In the Zone

An insider’s view of the PDAA Graphics Application Zone at SGIA Expo 2009
Dec 09 vinyl 1.jpg

I planned and coordinated the Professional Decal Application Assn.’s (PDAA) first WrapQuest events. The first was held in Pompano Beach, FL in 2007, the next at 2008’s Specialty Graphics Imaging Assn. (SGIA) Expo in Atlanta. I invested countless hours in the two events, but it was well worth it. I also received invaluable help from PDAA Master Certified installers both times. I left each event knowing we’d successfully achieved PDAA’s goals of providing education and raising the professional bar for graphic installation.

This past May, PDAA merged with SGIA to become the installation segment of the SGIA community. SGIA helps its members by connecting printshops with installers to provide total imaging solutions.

Michael Robertson, SGIA’s president and CEO, asked me to help plan a similar event for SGIA Expo 2009, which took place October 7-9 in New Orleans. I worked primarily with Dan Marx, SGIA’s markets and technologies VP. Among his other duties, Marx also oversees PDAA. However, most, if not all, of SGIA’s staff plays a role in managing and developing PDAA.
WrapQuest matures
Robertson wanted to showcase PDAA Master Certified installers. We examined the WrapQuest model and listened to suggestions from past participants and vinyl manufacturers. We decided, although vehicle wraps represent a very prominent, vinyl-graphic application, they certainly don’t constitute the majority of most companies’ business.

We created a more diversified event that featured several graphic applications. We hoped to inspire graphic producers with new ideas, applications and markets to help them grow their businesses – and emphasize that PDAA installers handle more than just wraps. We focused on providing free education and demonstrations by many of America’s leading installers to all Expo attendees. And so, WrapQuest evolved into the PDAA Graphics Application Zone.

Again, many hours went into planning and coordinating, but this time an entire team made it happen. Every vinyl manufacturer that exhibited at the Expo was invited to participate. On behalf of PDAA, I’d like to recognize and thank the following companies for their participation and support: Avery, Clear Focus, FLEXcon, MACtac and Oracal.
I asked PDAA Master Certified Installers to volunteer their time and share their expertise. The response was overwhelming; 27 installers from all over the U.S. took time away from their businesses and traveled at their own expense, unpaid, to give something back to their industry.

There are too many to mention them all by name, but I’d like to commend one who’s made especially significant contributions: Shane Courtney of Sign Connection (Olathe, KS). I’ve known Shane, a Master installer and friend, for 15 years. He helps me run the PDAA Certification program, and has invested hundreds of hours helping me with both WrapQuests and the Zone. Thanks Shane!
The Graphics Application Zone
A 50 x 70-ft. exhibit area served as our stage. One corner contained a custom-built wall structure. The two outside walls measured 8 x 15 ft. wide, forming a right angle. The ends of the interior walls also spanned 8 ft. tall and ran parallel to the outside walls. The center section of the inside wall was built to a 45° angle.

The inside wall featured a static mural, designed by SGIA’s graphics department, that featured a collage of New Orleans images. The mural was printed on FLEXcon’s BUSart material and installed, preshow, by PDAA installers as a display piece. The two large outside walls were wrapped daily during two-hour demonstrations, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Avery, MACtac and Oracal each had a day, and donated graphics they had designed and printed either in-house or by one of their clients.

In another corner sat a red Saturn Vue. It started out each day blank and before the end of the day was sporting a fabulous wrap. Show attendees enjoyed watching, helping, asking questions and learning from top PDAA installers.

Oracal provided media and designs for four tabletop wraps displayed with cool, wrapped plastic chairs. MACtac designed wraps for two, 6-ft.-tall, metal storage cabinets that really sparkled with its crystal overlaminates.

Another cool display sported a custom window-graphics display that featured three windows attached in the center and projected outward like spokes on a wheel.
All film manufacturers demonstrated their window-film products. Clear Focus, the originator of see-through, one-way window films made a strong showing with several eye-catching building wraps. In my opinion, the window-graphic show-stopper featured MACtac’s air-egress, B-free™ transparent, printable film. One corner housed an 8 x 8-ft. carpet graphic display printed on FLEXcon material to replicate a grass lawn. Another corner featured a different, 10-ft.-wide, triangular, floor-graphic material from Avery, MACtac and Oracal installed each morning.

Speaking of floors, FLEXcon unveiled its new FLEXwork floor art™ product. Using floor art, they worked with Tom Cooper from Alliance Rock-Tenn (Winston-Salem, NC) to print 2 x 5-ft. tiles that butted together to form large floor images.
The shop printed the product at very high resolutions with a specialty UV printer. The show opened Wednesday with a 10 x  25-ft. area covered with Floorart.
Showcasing images of items with such varied textures as rock, grass, sand and carpet, demonstrators transformed a plain floor into dazzling advertising. During daily demos, they removed and replaced textures. The process required no heat, left no adhesive and took less than one minute per panel.

Installers replaced the textures daily with stunning Grand Canyon images. By the end of the show, the textures were gone. The film’s high-gloss finish gave the impression of standing on a Grand Canyon precipice – watch the ledge! It’s also important to note the media wasn’t slippery. Rather, it was quite comfortable – like walking on a normal tile floor.

A 28-ft.-long trailer, which international freight hauler YRC donated, served as the Zone’s centerpiece. One side, which was wrapped before the show, functioned as the Zone’s primary sign and backdrop. Installers gradually wrapped the other side until it was complete by the show’s end. An SGIA graphic designer developed the Mardi Gras-themed design. Nite-Bright (Ft. Myers, FL) fabricated the graphics using Avery’s MPI 1005 EZ film.

However, installing vinyl on this trailer wasn’t easy. This Wabash model features 3-in.-wide, vertical aluminum strips with 1-in.-wide, center corrugations. They’re well attached with some of the biggest rivets I’ve ever seen; they run up each side of the aluminum strip at 1-in. intervals. These vertical strips, spaced 12 to 16 in. apart, span the trailer’s entire length. Thanks to Robert Messenger of Phoenix Graphics (Little Rock, AR) and Jon Anderson of Hi Tech Graphics (Maryville, TN) for the great installation job!
Signing off
Because of my Zone responsibilities, I didn’t get to see much of the show. But, one new device really impressed me. In ST’s August issue, I wrote about solvent inks and their accompanying issues. HP unveiled its new DesignJet L25500 printer, which uses HP’s solvent-free, latex Inks. I’ll be testing and evaluating this new ink technology, and I suggest you do the same.

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I began writing this column. Thanks to Wade, Steve and the whole ST staff for the opportunity to share my knowledge with you – and for putting up with me. I’ve tried to use this column to provide proven, reliable information, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this past year’s column as much as I have. If you ever need quality, graphic-installation training, please consider my services. For more information, visit my website at I wish you the best in your business, and hope every piece of vinyl you use applies quickly and smoothly.
(Editor's Note: After the print article went to press, Ivers decided to resume his ST column. He'll return in the February issue.)