Why businesses should use latex for vehicle wrapping rather than traditional solvent-based printing methods

Demand for vinyl decals and full wraps for vehicles has risen over the last 20 years to the point where vehicle wrapping is now one of the biggest growth areas in the world of graphic design. No longer do vehicle owners - a mix of celebrities, businesses and commuters among others - remain content with the standard paint job permanently etched on their vehicle.

You've probably seen Formula One sponsorship liveries or partial wraps across aeroplanes advertising the airline carrier's brand; these wraps help customise and protect all forms of vehicles in the most eye-catching way possible. As well as having a significant effect on the vehicle's aesthetic, vehicle wraps can also be used as a cost-effective marketing tactic; it's a superb way of getting a logo, slogan or brand message out in the open.

However before the world of commercial wrapping, vehicle wraps were first designed as a way to protect vehicles.

History of vehicle wrapping

The early 1990s saw Germany conquer a conundrum. By law, German taxis had to be the colour beige by law and, as a result, it was almost impossible to resell the vehicles after their life as a taxi. However, a vehicle vinyl was requested in 1993 that was used to completely wrap different coloured German taxis in the required beige colour. 

When the vehicle's life as a taxi ended, the wrap was removed and the resale value of the vehicle was restored. In addition not only did it improve the value of the car, it also saved money by eliminating the need for resprays.

In modern times, vehicle wrapping has much more of a role on a vehicle than simply resale value. Businesses and vehicle owners can stamp their personality on a vehicle with a growing palette of colours, metallics, textures and patterns. The way of printing these wraps has also evolved; initially printing on solvent (and recently eco-solvent) printers was popular but now, printing on latex is making huge inroads in the vehicle industry.

Latex vs solvent-based printing

Let's imagine the evolution of the humble razor for a minute. From cut throat shaving razors to the Gillette Fusion ProGlide, all razors look to provide a close, comfortable shave - but it's a fact that some offer this quality better than others. Stubborn men tend to traditionally stick with old-style razors, but advances by Gillette means new razors offer a better size, weight, blade count and precision than their predecessors.

The vehicle wrapping market is similar. Some graphic studios stick with solvent-based printers because it's what they've always used; it's familiar, reliable and seen as the traditional way of vehicle wrapping. However the last few years has seen the emergence of a rival to the throne: latex-based printing.

The HP Latex 260 and 280 printers have shifting the way graphic designers printed vinyl wraps. No longer do prints need 'gassing off' - a period where carrier elements in the solvent need time to leave the surface of the material - for 24 to 48 hours like solvent-based prints. Latex printing allows designers to laminate directly from the printer, offering streamlined production and cost-effective printing to users.

Case study

Motorsports company Panther Racing launched an in-house graphics division called Panther Graphics to develop signage for vehicles. Previously, the company outsourced its wrapping to a solvent-based printer, but as it moved in-house, it opted for a latex-based solution. The result? Streamlined productivity and a superb turnaround time.

"We don't have time for the 24- to 48-hour outgassing period," said lead installer Tony Kendricks. "With HP Latex Inks, jobs get completed faster, and we're able to meet the demands of the race team. Unlike the drying time required with solvent printing, HP Latex prints come out completely dry, and we can start laminating the car the minute it rolls off the printer."

This speed helped instigate a partnership between Panther Graphics and NFL team San Francisco 49ers. The team needed to wrap a race car to temporarily look like a football - pebbled textures and laxes included. The proposal was delivered on Wednesday morning and the final product needed to be delivered by Thursday afternoon.

"It was designed and wrapped in a day, which would have been impossible to do with an eco-solvent printer," added Kendricks. "And the quality was outstanding."

In addition, using vinyl as a material for vehicle wrapping increased the durability of prints.

Kendricks explains: "Within three or four events, the car would need to be stripped and painted again. Now, we use vinyl with a clear coating - so if the coating gets nicked, we can simply recoat it. One wrap can last an entire season on the track."

Latex printers

The benefits of latex printing over solvent-based printing methods for vehicle wrapping are clear. For businesses that feel ready to invest in a high-quality latex printer, we at Perfect Colours can highly recommended the HP Latex 260 and 280 printer range.

The Latex 260 is the perfect printer for businesses that need to create crisp, vivid signs for outdoor and indoor use. From exhibition stands to billboard wraps, these prints can last-longer in any location due to the durability of the ink over traditional eco-solvent inks. Furthermore, the process of latex printing is significantly more eco-friendly that solvent printing as the machinery requires no special ventilation or hazard warnings. There is no gas-off time, making the material safe to use as soon as it is printed. Overall, the Latex 260 offers high quality and durability on a range of media - vinyl, fabrics, paper, film and more included - without many of the health and safety considerations of solvent-based printers/

For businesses with a broader range of requirements, the Latex 280 may be a better solution. As well as being able to print on the same range of materials as the 260, the 280 allows for an increased print width of 104-inches; perfect for those jobs that exceed the addressable width of the 260.

Overall both models can boost productivity with up to 70 per cent faster print speeds, allowing studios to focus on other tasks. Furthermore studios can participate in the HP Planet Partners programme allowing them to return and recycle supplies for free; yet another environmentally friendly string to the printers' bow!

To wrap up

Vehicle wrapping is the ultimate branding exercise. Whether businesses are looking to increase the visual reach of their logo or consumers want to brand their personality on their vehicle, vehicle wrapping allows for full customisation and acts as a cost-efficient marketing tactic.

As the industry continues to evolve, constant innovations have brought us to the zenith of vehicle wrap printing: latex printers. With customers demanding graphics on more than just German taxis - speedboats, monster trucks and aeroplanes to name but a few heavy duty vehicles - the industry has had to adapt. Latex printers help studios deliver high-quality prints with a speedy turnaround time, setting the industry standard for printing vehicle wraps.


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