Whether you laminate application tape by hand or with a laminator, avoid trapping air bubbles between the vinyl graphics and the application tape. Bubbles and wrinkles in the application paper often result in bubbles and wrinkles in the applied graphic, regardless of the skill and effort of the installer. If you inspect the adhesive side of a graphic, after removing the release liner, you often can see the formation of wrinkles and bubbles in the adhesive. In the application process, you will just transfer these wrinkles and bubbles to the substrate.
Taking Marketing to the Streets - Applying Street Graphics
Laminated floor graphics have been used for years for in-store advertising. Now Avery Dennison Graphics has introduced its MPI 6121 Street Graphics film, which is an innovative floor graphics solution for short-term outdoor application to unfinished concrete or asphalt. Applied correctly, the Avery Street Graphics film will typically withstand normal foot traffic for up to 120 days. That makes these graphics ideal for retail promotions.
Colorful graphics can attract the attention of pedestrians to the promotion. Combined with window treatments and window displays, the Street Graphics film can help entice window shoppers, building shop traffic. The new Avery Street Graphics material also delivers a powerful marketing message when applied to sidewalks outside of convention centers, sports arenas or entertainment halls.
"Floor graphics have grown to a $2 billion market because they are effective in stimulating impulse sales," sales Chris Charles of Think Patented in Miamisburg, OH. "The trick, thought, is getting shoppers into the stores. That's the value of street graphics. It helps drive traffic through the front door by enticing shoppers with money saving specials or the latest and greatest new product."
When specifying a material, a major consideration for Think Patented is ease of use. "Stores in a chain can be located across the country," Charles says. "If we had to schedule installation, that could be a logistical nightmare. That's why we select materials easy enough for a store employee to apply. It reduces installation costs for our customer and simplifies program implementation."
As Think Patented discovered MPI 6121 Street Graphics film is easy to apply, which makes it great for short term promotions. Paul Roba, Strategic Sales Technical Manager for Avery Dennison Graphics, says "if you follow the basic installation instruction, just about anyone can apply our Street Graphics film." For those people who are all thumbs or when applying very large graphics, Roba recommends employing the services of a professional decal applicator or a skilled sign person.
"As easy as Street Graphics are to apply, they are just as easy to remove," says Roba. "At the end of the promotion, all you need is a pressure washer to blast it off of the pavement. The graphics remove cleanly without using any toxic chemical removers. After the surface is completely dry, it's ready for new marketing message to be applied."
Revolutionary Film Technology
What's different about Avery's solution is their micro-fracture technology. The new Avery Street Graphics utilizes a 1.8 mil. cellulose film facestock. In the application process, this unique film fractures, allowing it to conform to a very rough concrete or asphalt surface. "The fracturing of the film also allows water to drain through the graphic instead of pooling on the top of the film," Roba says. "By reducing the amount of water on the surface of the film, you limit the risk of someone slipping on your graphic."
The new Avery Street Graphics film is intended for production or large format graphics using a UV curable inkjet printer. "If you want to achieve maximum advertising impact, the bigger the graphics the better," says Roba. "Big graphics with bold colors attract attention, which makes it more likely that your message is read."
Printed graphics not only do not need the protection of an overlaminate, Avery specifically admonishes fabricators from using laminates. The company also discourages designing graphics with cut letters and intricate designs. Cut graphics are difficult to weed as well as providing more exposed edges which could potentially lift.
Preparing the Surface
The key in achieving good adhesion is an application surface that is clean and dry. If the surface is wet, the film will not stick. Before beginning the application, make sure that you inspect the crevices and cracks of the concrete or asphalt for any moisture. Also, make sure that the application surface is in good condition and that there are no areas where the concrete or asphalt is crumbling. The Avery film will stick to a textured surface. It will not stick to rubble. To clean the surface, you will need a push broom. Brushing the surface from several different directions will sufficiently remove any dirt and loose debris. To aid the removal of loosened material, some installers use a left blower to blow away the dislodged particles.
For this application, Avery Dennison recommends using the RTape ApliTape 4000 low-tack application tape. This standard weight paper tape is excellent for protecting large format digitally printed graphics. If you don't have a laminator to apply the application tape to the print graphic, here's a simple technique that can make masking graphics foolproof. Unroll the tape so the adhesive side of the tape is facing up. Position the printed graphic face down onto the application tape. Squeegee the release liner side (backside) of the graphic, as shown in the picture above. Begin with the squeegee stroke down the middle of the graphic. Use firm pressure. Working from the middle stroke, squeegee the backside of the graphic to one side, always overlapping your squeegee strokes. After squeegeeing one side, return to the center and apply pressure to the other side of the graphic. In the process, slightly angle the squeegee to direct the air away from the center of the graphic. Using this technique to apply application tape will prevent wrinkles in the tape and entrapment of air bubbles between the tape and the graphic.
After you have squeegeed the release liner side of the graphic, flip it over and squeegee the application tape side (show below). Remember that application tape is a pressure sensitive material, so use some pressure in the application process.
In selecting a spot to apply graphics, avoid locations that are subjected to water drainage and standing water. Also avoid areas with cracks in the payment. Graphics should only be applied when the temperature of the concrete or asphalt is above 55°F (13°C).
To facilitate the application of the graphic, you can use the top hinge technique. After positioning the graphic where you want to apply it, apply a tape hinge along the top of the premasked graphic. For this application, I used an aggressive plastic tape to ensure that the graphic didn't come unhinged. Cut through the tape hinge along the edge of the graphic. (See the picture below)
Flip the graphic up and peel back about 8"-10" of the release liner, exposing the adhesive. With your thumb crease the liner. Folded under the graphic the liner will help hold the exposed adhesive away from the application surface. Using one hand, hold the bottom of the graphic at a low angle away from the application surface. Beginning at the top of the graphic, squeegee the film using good pressure and overlapping strokes. For this type of pressure, I recommend using a stiff nylon squeegee. As you apply the film, gradually remove the release liner. (See the photo below)
After you squeegeed the graphic in place, use a 3" rivet brush along with a little heat to burnish the street graphics film into the texture of the concrete or asphalt. In the burnishing process the film will fracture and conform to the rough surface. Don't overdo it with the heat, or the film will bubble off the surface. (See the photo below)
After you have squeegeed and burnishes the graphic with the rivet brush, wait about five minutes before removing the application tape from the film. Carefully roll the application tape off of the applied graphic peeling it back at a 180° angle over itself. (See the photo below) After the tape is removed, resqueegee the entire graphic. Heating the edges of the graphic with an industrial heat gun or propane torch will help secure the film and prevent edge curl.
If you follow the techniques that we just described, application of moderate sizes street graphics should be quick, easy and trouble free. Large graphics, especially those designs in which multiple panels much overlap and align with one another, could be challenging. When graphics are large and complex, it is time to hire a professionally decal applicator. The pros have the training and experience to do the job right.
As we wrote at the beginning of this article, removal can be easy using a pressure washer capable of producing 2,000 PSI or greater. However, this is not child's play. The equipment should only be operated by a responsible adult. The high pressure spray of a power washer can cause physical injury. For this reason, before you start using the equipment read the safety precautions in the owner's manual.
In removing the graphics, position the nozzle about 3"-5" from the film. Begin at the edge of the graphic and word from side to side until the film is removed. Depending on how well the graphic is adhered to the substrate, little bits and pieces of adhesive and film may remain following removal, especially if the surface is highly textured.
Photos courtesy of Avery Dennison® Graphics. All marks referenced above are trademarks of their respective owners.