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Inkjet printing drives vinyl wrap industry

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Published on August 23, 2018
Air Force new bus design

The new graphic design vinyl wrap on the buses reflects the mission of the Air Force and demonstrates the diversity of careers in today’s Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gary R. Coppage)


Digitally printed vinyl wraps for cars, truck, vans and even motorcycles offer stunning graphics at a fraction of the cost of hand-painted and airbrush production. Additionally, the turnaround for full or partial vinyl raps is much faster.

Digital inkjet printing expanded the opportunity for promotional customization beyond hand painting or stickers.

From quote to delivery, vinyl is faster and cheaper than hand-painted designs. A custom paint job may require several weeks while a full or partial vinyl wrap can often be delivered in 10 days or less. A less costly solution is printing a simple vinyl sticker.

Inks Used for Vinyl Wraps and Skins

Solvent inks deliver the best results for producing vinyl wraps, or signage. The solvents provide the necessary flexibility for the material when applied to an uneven surface. The solvents bind powerfully with the vinyl material.

The 2017 State of the Wraps Industry Report from the Sign & Digital Graphics publication notes that the majority of printers turn to eco-solvent or light-solvent ink. These have reduced volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Smaller percentages use UV curable inks.

These pigment-based inks stand up to environmental conditions. They resist fading.

Vinyl graphic van wrap

Source: (cc)

Warranty May Depend on Ink

Vinyl manufacturers often recommend specific ink formulations for use with their products. Using the right ink ties into the warranty of the product, because the manufacturers know the quality of the ink has a significant impact on the overall durability of the vinyl.

Higher quality vinyl requires less aggressive solvents such as the eco-solvent inks.

Kao Collins experts can recommend the right ink based on vinyl samples, whether it is a solvent or UV ink.

3M requires specific inks for full warranty coverage. And, according to the sign-industry report, 88 percent of printing shops surveyed do offer some warranty on their vinyl-printed products.

With the right vinyl and ink, a wrap can last at least a couple of years. Often a liquid laminate seal is applied to the printed vinyl, further protecting the finished product.

See Creativity on Wheels: 16 Innovative Bus Wrap Designs


Scanning printers using piezoelectric drop-on-demand inkjet printheads are the most common technology in the wrap industry. These printers often incorporate one or more heating methods. Heat prepares the vinyl and accelerates drying.

There may be a preheating element in the roller system preparing the vinyl to accept the ink by opening the pores of the substrate. Often there is a heated platen where the print head goes to work. Finally, hot air finishes the curing after the ink is applied.

That’s a Wrap

Whether for commercial fleets, custom jobs for individuals or alternative uses, such as office window skins, the vinyl-wrap market is expanding, in no small part, because of the speed and quality of today’s wide-format inkjet printers combined with robust ink options.

Contact Kao Collins to discuss custom inkjet ink formulations.




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