onto many popular brands of marking films using eco-solvent inks that are UV- and scratch resistant. When printed onto vinyl films for vehicles, the inks won’t crack or separate when applied to tricky corners, concave or convex surfaces, or over fasteners.”

Lastly, he suggests the Mimaki JFX Series printers can be used to surface decorate existing goods-such as vehicle seating surfaces, tonneau covers, mud flaps, keys and key fobs, etc., to compliment a wrap job. West Coast Customs, Burbank, California recently installed a Mimaki JV400LX large format inkjet printer in its shop and use if for vinyl wraps-everything from artwork for the walls of the shop to full vehicle wraps. “Vehicle wraps, graphics and artwork are very important to our branding and our business,” reports Ryan Friedlinghaus, CEO of West Coast Customs. “Having the Mimaki JV400LX printer aids in building the best custom cars on the planet.”

A Wrappers Delight from Mutoh

Conrad points out that the Mutoh ValueJet 1624 is an ideal unit for wrap shops. “For years it has been known as ‘The Wrapper’s Choice’.  This printer is a real workhorse and production printer that is easy to learn and simple to operate.  It is ideal for the beginner or the professional wrap shop looking to grow production and expand their business.  Smart Technology features like ValueJet Status Monitor, which allows printer operators to monitor the status of the printer remotely, Intelligent Interweave print technique is a technology that lays ink down in selectable wave patterns to virtually eliminate banding and the two year warranty are all features that really do make the ValueJet 1624 a smart choice for wrap shops,” he reports.

Zachariah Lujano, owner at WrapNation.com, Phoenix, Arizona says that their Mutoh ValueJet printer sets them apart in the wrap industry. “The interweave technology keeps our prints from banding, and the colors we put out look like their RGB. Speeds are fast to keep up with demands and every client is 100% satisfied because of this option,” he explains.

The Rise of Latex Printing

Timothy Mitchell, HP Latex Solutions Specialist, HP Latex Group, Alpharetta, Georgia says that wrap shops using HP’s Latex printing system is on the rise. HP Latex Ink is a huge hit with wrap shops, he says, because it is very elastic ink by nature, has terrific image quality and color gamut, and you don’t have to wait to laminate as you do with solvent printers.

“Everyone goofs a panel sooner or later, but with HP Latex, you just print another, right then, and laminate, right then. Also, with the built in closed-loop color calibration on the HP Latex 360 and 370 Printers, you can keep the colors very consistent over time by simply printing an automated color chart-the onboard i1 spectrophotometer reads the charts and adjusts the ink levels and linearization automatically. The key to printing panels that look the same over time is having a rational and easy-to-use color calibration system, and HP Latex Printers are among the few printers that have this built in.”

He explains that the HP Latex 360 and 370 printers are the most popular with wrap shops, no question. “The speed and full end-to-end color calibration are the most coveted features. The HP Latex 370 Printer now adds a bulk ink system, so the cost goes down by about 23 percent, and it greatly reduces the likelihood of running out of ink on a job. The HP Latex 360 and 370 Printers also create their own ICC profiles, so if you want to make unique customer color profiles, it’s as easy as pushing a button.”

The ColorPainter Solution

OKI’s Gornick says the precision engineering and quality manufacturing combined with advanced print technologies are what make ColorPainter printers the preferred solution for high-production wrap shops that require a durable, industrial printer.

The ColorPainter M-64s includes industrial Piezo printheads engineered for ultra-fast printing speeds and longer wear time, which reduces waste and saves on replacement costs. The new SX and SX 3M inks in the ColorPainter M-64s printer contain more pigment than competitive inks, which reduces ink usage and running costs, while producing high-density graphics with superior outdoor durability. The ColorPainter M-64s also includes advanced technologies like new optical sensors that automatically perform both media advance and bi-directional position adjustment so the operator does not have to make complicated manual adjustments when new media is installed or when the print mode changes.

Darren Dees, President at Zebra Wraps LP, Houston, Texas, says their ColorPainter has become a key piece of equipment for their wrap business. “Our ColorPainter printers using GX 3M ink produce the brightest and longest-lasting color. Much of the value in our work comes from how long they last and still look good,” says Dees. ” Other industry professionals have commented to us that they knew we had produced the wraps, just from the color. For us, there really is no other choice than a ColorPainter printer as it is an integral part of producing the best wraps possible,” he adds.

Dees reports that they recently produced an entire series of industrial truck wraps used in oilfield trade shows throughout the country. “The wraps were produced without seams on our ColorPainter printers using GX 3M ink. The trade show attendees would reach out and touch the wrap asking if it was paint — that is a direct result of the bright, vivid color produced on our ColorPainter printers,” he concludes.

Bill Schiffner

Bill Schiffner is a freelance writer/editor based in Holbrook, N.Y. He has covered the imaging industry for 25 years and has reported on many evolving digital imaging technologies including wide-format printing and newer electronic digital signage. He was the editor for a number of imaging publications and websites. He can be reached at [email protected]

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