Loud and Fast Rules

Bluemedia pumps up the volume for an audio-component purveyor.
Mar 10 Strictly pic 1.jpg

Having designed more than 5,000 custom wraps, the bluemedia team has decorated its share of cool cars. Tempe, AZ-based Rockford Corp., a designer, marketer and distributor of high-performance systems for the mobile-audio aftermarket and OEM automotive and marine applications, asked about creating vehicle wraps to rev up its branding. David Slepak, Rockford’s senior marketing manager, sought a powerful fleet-graphics program that could be implemented throughout its worldwide dealer network. Our response: pump up the volume!

David stated his intentions clearly from the beginning: “Our goal is to build a consistent graphic style that could be implemented on a variety of unique vehicles throughout the world. We have a deep network of dealers and loyal consumers. These graphics need to represent Rockford’s passion, products and dedication to our industry.”
 
How should loud look?

Chris Keal, bluemedia’s art director, met with David to understand his promotional and branding objectives. He created an obscure background design that comprises flat and 3-D logos and depictions of some of Rockford’s products. Keal subtly blended the objects’ textures into black and red layers that provide a nice backdrop for the dominant logo that covers the vehicle nearly from bumper to bumper. The design offers the dual appeal of stopping power from a distance, and depth and complexity up close.
To establish our framework, bluemedia always creates a 1:10-scale, vector template of each vehicle that capturers the unique contours and curves of each application. We used Adobe Photoshop® and Illustrator® to develop our graphic solution. We implemented Onyx’s Production House™ 6.5 RIP to translate the design into the printer’s program. Finding the right RIP for your shop is an equation of color-profile variety, speed, flexibility and functionality.
 
Fabrication thoughts

We output the graphics on one of our HP TurboJet solvent printers on 3M™’s Controltac™ IJ-1080C film with Comply® embossed-adhesive technology. We also operate HP, Scitex, VUTEk, Océ, Epson and Sharp printers in our facility. The size and specific application’s conditions dictate what machine we use. Capacity and warranty also influence our decisions.

For our first installation, we wrapped a 2010 Suzuki Kazashi. New-generation, air-egress adhesives provide an installation godsend because they allow easy repositioning. We’re now using 3M’s v3 embossed-adhesive formulation, which was developed for installation on deeper contours. It’s a little thinner than previous Comply films, and it requires a little more careful handling.

To topcoat the wrap, we applied 3M’s 8518 glossy laminate. There’s usually some debate over whether to use a glossy-, luster- or matte-finish laminate. Because this car will tour auto shows and events for several months, we used a laminate that provides a high sheen. For the last couple years, many clients have asked for glossier material. The 8518 offers a finish similar to wet paint. But, at the last SEMA show, we’ve noticed that matte-finish wraps have gained popularity.
 
Installation

The vehicle was brand new, so we prepped it with a thorough soap-and-water cleaning. The installation, especially fitting the film over the car’s curves and upper edges, proved to be somewhat challenging. In general, the most difficult vehicles to wrap include the new VW Beetle, the H1 Hummer, the Chevrolet HHR and the Toyota Prius. Every installer has his squeegee preference, but, in general, we use 3M Gold nylon squeegees. We also use some felt squeegees and various implements for deep grooves and rivets.

To smooth the film into place, we used torches to conform the media. We prefer torches over heat guns because they’re more portable and provide instantaneous heat. They don’t require extension cords and cover a larger area. For most jobs, we use BernzOMatic TS 4000 torches with small propane tanks. For removals, we use industrial torches with larger tanks.

People often perceive that Arizona’s climate creates a perpetual heat wave, but the ambient temperature during our November installation ranged from 45° to 65° F. In this lower temperature range, a heat source becomes a vital tool. 3M recommends an application temperature between 40° and 100° F. At lower temperatures, the film becomes brittle and susceptible to tears; extreme heat causes vinyl to become gummy and start to melt.
 
Final thoughts

Rockford Fosgate launched the wrap series at the LA Auto Show. The company and its customers raved about the wrap’s impact. Soon after, Rockford literally shook the rafters with the launch of its next three wrapped vehicles at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

They plan to use this wrap theme as they expand their brand footprint on more vehicles and haulers throughout the world. Because of the size of the majority of vehicles involved in this campaign – we also wrapped a Mercedes Sprinter, a Nissan Sentra and a Mitsubishi Evo for this campaign -- we chose to design, print and install seamless wraps on a majority of the fleet. We’re starting with eight wraps for Rockford Fosgate’s headquarters, and the campaign will likely grow as the company implements the program throughout its dealer network.

When asked about its relationship with Rockford, Jared Smith, bluemedia’s president, said, “Today, vendors need to be deeply committed to their clients and understand their long-term goals. Just being a printer doesn’t cut it anymore. Brand representatives look for partners that take the time to understand and implement their vision.”

Slepak lauded bluemedia’s performance: “Their team was extremely responsive to our timetable for these wraps and executed each project in a timeframe that was, to be honest, unrealistic. Beyond the quality of their work, these guys delivered customer service above my expectations.”
Equipment and Materials

Media: Controltac™ media with Comply™ embossed-adhesive, air-egress technology, from 3M Corp. (St. Paul, MN), (888) 364-3577 or www.3m.com; gloss-finish 8518 overlaminate, from 3M Corp.

Printer: TurboJet 8300 solvent-ink printer, from HP Scitex (Palo Alto, CA), (866) 229-7313 or www.hp.com.

Software: Photoshop® and Illustrator®, from Adobe Corp. (San Jose, CA), (800) 833-6687 or www.adobe.com; ProductionHouse™ 6.5 RIP, from Onyx (Salt Lake City), (801) 568-9900 or www.onyxgfx.com

Tools: Propane torches, from BernzOMatic (Wilmington, OH), (800) 654-9011 or www.bernzomatic.com; and 3M Gold nylon squeegees, from 3M Corp.
More about bluemedia

Jared Smith founded bluemedia (Tempe, AZ) in 1998 to serve the large- and grand-format market: banners, vehicle graphics and various POP applications. The company has garnered such high-profile clients as Coca-Cola®, Clear Channel Communications and Wells Fargo, among others. In the process, the company has won numerous awards, which include several honors in ST’s International Sign and Vehicle Graphics contests. Bluemedia’s owners recently broadened their repertoire and launched a sister company, www.blindsociety.com, a consumer-connection firm that specializes in helping brands reach the 15- to 35-year-old demographic through non-traditional tactics.

 

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