Paint Replacement Film Technology

Written by Steve Thibou on . Posted in News

Automotive restyling. Vehicle color-change. Paint replacement. You probably know the popular car-wrapping trend by one name or another, but do you know about the vinyl technology that supports it?

The quickly growing business of installing colored vinyl film onto brand new vehicles has inspired Arlon and other vinyl manufacturers to push the limit on the types of products we make. Manufacturers have been driven to create distinct colors, unique finishes and more stringent performance criteria that is greatly different than our traditional products.

Market Expectations

The restyling phenomena has evolved from the commercial wraps market. These wraps have been very popular for the last decade. Commercial graphics are essentially large moving signs. To meet market expectations, wrap media must print well, install easily and offer good durability. The most difficult part of making a good commercial print media is to make it work consistently on a wide range of printing technologies.

Experienced commercial wrap shops take pride in doing single-panel wraps that "skin" a vehicle in very short order. Some shops have installation teams consisting of three to four applicators and are focused on completing large commercial fleet projects that have many vehicles.

The restyling market is much more of a one-off business that commands higher prices, but the lucrative market also comes with raised expectations for the final look of installed films.

Performance Expectations

The ideal wrap film must be easy to work with, but cannot show air egress channel patterns. It must stay down on every portion of a car without the use of primer or adhesive promoters. The reason for this is that a successful automotive restyling project demands creating a finish that looks equal to paint, a finish that removes easily (even when done by non-professionals), and a finish that completely covers all painted surfaces. This includes door jams and inside of crevices created by door handles, lights, etc.

The time and attention to detail that is taken during a restyling wrap is completely different than more traditional wraps. Many restyling shops break down vehicles by removing handles, side mirrors and lights. Then, at the time of install, they go beyond wrapping the outward facing painted surfaces and completely wrap under and around every individual panel.

The effect that restyling shops are striving to achieve is to have each body part look as if it has been dipped in the color of the vinyl. Instead of starting with one panel, wrappers divide each job into individual body sections. For instance, a door, a bumper, a fender, a rocker panel, and a mirror would all be their own individual panels which would be wrapped with separate pieces of vinyl.

Because of the extremely high expectations, restyling vinyl must work differently than traditional wrap media. It must elongate more than 50 percent, stay down in extreme curves (without the aid of chemicals) and must maintain color consistency throughout the entire application.

Reinventing Vinyl

How has vinyl been reinvented to meet the strenuous needs of this application? Vinyl film manufacturers have responded with improved films offering a range of enhanced properties. For example, Arlon has redesigned its wrap vinyl from the ground up and created unique formulas, alternative thicknesses and advanced casting technologies to create products that exceed market needs. Some films have built-in additional protective layers, bonding layers and other proprietary steps that make the film look and act better than paint.

Normally, cast vinyl is thought of as two mils thick, and is usually installed with the addition of application tape or a two-mil laminate. Restyling is different; thinner doesn't necessarily mean better. Creating the right balance between "boardyness," conformability and ability to stretch is at the crux of designing the perfect film.

Often, the thicker the film is, the easier it is to lay down. However, thick film is often harder to keep in place. With newly designed formulas, this is no longer the case. For example, Arlon's restyling films range from three- to five mils in thickness, but maintain consistent performance. Each of these cast films are able to conform to the most difficult curves.

Wide Range of Finishes

Manufacturers have developed a wide range of finishes to cater to this color trending market. For instance, manufacturers such as 3M, Avery, Hexis, Kay Automotive and Orafol offer new finishes including chrome and various metallic finishes, textured films such as carbon fiber and alligator, and even color-change wrap films.

Arlon is about to launch its fastest-growing restyling wrap film product to the United States. Ultimate PremiumPlus restyling film has been sold in Europe since 2011 and boasts a wide array of finishes such as matte effects, pearlescent, candy gloss and the more standard gloss or matte. Finishes like this were never available or demanded in the traditional graphics business. They were also not possible until multi-layer casting processes were created.

Vinyl Now Preferred

For most of our lives, paint has been the only method of automotive decoration. Now, vinyl is quickly becoming a preferred method. With the advances in casting technology, personal and commercial vehicle restyling through the use of vinyl wraps is a reality. Auto manufacturers, dealerships and customization shops are all adopting some type of wraps into their business models. There is no doubt that this new world for vinyl will keep pushing advances in how we manufacture and use films.

Billboard Viewing Distance, Resolution and File Size

Written by Steve Thibou on . Posted in News

When considering the minimum acceptable resolution to supply photographic images for a graphic reproduction, you need to first consider the intended viewing distance of the image in situ. As a rule of thumb, the minimum viewing distance, which allows the whole image to be viewed in its entirety, can be calculated by multiplying the length of the diagonal of the image by 1.5.

For example, if I am designing a 6m x 3m billboard as in the Kiss Billboard in the photo below, with a little bit of help from Pythagoras, the minimum practical viewing distance would be
1.5 x sqrt(3x3 +6x6) = 1.5 x 6.67 = 10 metres

The following table shows whe maximum resolution in PPI, that a person with 20/20 eyesight, in ordinary viewing conditions can resolve. In other words any resolution higher that the resolution quoted will be indistinguishable at that viewing distance.

Viewing Distance
TIFF File Size
0.15 583 2.107
0.3 292 529
0.6 146 132
1.2 72 33
2.4 37 8.5
3 30 5.58
6 15 1.40
10 9 0.50
20 5 0.16
30 3 0.06

For our 6 metre x 3 metre billboard skin being viewed at 10 metres, you can see from the table above that we are not going to get any better than a file which is 9 PPI (Pixels Per Inch) at the actual output size. So the size of the file we require will be 6x3x0.5 = 9MB, probably smaller that you thought right?

The other thing to point out is that even though the photographic image might be pixilated at shorter viewing distances, generally the text and any vector graphics should be supplied as paths so you will enjoy the highest resolution that the printer has to offer for these vector elements.

It is important to consider the context or situation that the final output is going to be seen. In our billboard example, a 10 metre viewing distance might be appropriate, however what about if you want to do a giant wall mural in an internal environment, rather than considering the context of someone standing back and observing the whole print. You want to consider an observer who is up close. The industry standard resolution for Internet graphics is 72 PPI, from our table above we can see that the viewing distance for this resolution is 1.2 metres, yet you and I know that usually we are sitting closer than half that distance away from our screens. If we to use 72PPI for our 6m x 3m billboard then the Tiff file size would be in the order of  600MB file which is overkill. In reality, the limitation is not going to be the file size as much as limitations of the capturing device. Even your 10 mega pixel digital SLR is only going to give you around 12 MB in RAW format, so unless you are using a number of images, are step and repeating, are adding noise and other filters in an attempt to make a silk purse out of a sows ear, then supplying us with 600MB files is only going to slow everyone down and cost you money in couriering disks. In general keep your file sizes down to under 300MB and then everyone will be happy.

Mototrack website upgraded to CS-Cart 4.0.3

Written by Steve Thibou on . Posted in News

We have just finshed a major upgrade for the Mototrack Accessories website. The old site data was imported into CS-Cart 4.0.3 and then a completly new template installed and customised.

This site is now a Multi-Store site that also operates Motorcycle Rim Stickers.

Additional Mobile phone capability was also added using the Twigimo cs-cart add-on and then we built banners and customised the layout.

webpage mt                 iPhone-5-PSD-Template-121016 03      iPhonproduct

We are CS-Cart Authorised Resellers.

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