You can make it fast or make it right. Continue reading to find out how to optimize your graphics for appeal and application.
By Paul Roba
How long should you let the print dry before laminating? Ideally, at least 24 hours. At the very minimum, try to let it sit overnight. I have heard some recommendations of up to 72 hours, which may be necessary for prints that are highly saturated with ink. Drying prints should not be wound tightly on the core because air will not flow through. If your shop does not have enough room to lay the prints out flat, try to wind the image loosely on the core (Figure 1). Some shops have created their own custom dryer boxes with fans for pushing the air across the prints (Figure 2). This will definitely help drive the solvents away from the print.
Apply the overlaminate once the print is completely dry. When you laminate, make sure there isn’t too much tension on the overlaminate as that can cause the film to want to pull back after it is installed. This is especially important if you happen to be using a thermal laminator. If heat is present, the film will be very soft and easy to stretch. The easiest way to laminate is in roll format. The laminator can be webbed up with the laminate on top and the printed roll on bottom. The laminated graphics can be fed onto a large table where trimming can then be done (Figure 3).
For the most part, vehicle-graphic panels are trimmed by hand. Contour pieces are occasionally cut on a plotter. Make certain you have a sharp knife to do the trimming. I recommend using the same type of knife, with the break-away blades, used during installation. This will ensure you always have a sharp edge. When trimming, it is important to check that information stays with each panel. Some companies leave the printed information at the bottom of the panel on the print. This will get trimmed away by the installer. The other option is to transfer this information to the back side of the graphic. This information is important and will be used later by the installer.
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