Speed Vs. Quality

Evolution in materials allow for more installation speed, but there's a catch.

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The majority of the fastest installers in the world are exactly that-Installers. Professional they are! Day in and day out, they install.

On the other hand, if you’re the local sign shop owner, you’re not only the installer, but you’re also the salesman, the designer, the printer, the check-writer and likely the window washer, fireman and receptionist as well. Chances are you’re not in that “Fastest in the World” crowd.

Thankfully for us (the latter here), there have been advances in media construction and changes in adhesive technologies that are making the applications of pressure sensitive media easier to work with and faster to apply-even for us Slow Folk.

Speed vs. Quality
We all know that time is money, and sometimes a time-saving shortcut will raise its ugly head. But all too often that adds up to returns and replacements.

“Speed” is in the eye of the one who writes the checks. If the materials lift or bridge from the surfaces, it’ll probably do so within a few days of application (if not hours). So speed can have a heavy price attached to it if you’re not careful. We need to balance speed with proper application techniques to insure that the only returns we get are from happy clients looking to give you more paid projects.

Before the recent evolution and improvements in film materials, what made us faster involved:

  • Finding level placement quicker;
  • Knowing how high or low ambient and surface temperatures affect repositioning and distortion;
  • Mastering installation techniques such as “weaving” in concave areas. (2mil laminates are a must);
  • Knowing ahead of time how to start the compound curve application;
  • Knowing how to heat and soften media just enough to make a transition while keeping distortion to a minimum; and of course
  • Never leaving something undone, and always moving forward toward finish.

After the evolution, those techniques and guidelines mentioned above still remain a key to speed, but now we can shave off additional time-and add a huge added level of confidence in every application.

The evolutionary improvements in wrap films include:

  • Low Initial Tack-Place and level the graphic in ½ the time, if not faster!
  • Stand Off Features-The media only adheres when pressure is applied and not upon initial lay-down. Therefore, you transition to application quicker. The word “Repositioning” is an old term at this point and no longer part of dialog in describing material performance (providing it has a low initial tack).
  • Thinner Laminate-For some manufacturers the combined materials (print media and laminate together) are overall thinner now, this “thinner” attribute is primarily due to the thinner laminates. Thinner film makes the combined media more pliable, therefore easier to break the memory. This enables the installer to pressure the material into select concaved surfaces which in turn speeds up the application process.

If it Fails, It’s Coming Back!
Okay, here is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to Speed vs. Quality.

It is imperative that the installers know what mil thickness you’re providing them. The reason is that 2 mil cast laminates, will bridge on hard concave transitions, if you don’t weave into those concaved surfaces, it will fail and bridge.

Don’t kid yourself here, even with adhesive promoters cast vinyl’s memory will find a way to pop out of those crevices. And once they release, it’s all over but the check writing. The weaving technique is the most time-consuming, but it is also the best insurance against bridging.

Now, with the advent of thinner media (less than 3.5 mils) comes the ability to actually pressure the material into some of those more complex concaved surfaces using the heat and pressure technique. However, do not discard the more time-consuming weaving technique. (For a detailed description of both techniques see article that follows, “Wrapping Concave Surfaces.”)

Care Must be Taken
Newer single-color wrapping films (pigmented air-egress films) with laminates that are fused at the factory also allow for more speed as most are still quite thin and pliable. However, that being said, just because they’re one color, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to haul ass.

Care still must be taken with these films as they can mar and be overstretched distorting the finish of the film. The standoff feature on the adhesive is what creates that low initial tack, thereby assisting in a faster application times. These new medias do not require high heating and big stretch, to get coverage. Don’t overstretch this stuff. These films can be pressured in, but only with proper techniques and preparation.

What is Warrantable?
Most sign shops installers offer a one-year workmanship warranty to clients. But remember, it is assumed by most, written or implied, that all applications (unless otherwise noted) are warranted by you, and not the material manufacturer. The material manufacturer warrants to you, that their media is in the proper condition, was prepared properly and that with a proper installation is warrantable if it fails.

In other words, if the manufacturer’s warranty stars aren’t perfectly aligned in your direction, the buck will stop with you. You’re the warrantor, my friend. So when implementing alternative application techniques (or the lack thereof), be aware (beware), that short cuts can come back to bite you right in the pocketbook. I suggest that if you want to be check casher (rather than a check writer) always take the high road and take your time.

* From the 2013 issue of WRAPS magazine

Troy Downey

Troy Downey is the founder of Coronado, Calif.-based APE Wraps. he specializes in custom, one-off wraps while also providing training on how to wrap vehicles with Avery Graphics films. For more information about Troy and APE Wraps, visit www.apewraps.com.

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