Specialty Films & Laminates Open Doors for Print Providers
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Specialty Films & Laminates Open Doors for Print Providers

One of the big trends coming out of the finishing world has been the resurgence of specialty films and laminates.

By Bill Schiffner

In the past six months, a number of manufacturers have come to market with a host of new textured laminates and colored vinyl, targeting the vehicle wrap and retail markets. Many of these products are being used to enhance the final printed piece.

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  • "We have been witnessing a major influx of new laminates, wrapping films and textured films reaching the market in the last year," reports Paul Roba, NA technical manager, Graphic and Reflective Solutions at Avery Dennison. "These products and finishes are new creative tools for designers to add new elements to their graphic creations. Some of these products, seen at the 2011 SGIA Expo in New Orleans, include various skin patterns, like snake, ostrich and leather; and textures, including carbon fiber, brushed effects, geometric patterns; and various finishes such as matte, metallic and special effects," he explains.

    Textured Laminates Turning Heads
    Textured laminates will continue to be a major force in 2012. "Textured laminates can help the printed graphic stand out in a crowded arena," said Mary Ann Kucera, marketing manager at MACtac Graphic Products. "The marketer wants the piece to catch the attention of the consumer and unusual textures help attain that goal. Textured laminates offer tactile appeal as well, engaging another sense to help fix a brand in the customer's mind. And, print service providers (PSPs) are already well-schooled in adding value to a graphic by incorporating a laminate, to protect the print and to improve viewability."

    When asked about the growing interest in this segment of the market as of late, Kucera says that, like any trend, it's hard to pinpoint just where it started, or why. "I'm sure part of it is due to trends in home furnishings - Mid-Century Modern, harking back to the wood grain and leather textures of your grandparents' house, or carbon-fiber and metal finishes for a techno appeal. Once again, though, clients are looking to make their products stand out. Personally, I think the materials are a lot nicer than they once were. The vinyl is higher quality (better clarity, durability and longevity) and the finishes, much crisper. They handle the same as a standard overlaminate, so they're just as easy to apply, with exactly the same equipment," she adds.

    New Opportunities in Finishing
    Roba points out that these products provide new opportunities for shops to offer something different to their client base. "For vehicle wraps, customers have a new way to customize their vehicle. The new wrap films allow individuals to make their vehicle stand out among traditional painted cars from manufacturers. The special effects films create an eye catching variation for visual appeal and attraction by the consumer seeing a vehicle wrap in a new way."

    He says the new opaque products in a variety of colors and finishes have only been showcased on vehicles; however, the application options in retail and architectural locations are unlimited. "The product can bring cost effective special effects to a designer's creative concept. A retail design could have a backdrop of a crocodile skin pattern, to contrast the organic textures available in new purses, belts or shoes. In addition, some of the more geometric patterns offered by manufacturers provide a unique tactile depth of image effects for unique promotions, and long-term retail displays."

    Roba adds that a designer or a converter could distinguish themselves by using the special effect laminates, films and wrap products with taste and style. "The products in and of themselves can be overwhelming when used too much, but can add flair to compliment a design."

    Avery Dennison Supreme WrapSW900 Series Matte Black
    Camaro image is courtesy of Paradise Graphics, Cincinnati, Ohio. Job was produced using Avery Dennison Supreme WrapSW900 Series Matte Black.

    More Vehicle Wrap Apps
    With these new colored films, shops can now produce a custom "paint" job that requires no printing, and may not even require design. In addition, these films can serve, not as a replacement for a printed wrap, but rather a way to augment it, by highlighting certain areas, such as hoods, mirrors, bumpers or even graphic elements themselves.

    "These new specialty textured films can offer products, such as accent graphics for point-of-purchase (POP), high-end cut vinyl applications and partial vehicle wraps for a true custom look," says Jason Yard, training specialist, Graphic and Merchant Products at MACtac. "Paint wrapping is a growing trend that has vertical markets within the automotive customization industry. It is more cost effective than painting, can be cleanly removed and, with all the unique finishes out there, can provide more vehicle custom options," he adds.

    Last fall, MACtac launched the Tuning Film Series, which includes matte black and white, and five carbon fiber choices in black, white, silver, graphite and gold. "New additions in the line for 2012 include black leather, silver moon and three pearlescent colors. These films will be mostly used for vehicle customization both outside on hoods and spoilers, and inside as dash overlays. They also will find a market with consumer electronics devices such as laptops, gaming consoles and cell phones," Yard reports.

    3M 1080-CF12 on the front and IJ180Cv3-10 printed on the back half
    This wrap features 3M 1080-CF12 on the front and IJ180Cv3-10 printed on the back half of the vehicle. Wrap showcases combination of 1080 with printed wrap, for extra pop and attention.

    Yard says that shops that currently offer traditional advertising wraps can easily use these specialty films to compliment their services. "More and more 'tuners,' or car guys, are aware of the growing trend of custom vinyl wrapping, and will be asking for them. By offering a higher end looking product, they set themselves up as a go-to provider for all things in the 'specialty' area. Anyone can provide standard cut vinyl and printed banners, but if you get creative, these films can provide a unique offering your customers will notice," he concludes.

    Expanded Service Offerings
    Doug Blackwell, business development manager for 3M Commercial Graphics also sees more opportunities for shops with these new products. "Expanding service offerings is a matter of being in tune with current trends - or even slightly ahead of them. Thinking as far outside the box as possible, to make sure the way you use the new products sets you apart from the competition, and then marketing it to your existing customers, as well as to potential customers who may never have considered film as an option."

