Industrial Excovator Becomes Patriotic Symbol at Ground Zero

Wrapped with Pride

A patriotic wrap on a 360-ton digger has made a long journey to become a symbol of America’s road to rebuilding after 9/11.

Las Vegas-based GeckoWraps—well-known for wrapping industrial machinery, trade show fixtures and just about anything with a surface—had never quite faced a project like the one from Kobelco Construction Machinery. Kobelco was unveiling a brand-new SK350 Mark 9 Excavator at the 2011 CON EXPO, a construction-industry convention that occurs every three years at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The machinery company takes pride in its USA-made machinery and had enlisted the help of GeckoWraps to turn its new excavator into a show-stopping display.

But there was one big challenge. “(Kobelco) didn’t have any details about the machine because it was still being manufactured,” says Shane Lloyd, GeckoWrap’s’ founder and CEO. “So the machine wasn’t even available for us to look at.”

Kobelco’s SK350 Mark 9 Excavator was painted gray during manufacturing. The company has never painted machinery anything other than traditional yellow.

Kobelco sent Lloyd and his team a hard drive with computer-aided design (CAD) drawings so that they could get a look at a three-dimensional scale of the machine. It was the only way GeckoWraps could prepare for a mere three-day installation, which would have to take place in the parking lot while Kobelco set up their booth inside CON EXPO. And it was extremely important to get it right—the digger’s height to the top of the cab reaches nearly 11 feet and just the arm can extend to almost 40 feet in length, in addition to countless moving parts and complex dimensions.

The design and installation “obviously created some challenges for us because we needed to be able to have all the specs, and we had to make sure everything was pre-printed and prepared,” Lloyd says. “We had to know exactly what we were wrapping 360 degrees around the unit.”

During manufacturing, the excavator was painted gray, the only one of Kobelco’s machinery that wasn’t painted the traditional yellow. At the same time, GeckoWraps was producing nearly 1,100 feet of the rugged American flag wrap design on Avery MPI 1005 Super Cast with DOL 1360 laminate using a Mutoh 1614 printer.

Because there was so much pre-planning involved, and they had all their “ducks in a row” Lloyd says, the three-day anticipated install was done in only a day-and-a-half outside of the conference.

Due to precise planning, installation took only a day-and-a-half instead of the expected three days. It was done in the parking lot outside CON EXPO in Las Vegas.

The excavator was a hit at the expo, and Kobelco was able to sell it and keep GeckoWraps in the loop as to where it ended up.

To Lloyd’s amazement, the digger, still wrapped in patriotic garb, made its way to New York City last November, where it would help dredge the site of what were once underground pedestrian tunnels beneath the World Trade Center, which were destroyed during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Upon arriving in New York, the excavator, now a symbolic icon of American pride and rejuvenation, had its bucket removed in place of hydraulic shears, which would be cutting through the mangled original steel.

Lloyd, who had to take a few moments to grasp the moment of realizing all that work would be seen in one of the country’s most important landmarks. It was especially momentous for Lloyd and his associate Ben Mortensen; Lloyd served in the U.S. Army as a Military Intelligence Analyst in Heidelberg Germany, and Mortensen served in the Utah National Guard’s Second Battalion, 222nd Field Artillery, known as the Triple Deuce.

GeckoWraps didn’t see the unit before installation began, and the wrap could only be prepped using computer-aided design (CAD) drawings provided by Kobelco.

The excavator’s presence at Ground Zero has been a source of pride for manufacturer Kobelco, as well. “[Kobelco] really wanted to tout the fact that this was made in America, it was wrapped in America. Now that it’s at Ground Zero, it’s even that much more for them,” Lloyd says. “I don’t think they ever thought that it was going to be there—nobody did.”