The Road to 3D

Carisma creatives bring ads to life with dimensional bus wraps – and much more
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Moshe Gil is a creator, a man who uses tools to imagine and fabricate opportunities that become solutions for his customers: “I build my dreams on concrete, not in the clouds.” Fran Gidalowitz, Carisma’s director of marketing and sales, described him as “a pragmatic dreamer.” Gil’s leadership of Carisma and its now 22-member staff affirm that description. For Gil, his Massivit 1800 3D printer, which can build life-sized objects, is just a tool like a hammer or a screwdriver.

Gil moved from Haifa, Israel to Brooklyn, New York in 1989. There he opened a vehicle repair shop, Carisma. In the late-1990s, he needed new signs, but sign companies quoted prices so high that he bought a vinyl plotter and material to make the signs himself! When repair shop customers noticed, they asked him to make signs for them, too. Soon, he was cutting store signs, door lettering and tradeshow graphics. He acquired an inkjet printer and the sign business continued to grow.

Eventually, Gil closed his repair business to focus on building Carisma as a large-format printing enterprise. Once a mechanic, he added digital plotters and printers to his toolbox and, with his growing team, converted the repair shop on Third Avenue behind a 24-hour Getty gas station in Brooklyn into a signmaking one, offering digitally printed wraps, banners and backlit signage. As its business outgrew its first location, it moved to a larger one near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.

On October 29, 2012, the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy flooded Carisma’s plant, disabling its equipment and halting operations. Just before Sandy, Carisma had received its first order from Apple for 70 bus wraps to promote the latest iPod’s introduction.

Gil told his team, “We have no time to cry.” They worked around the clock removing debris, cleaning walls, floors and machines stained black with ink, salvaging what could be salvaged, obtaining parts and repairing printers. They managed to run an electrical service from a generous neighbor; the shop would wait nearly a month for its own service to be restored.

After Sandy, Gil found an industrial building on Third Avenue in Brooklyn and began planning a bigger, better and drier place for the Carisma team. They gutted and rebuilt their new building’s interior with expansion in mind.

By February 2016, change was afoot. Gil acquired a gigantic 3D printer after Carisma was named a beta test site by Massivit, which had recently launched its 1800 Large-Format 3D printing technology. Massivit trained the Carisma team in both New York and Israel.

The Massivit 1800 is a 3D gel printer that can build objects up to 5 ft. 9 in. high x 4 ft. 9 in. wide x 3 ft. 9 in. deep. Users can construct larger objects by assembling its 3D built sections. Massivit calls its photo-polymeric acrylic gel “Dimengel” and its proprietary process, “Gel Dispensing Printing.” It uses LED UV energy to cure the gel during the 3D build.

So, how does it work? The Massivit 1800 produces milky white-colored objects that users can sand, paint or otherwise finish, building layers 1-1.3 mm thick. The white gel has a higher viscosity than most inkjet inks. Deposited through the printer’s extrusion-type jet, this high viscosity and photo cure make support material or structures (typically created during the printing process for stability) unnecessary. After the LED UV light exposes and solidifies the gel, the built object is ready to use.

Why? Gil knew that large format 3D printing would add attention-grabbing power to large-format 2D prints, as well as open market opportunities for freestanding 3D structures, such as theatrical props and 3D displays. With the 1800 in tow, Gil and his team could add color and finish to built objects. They sanded, painted and varnished objects for stand-alone applications. And they wrapped the 1800’s outputs with inkjet-printed vinyl.

While the 1800’s printed objects can be designed with a hollow interior and are relatively lightweight, they were still too heavy for some of Carisma’s bus decoration projects. The Carisma team developed vacuum forming of lighter-weight, printed plastic sheets formed over Massivit 1800 printed molds. They now use these vacuumed formed sheets along with the 1800’s output for many of the 3D displays they install on the sides of tour buses.

In 2012, Carisma purchased its first two double-decker buses, adding large LED display screens for promotions, which occur primarily in the New York City area. In 2013, it added a third bus with live streaming and a stage on the top level. In 2015, the company acquired a fourth bus for long distance promotions. To date, Carisma has created promotions for Macy’s, Disney, Samsung, SONY, Netflix, Absolut Vodka, Microsoft and Lenovo, among others, which its agent, Vector Media, brought to them. For Radio City Music Hall’s Holiday Pageant promotion, Carisma designed and built large 3D bows that it installed on 10 tour buses. Carisma has even developed a nationwide vehicle wrapping network that places advertising and promotion on tour buses and food trucks. It wraps over 1,500 buses a year.

Carisma receives many of its bus and food truck jobs through agents, but also offers its services directly to clients, including other signshops. Food truck wraps represent its second largest business segment after buses. Because food truck owners have vending permits, businesses promoting edible products can offer samples to the public from these trucks. IKEA, for example, promoted and provided its Swedish meatballs in Chicago and New York through food trucks that Carisma wrapped with the IKEA logo and product details. It also advertised via wrapped food trucks and buses for the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets.

Gil has grown his business in part by growing Carisma’s toolbox. Starting with a plotter cutter, he then added roll-to-roll and flatbed inkjet printers, a CNC plotter, the Massivit 1800, vacuum forming, lenticular printing, grand-sized LED screens on the sides of double-decker buses, and 3D virtual reality. Today, Carisma’s 2D printers include six Seiko solvent inkjet printers, a Canon-Océ Arizona flatbed, an HP Latex and an HP eco-solvent inkjet.

As Gil grew his business, Massivit was looking to expand, too. In February 2016, Stratasys invested in Massivit to advance its marketing and production; both companies are headquartered in Israel. Gershon Miller, Massivit’s chief innovation officer, and Moshe Uzan, the company’s VP of strategic projects, co-founded Massivit. But it was far from their first venture. Miller also co-founded Idanit, a large format inkjet pioneer, in the mid-1990’s. (He subsequently sold Idanit to Scitex Corp. in 1998. They renamed it “Scitex Vision,” and Hewlett-Packard, now HP Inc., eventually acquired it.) Miller also co-founded 3D printing systems manufacturer Objet Ltd., which merged with Stratasys in 2012. Uzan previously served in research, development and project management roles with Scitex Vision and HP in Israel.

At drupa 2016, Gil recounted how the 1800 printer had helped create new opportunities for Carisma, including a contract to decorate the sides of tour buses with 3D themes promoting films from Sony Pictures, such as “Angry Birds” and, more recently, 10 tour buses for the September release of “Ghostbusters.” (Subsequently, Massivit reported double-digit sales and placements of Massivit 1800s after drupa.)

In addition to its tools, Gil grew an organization built on teamwork. Its members are afforded the freedom to do their best and “love to come to work.” The company has a lounge, game room and roof deck, where its staffers can relax. And they need to: Gil notes that most team members “wear more than one hat.” It’s all part of working for a guy with a knack for turning creative dreams into dimensional reality.

Meet Massivit
MAX. HORIZONTAL (XY) SPEED: 1 m/second
MAX. VERTICAL BUILD SPEED: 14 in./hour (one head)
WALL THICKNESS OF BUILT OBJECTS: 1.8-4.5mm
FEATURES: vacuum table with print liner, air compressor
SOFTWARE: Massivit Smart (proprietary file prep), Windows OS
INTERFACE: touchscreen
COST: ~$400,000
MASSIVIT OWNERS: US, Israel, Australia, Mexico, UK and elsewhere