art city conform chrome

Specialty Laminates for a Fantastic Finish

Andy Stonehouse is a Denver-based freelance writer who has been covering the automotive industry for more than ten years.

You and your crew have just spent days perfecting a wrap job that’s worthy of one of those automotive renovation reality TV shows. But why not take an extra step that might provide not only an extra burst of color or flare to the project, but serve to add some additional long-lasting protection to your labor?

Joshua C. Barnard, product manager for digital print media with Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, says a growing market for specialty laminates has helped inspire a much more diverse range of products, used to both enhance and extend the life of wrap projects.

“Overlaminates for pressure-sensitive PVC films have traditionally been clear. There are a number of factors such as sustainability, responsible sourcing, extended durability and other performance characteristics that are driving alternative overlaminate films like urethanes,” he says.

“Although traditional PVC overlaminates are still by far the dominant choice, the demand for specialty overlaminates has increased over the past few years. Not only has there been a shift in the materials, but also with special effects such as sparkle, colored and textured overlaminates.”

The big names in the business have all jumped into the overlaminate game and most have responded with a range of flashy new treatments. Janelle Pizzi, product marketer with 3M’s Commercial Solutions division, says the new Wrap Overlaminate Series 8900 product line now includes sparkle finishes, as well as 3M’s already-popular brushed and carbon fiber-look products.

“We recently introduced the Décor Overlaminate 8600 Series, offering designers and graphic manufacturers five cast vinyl décor overlaminates that add texture to indoor walls as well as a protective finish to crisp images,” she says.

That allows some aesthetically pleasing and creative options for installers, with looks including linen, knit, white fir and plaster, among others. 

Avery Dennison’s most popular specialty products include colored overlaminates for Conform Chrome films—adding a purple laminate film to the chrome base adds a shiny, metallic purple look, while products such as Sparkle DOL 6460 also provides an extra splash of impact (plus protection) to digitally printed boat or car wrap graphics, Barnard adds.

The additional punch provided by the overlaminate has been especially useful for custom car projects, such as those entered in the company’s annual Wrap Like a King contest—last year’s winner, an old-time street rod called Toxic Rat, featured a wrap with digitally printed designs on DOL 1460 and installed on diamond silver-colored Supreme Wrapping Film. 

And while shock and awe is certainly the name of the game with much of the specialty laminate product range, some manufacturers have also adapted their products with an eye to long-lasting environmental protection for wrap jobs.

Pizzi says a good example is 3M’s Scotchcal Gloss Overlaminate 8528, which is specifically designed to help ward off and withstand harsh conditions such as acid dew and intense UV rays – and keep wraps looking newer, longer.

“Additionally, the same overlaminate can withstand extreme cold and heat, from 60 degrees below zero to 150 degrees Fahrenheit,” she adds. 

One further application for overlaminates is their use as graffiti protection for public utilities fixtures; Avery Dennison’s DOL 6060 Anti-Graffiti, a urethane laminate, has been used to protect digital graphics on electrical boxes used at community beautification projects across the country, and offers extended durability and abrasion resistance, versus traditional PVC laminates. Mactac’s PermaGard SAG Anti-Graffiti and Window Protection film is also another option for those purposes. 

Specialty laminates can also be used to recharge the life of whiteboards and menu boards for school, business or restaurant applications.

For outdoor or indoor wet area floor graphics applications, Mactac’s new textured vinyl PF6600 is the only overlaminate that meets the new B101.3/B101.1 high-traction slip-resistance standard, adds Jeff Stadelman, the company’s product manager.  

Application for almost all of these products is a snap, and they can be quickly and easily applied to films using a laminator.

“There are no special tools when it comes to installing graphics,” says Avery Dennison’s Barnard. “Most installers use a squeegee of their choice and most are using a buffer or a soft fabric material that is designed to perform well with the film’s adhesive. There are also special squeegees that feature a microfiber material that is designed to be sprayed wet, thus allowing it to glide across the film leaving no scratch marks.”

Warranty coverage for wraps can also be enhanced through the use of some of these specialty films. In 3M’s case, Pizzi says its Series 8900 products are made in 60”-wide rolls and is backed by 3M’s MCS warranty, which allows three years for vertical application and one year for horizontal application.

“There’s also the new MCS warranty for finished graphics, the first of its kind to be introduced in the marketplace—it covers graphics installed on smooth interior walls for up to eight years,” she adds. “That give installers, designers and brand owners peace of mind that the wall graphics will last and maintain a fresh look.”

3M also offers the industry’s only three-year warranty for horizontal use on the hoods and roofs of vehicles, when using the Gloss Overlaminate 8528 line and using the company’s EFI VUTEk GSr UV inks.

Mactac’s RAYZor LF3600 1.5-millimeter clear cast overlaminate can also be employed to help provide warranty coverage for vehicle wraps, Stadelman adds.