Every so often, that oddball project walks into the shop that allows you to test new materials and production methods. In the case pictured here, it was a golf ball project for a customer’s tire cover on the back of their Hummer.
The challenge was the surface of the tire cover, which wasn’t the typical soft vinyl or fabric, but a semi-rigid, slick, pebbled surface that would be difficult for a typical vinyl graphics application. This project drove to FastSigns – Airway in El Paso and gave manager Alan Russell an excuse to test LexJet’s Simple MTS Adhesive Vinyl.
Russell says that he had already begun experimenting with the high-tack vinyl designed for multi-textured surfaces on the floors of a local industrial complex, Mallory Manufacturing Company, but also gets the call for off-the-wall applications to slick and textured surfaces on the sides of Porta Potties and trash cans.
“The tire cover is a low-energy plastic with a real nasty pebble-grained texture that nothing sticks to,” explains Russell. “The wrinkle for us was that they had Armor-All’d the crap out of it. We used Simple Green and a scrub brush so that it wasn’t so shiny and slick. Then, after we did that two or three times, we applied alcohol to the surface and let it dry to prepare it for the graphics.”
The golf ball image was printed on a Mimaki JV33 solvent printer, laminated with an optically-clear cast vinyl, and die cut to its 36″ x 36″ circular dimensions. Then, Russell put some reference marks on the tire cover to align the graphics, put the tire cover on the board to give it more rigidity for application and applied the graphic.
“We didn’t use application tape; we just laid it in the middle of the tire cover. We didn’t have it perfectly aligned the first time, so we just popped it up, repositioned it and squeegeed it with a normal squeegee,” explains Russell. “We used a rivet brush with the backing paper on top to protect the graphic and just brushed it into the cover; we didn’t use any heat. The edges laid out smooth, flat and gorgeously and we just hung it back on the truck. He took it to Colorado and it still looks great.”
Originally, the client wanted to wrap the entire cover, but Russell discouraged that concept since he felt a wrap would be much more difficult, thus more expensive for the client, and it would simply look better in the middle of the cover. Russell was right, as the golf ball stands out surrounded by the black of the tire cover.
“The image quality of the Simple MTS was as good if not better than most vinyl we’ve used. It has more of a matte vinyl look and feel, and that’s why it takes the ink much better, especially with solvent printers. It die-cut the first time perfectly and laminated beautifully, plus the fact that it’s fairly thick it lays like a 2×4; the thicker it is, the easier it is for my staff to apply. When you throw a laminate on it you’re at around 7 mils, which is why it applied so nicely without tape. For those relatively flat applications, like Porta-Potties and floors, it’s perfect,” says Russell. “In real life it looks even more three dimensional; it’s very deceiving. It was perfect, and the black of the tire cover trimmed it out nicely. We also added a slight grey outline to blend it into the cover.”