Take it Off...Vinyl that is.
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Take it Off...Vinyl that is.

Right now there are multiple opportunities to create a tremendous cash stream. The question is, “Which companies will recognize the opportunities, respond to them, and thrive?”

By Dennis Lasik, CrystalTek West End Products, LLC

“It is not the strongest of a species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin 1809-1882

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  • Everyday the doom and gloom news media tells us all about how bad things are with the economy and no one is suggesting how we fix it. In every financial downturn in history there were also fortunes made.

    Right now there are multiple opportunities to create a tremendous cash stream. The question is, “Which companies will recognize the opportunities, respond to them, and thrive?”

    This article is about one such opportunity currently presenting itself in the signage and trucking industries. I recognize the opportunity because it is near and dear to me.

    What is it?
    Well let me outline what I see and work into it: New truck sales are way down. The numbers are about the lowest sales volume since the early eighties. That is another point: statistically, less then thirty years ago things were almost as bad as they are now because of the oil shortage. A while later, Savings and Loans failed across the country and billions were thrown at that problem trying to stop the bank failures from continuing. Those of us over 40 made it through both of these. When you have an artificial bubble and it breaks it means the end of a mini era but not the end of our world! Six or seven years ago it was telecommunications. A lot of very highly paid people had to find new jobs when that bubble broke and I had a great year because I was willing to remove graphics from the used vehicles going to market.

    Moving to our present day situation; it turns out that many large companies are buying fleets of used vehicles instead of new to remain competitive and get a better return on their investment. This year an estimated 35,000+ DHL trucks will have their graphics removed. I hear Best Buy trucks are already showing up and the list will most likely continue to grow nationally and surely regional offerings will become common place.

    So you don’t like removing vinyl? Don’t know how to price it? You’re not alone. The maintenance and removal of vinyl graphics displayed and weathered on vehicles and stationary surfaces can be both difficult and costly to remove. It can also be easy and a real money maker! I hope to do a series of articles and will to try to clear up some of the myths and misconceptions about the wonderful medium of vinyl signage we work in. Some of it will be pointedly dry, but when you get through it perhaps a little more of the puzzle will be complete and you will have a better understanding of how to conquer the removal problems at hand. I will also try to keep you out of trouble when things don’t go as well as the nearly perfect vinyl they presented when you quoted the job.

    Let’s begin with defining vinyl
    Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is a chemical species used to produce flexible vinyl film which in turn is used to produce a wide variety of protective and decorative film products. One such class of products, referred to as “vinyl graphics”, possesses unique features that make them well suited to decorate mobile and stationary surfaces exposed to the public eye. The unique features of “vinyl graphics” are achieved through the use of an opaque vinyl film whose surface receives colorful, ink-based, printed messages and images; and whose underside is typically coated with a non-permanent pressure-sensitive adhesive -- protected by a release liner. Before the “graphics” leaves the printer or sign shop its printed surface frequently receives a clear protective overlay which can be either a cast or calendared vinyl. Often another film (pro-lam) may be applied to the surface to give it additional protection. Care must be taken by all concerned to maintain product integrity during transpor t and storage.

    Proper installation is an important consideration if the “vinyl” is to meet message and/or image display criteria, useful-life performance timelines, and removal cost expectations. Installation requires that the surface receiving the graphics be inspected prior to installation to be sure that all foreign matter has been removed and that the surface is smooth and dry to the touch. Installation on the painted surface of an automobile or truck requires that the integrity of the paint be assessed before installation starts. If the paint is an OEM (factory) build, it was 90-95% cured when it came out of the factory paint booth; and achieved full cure three to seven days later.

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    If the car/truck dealership followed the manufacturers directive to wax (seal) the surface of the paint upon delivery then all that is needed prior to “vinyl” installation is a clean surface including removing wax based products. As a rule, polishes are OK but not anything that even implies it contains wax should ever be used on or around vinyl. Attention needs to be paid to painted surfaces on replacement parts (e.g. doors, deck lids and hoods) that may have been put on the OEM automobile/truck as a result of damage incurred after it left the factory or during unloading at dockside.

    The surface should be rubbed to be sure the clear coat does not smear. If the equipment to do so is in your tool box, the hardness of the paint surface should be measured to confirm the degree of surface cure. Hardness measurement tools and guidelines are available from paint manufacturers. “VINYL GRAPHICS” SHOULD NEVER BE INSTALLED ON AN UNCURED PAINT SURFACE. Vehicles, vans and trailers painted in non-factory environments as well as those restored in aftermarket refinish paint shops require attention to details described above.

    This being real life, good luck trying to meet those standards. I would take the fifth if asked how many times I installed graphics before the paint was fully cured. Sometimes they were still warm from the paint booth with a customer on the way to pick up the truck. The point remains that if the paint is not cured (catalyzed as the paint people say) properly then there may be issues when it is time to remove the vinyl.

    After the “vinyl” has been properly installed there are several things that need to be done to complete the job. In the case of mobile units the vehicle, van or trailer should be held at room temperature (70 degrees F) for at least 24 hours. The in-use environments of mobile and stationary units to be “wrapped”, decorated, etc., should be taken into consideration to determine appropriate wash and polish schedules. In-use environmental conditions such as, staining associated with tree sap, bird droppings and road salt; micro-etching of protective film surfaces caused by acid rain and the impact of road debris; and possible dulling of colors because of UV ray exposure and excessive heat, require that “vinyl wraps” be frequently washed (no brushes) and polished during their in-use lifespan.

    Taking it all off
    Over the years, CrystalTek’s WRAP WASH and WRAP POLISH have been widely used to clean and protect “vinyl wrap” surfaces without contributing to “edge lift”. These products owe their popularity to the fact they are designed to be used with vinyl graphics, “green”, easy to apply and economical.

    And if you are lucky enough for the customer to remember your name and call you for advice on how to take care of the expensive graphics you installed, don’t forget two things; recommend products that can safely be used on graphics and offer to use them for a cost of only blank amount. Look, another revenue stream, and a customer that will come to you when new graphics are needed.

    When it comes time to remove the “vinyl” follow guidelines that will result in a job that is cost-effective, clean, safe to use and “green”. I can’t stress enough SAFE TO USE! It is almost certain we all know at least one person in our industry affected by dangerous chemical exposure. Read the labels on products you use even occasionally. Take a look under your sink, or wherever you keep your household chemicals and read the labels. You may be surprised to learn it is up to us as individuals to protect ourselves and our loved ones. The people you would expect to be looking out for us couldn’t even watch the peanut butter!

    Over the years, safe to use VINYL-OFF has been used to remove vinyl from a variety of surfaces, under a variety of conditions. It has demonstrated its cost effectiveness relative to hand held open flame burners; electric and infrared heat sources; eraser-wheel device procedures; and popular aerosol treatments. At a cost of less than fifty cents per square foot for a fast, clean and “green” removal, VINYL-OFF is hard to beat. In terms of efficiency, customer’s who use VINYL-OFF, as part of their removal process, complete the job in fewer hours (not minutes) versus other removal processes.

    Writer’s Comment: The spectrum of vinyl film and transportation paint formulations is so broad as to discourage general statements on the installation, care and removal of vinyl graphics. Although each removal job is somewhat unique, there is a common trend to make each job cheaper, cleaner and “greener”.

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