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Vinyl-Installation Shops Offer Tips

(March 2012) posted on Mon Feb 27, 2012

Providers offer hints for challenging applications


By Steve Aust

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Last month’s Vinyl Apps column featured insights from several vinyl manufacturers. Here, we’re turning the focus back to techniques vinyl-graphic fabricators have perfected to enhance their work and build their portfolio (and referrals).

360 Wraps
Tommy Strader, who has wrapped vehicles for 12 years, founded 360 Wraps (Dallas) five years ago. The shop, which wraps anything on wheels, has broadened its repertoire to include floor, building and wall wraps. He said 360 gains most of its work through Internet marketing, word of mouth and referrals.

“Each job has its challenges; one example that comes to mind is working a wall wrap around a building’s metal rafters,” Strader said. “In cases like that, I try to design around the obstacle and convince the customer it’s more-cost effective to not try to wrap a difficult surface.”

He also said vertical surfaces, such as cartops and stairs, pose difficulties because gravity attempts to make the vinyl stick prematurely. In such cases, Strader’s crew keeps the release liner on longer and secures small pieces at a time.


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He said the shop prefers films with little initial tack – 360 primarily uses Avery films, and other brands’ specialty products when needed – because they’re more easily repositioned and can be installed about 30% faster. The shop prints on an HP L25500 latex printer, which Strader likes because it doesn’t require a solvent ink’s drying time, and its onboard computer calibrates material feed and minimizes banding.

Throughout his wrapping career, Strader has maintained a fairly consistent inventory of tools. He’s added two recent inventions: the RollePro vinyl applicator, which can maneuver over some complex surfaces more easily than a squeegee, and new-generation transmask that cuts away in strings without cutting paint.
For installations, he prefers Avery’s blue, felt-tipped squeegees, which he covers with 3M’s 5151 masking tape to help the squeegee glide, especially over a hot surface.

Strader handled one particularly challenging job for NASCAR driver Michael McDowell’s team. They asked if 360 could wrap its car the morning at the racetrack. The customer allowed precisely 90 minutes before the first practice laps. And, mechanics worked simultaneously under the hood.

“I put my three best installers on the job, and we had to constantly communicate with the mechanics so we didn’t get in each others’ way,” Strader said.


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