    Blackwell points out that graphic film can be very cost effective in wrapping fleets, whether traditional passenger vehicles, delivery vans or trailers. "A complex design painted on any of these vehicles would be very costly, run a higher risk of inconsistency and be a time consuming endeavor that ties up the vehicles for a long period of time. With graphic film, you never tie up the vehicle until you are ready to apply the film, and even then, it's rarely for more than a day. Many customers who choose film graphics also want the versatility of being able to change the image or branding with relative ease, which is entirely possible. A savvy business owner, with their graphic manufacturer's help, can design graphics that may keep part of the design in place for a long time, say the company logo, but have an area that is changed more often, right on the same vehicle."

    Clarke Systems Architectural Signage Systems Wayfinding ADA

    No Over Laminate Needed
    Another clear advantage of paint-wrapping films is that they incorporate a clear protective layer, with various finishes, so there's no need for an over laminate. "Color matching is available and graphics providers can reduce digital printing, by incorporating these products into the design," says Roba.

    Roba explains that paint-wrapping films provide consumers and businesses with unique benefits. "A consumer can change the color of their car at any time, creating a new look without a big expense. In addition, the vehicle is now a non-standard color, and is protected from the elements by the paint wrapping film. Business users receive similar benefits, in that they can get a custom color to represent their corporate requirements, while protecting the vehicle's original paint surface, for greater resale value after its lifecycle is complete," he points out.

    Roba also says that some of the overall benefits for wrapping a car in lieu of painting include a greater resale value as the original finish is protected. It usually costs less to paint wrap than to paint a car, reduction in volatile organic compounds in the environment and the small runs of a specific color are available for special corporate color programs (as low as five rolls 60 by 50 yards), plus color matching is available.

    "Paint replacement films are making it easier for users to convert, update and customize everything from cars, boats, buildings, retail fixtures and fleet applications with small minimum quantities and special effects," he adds.

    Wrapping on the Inside
    In addition to wrapping vehicle exteriors, interiors are now also an option. "Products such as Ritrama's Carbon Fiber, Matte and Brush cast vinyl series of products are designed to be used as full vehicle wraps," says Robert Rundle, viscom market manager at Ritrama. "These products could also be used inside the car as an accent on the dash or console.

    Blackwell adds that 3M's two popular vehicle films are versatile in retail environments as well. "Both the texture and the color of many films in the 1080 series create an eye-catching backdrop that reduces glare from overhead lighting, while giving a hip new look to the environment."

    Nike Store was created with Avery 900 Ultimate Cast films
    This graphics display at the Nike Store was created with Avery 900 Ultimate Cast films and DOL over laminates.

    Retail Apps
    MACtac's Kucera says that retail in particular offers an almost endless array of applications for these products, from signage to floor, window and wall graphics, to countertop product displays. "Auto dealerships are another option; they are constantly in need of fresh showroom graphics, as well as high visibility signage for vehicles on the lot. Restaurants are also looking for graphics to project their distinctive brand, and need tough finishes that will withstand cleaning."

    "Retail environments have to portray the brand in a very clear and consistent way," Kucera says. "The PSP who offers a well thought-out palette of finishes to enhance graphics and POP materials can be a significant asset to designers and brand managers in creating a distinctive environment.

    "Retail stores are looking toward these new textured films to accent their stores, on the walls, windows or even dressing room doors," adds Rundle. He thinks that the retail markets and opportunities are unlimited. "Integrating cut textured films into an inkjet printed job, whether on or under the printed graphics, is only limited by the creativity of the designer. This new design feature draws eyes to the message; whether on the wall in a mall or in a corporate lobby, the eye is drawn to the 3-D-like graphic. Printing on cast vinyl and laminating onto product like one of our textured cast vinyl films can completely change the look and feel of a graphic."

    Eco-Friendly Products
    At the 2011 SGIA Expo, FLEXcon rolled out a number of products designed specifically to meet the needs of brand advertisers and retailers. "Our latest products for the retail environment meet these needs, while allowing marketers to differentiate their brand and engage customers. Making your brand stand out is critical in this competitive retail economy," said Don Ryel, vice president, product branding business team, FLEXcon.

    Ryel states that retail counter space can be transformed with a new sustainable, non-vinyl counter advertising system, available with clear matte polyolefin or clear polyester overlaminates. "Quick-serve restaurants across the country are specifying that the materials used for counter and table-top graphics must be FDA indirect food contact compliant. FLEXcon's new system not only meets this requirement, but provides a non-PVC sustainable solution."

    He adds that users can transform retail wall space with three new eco-conscious WALLdeco non-vinyl products. "Now retailers can refresh their retail environments and transform wall space instantaneously, to create their ideal atmosphere," he concludes.

    Custom Wall Coverings
    MACtac's Kucera reports that custom wall coverings are really hot right now, and these products are ideal for those applications. "With wide-format digital printing and fabric pressure sensitives like our DecoArt and DecoSatin products, producing personalized wall coverings for commercial and home interiors has become a burgeoning market."

    They also have a series of textured vinyl laminates, which add depth and eye-catching effects, to make ordinary graphics extraordinary. "Ideal for indoor and outdoor use on colored vinyl, graphics or other compatible flat or slightly curved substrates, it is designed for decorative finishes for high-profile applications, such as furnishings, point-of-purchase displays, decals and signage, as well as wall graphics for the interior design, hotel décor and architectural graphics markets."

    Bill Schiffner has covered the imaging industry for more than 20 years. He has reported on the many new digital technologies that have reshaped the imaging marketplace. bschiffner@optonline.net

    This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, March/April 2012 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2012 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (www.sgia.org). All Rights Reserved.

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