Keeping up to date with trends in the signage industry has become a necessity for most companies.

Manufacturers continue to innovate with technological advances no one dreamed of a decade ago. Now, as wide format technology becomes more available, one of the ways that companies can stay relevant in the industry is to uncover new market opportunities.

One trend has become common: new technology from self-adhesive manufacturers continues to drive market opportunities in the sign and graphic industry. With film becoming more durable and adhesives able to perform in a wider variety of environments, the markets and applications we can service continues to grow.

As traditional markets become increasingly competitive, these new application possibilities offer exciting additional prospects for sign and print companies.

Getting on board

ONE of these markets is boat personalisation.

Boating, a favourite pastime of many New Zealanders, offers a diversity of outdoor activities including relaxation, family time, adventure activities, adrenaline sports, and competitions. With a range of boats to suit different lifestyles and budgets, Kiwis take advantage of our country’s climate and waterways with gusto. Our enthusiasm for sailing, fishing, and other marine activities has helped create a market for signage companies.

We have seen the success of car wrap films as a personalised paint replacement option. Signage applicators can wrap clients’ vehicles cost-effectively with any colour, giving the customers a chance to reflect their own individual taste and style in their preference of vehicle wrap.

Once on the cars, the films look just like paint and they offer the additional benefit of protecting the actual paint underneath from scratches and minor stone chips. The appeal of this concept to end users has seen a huge variety of films for this purpose entering the market with different colours, a variety of finishes, and innovative effects.

Now, the same type of technology has expanded to include boats.

Vinyl, whether it is used as a paint replacement on boats or to enhance a boat’s visual appeal, introduces a whole new group of prospective customers the signage industry. From small boats to large yachts, boat owners overseas have embraced the possibilities that the technology offers. For many, it has changed from a trend to becoming the new normal.

Rather than painting boats, wrapping them in coloured self-adhesive films has proved itself as a durable and economical alternative.

Paint needs time to dry and cure. During this time, the boat owners cannot carry out maintenance work on the boat such as welding and grinding. Painting presents other challenges. It generally needs several coats; the painters themselves need protective equipment from the solvents; and the entire job tends to involve a much more labour intensive process. This means the owner needs to have the boat taken out of the water for a longer time, which often proves more costly and more inconvenient.

As well as the aesthetic and time savings benefits, self-adhesive film also provides a protective layer where it is applied. The original surface is protected from minor scratches, from UV, and from corrosive elements.

In terms of technique, wrapping a boat presents as not too different a proposition as wrapping a car.

Critically, you must ensure that you correctly clean the boat surface and prepare it for the application. Oxidised paint causes bigger headaches with boats than it does with cars. Oxidisation presents a powdery surface and it will prevent the film from adhering well. In this case, cleaning the boat properly as well as sanding back to a good surface, forms an essential part of your preparation before starting any application.

Successful application

In order to make a boat application successful, you need to select a film that manufacturers have specifically designed or recommended for this application.

Using just any coloured film will not provide the long term look and durability that boat owners will expect. Also, the requirements of the film extend beyond simply using a high grade cast film.

While a cast film is conformable, and generally has a long life expectancy, a boat application requires additional considerations and features including the adhesive.

As with other wraps, something we must always consider, and place a high value on, are the removal capabilities of the film.

From an application and wrap service perspective, getting the job out and having the wrap last are the primary concerns of any boat wrap supplier but removal will have a big impact on the client, especially if it is difficult. The client must pay for the removal and, if the film is hard to remove or leaves glue behind, this process will become a time consuming, costly exercise, which we could easily have prevented by choosing the right film at the start. Any perceived cost savings will quickly be negated if a cheaper film takes longer to remove. Just because a film is permanent does not mean it cannot be removed easily or cleanly. The key is to use the right film and to take the film off before it starts to break down.

Boat wrapping offers owners the opportunity to change the colour of their boats with minimum hassle compared to traditional paint methods. It preserves the resale value of the boat and gives owners the ability to express their personalities without compromising the integrity of the boat.

Many boat owners don’t yet know the possibilities that boat wrapping creates. By taking this concept to market, with the right film and the appropriate application expertise, graphic suppliers and application experts can easily add a quite profitable sector to their business.

The right film

SELCTING the correct film for a boat wrap requires an appreciation that the marine environment delivers a much harsher test of the film’s capabilities than it will face on land.

Any sailor will tell you that a ship is exposed to a much more demanding environment then a car.

A number of factors place extra requirements on film construction for boat wrapping. These include the effects of UV, and UV reflection from the water; corrosion from salt water; and the abrasion and force from the water as the boat moves through.

A highly durable top sheet with quality colour pigments and ingredients is essential. Durability involves more than just the life expectancy quoted in aging tests. It also relates to how robust the film is against marine elements.

There are special laminates that can be applied on top of these coloured films for extra UV resistance and they will also protect the films against scratching. The latest innovation recently launched is a self-healing film. This film when scratched can be regenerated with heat, which has the effect of making minor scratches disappear. The film surface looks like new again.

Adhesive properties also comprise vital factors in the film choice.

Often the adhesive performance characteristics are overlooked, as more focus is placed on the top sheet and its ability to withstand UV and other environmental aspects. However, the adhesive is just as important when determining the success of an installation.

For marine applications, solvent-based adhesives are the best choice over water based adhesives. They are superior in performance; the can better withstand temperature extremes; and they are not as affected by water.

Bubble free adhesives can make the application process much easier but it is important to remember that if air can get out, water can get in and make its way under the film, causing the graphic to fail. Edge sealing is essential.

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