A Material Difference

Cast Vinyls Versus Calendered Vinyls and Quality Installation


“My wife’s nephew is getting into wraps. I got a good deal, but...” The conversations often begin with something to that effect. We walked around the vehicle and examined the results. He had just picked it up and the graphics were pulling off at every recess. I didn’t know who did the wrap, but it was likely one of their first attempts. They made two huge mistakes. 1. The chose cheap calendered vinyl. 2. They forced it into the recesses. If they had done the install correctly, the customer may not have questioned it. Trimming on the peaks would have helped, but the graphics would have failed after a couple years.

What is the Difference  

There are 2 main types of vinyl for wraps. Cast vinyl and Calendered. Cast vinyl is made from liquid vinyl components and solvent that are sprayed onto the liner. This means the vinyl solidifies in it’s final shape. All vinyl shrinks when exposed to heat and sun, but cast vinyl shrinks very little. Cast vinyls are more flexible and can be used to wrap complex shapes. Calendered vinyl is made in a semi gelatinous mass that is formed into its final shape with heat and force. It is thicker than cast vinyl and wants to shrink back a lot more. It is also thicker and harder to stretch. If it is stretched, it will shrink ever harder. Cast vinyls are more expensive to make and buy than calendered vinyls. Cast vinyls can last 5-8 plus years outdoors depending on the application while calendered will only last about 2-5.

The Verdict

We informed the customer that there was no way to fix the wrap. It would have to be removed and redone. We started the process and they had to pay for removal as well as the wrap. They are lucky they didn’t get caught long term by a company that new how to hide the shortcomings of calendered vinyl until the check cleared. Calendered vinyls have there place; Flat applications, shorter term removable graphics, or cheaper graphics as long as the customer is aware. For long term durability on a wrap, cast material is a must.

liquid laminate picture

Cost Versus Price

The initial price to have a vehicle wrapped using premium quality cast vinyl like 3M Controltac 180 may be more than the price tag of a lower quality calendered film, but over time the cast film will likely cost less. Let’s look at a hypothetical situation:

# Cast Vinyl Calendered Vinyl
1 Initial Wrap Price $4,000 $3,000
2 Expected Life 6 years 3 years
2 Cost per Month $56 $83

What does the end of life look like?

After 3 years a calendered wrap doesn’t just fall off in one big piece. It starts to fail at the seems and contours due to the shrinkage. Car washes and the sun start to take their toll. Your logo and brand looks dirty and rough. Removal of cheap films can be an expensive headache too. Harsh winter in the north and extreme sun makes cheap glue harden. Harsh chemicals may have to be used and much more time spent to make a “cheap” wrap go away.

The 3M MCS Warranty

The 3M MCS Warranty is 3M’s premium warranty. It stands for Matched Component System and ensures that the ink, film, and protection are all tested and proven. It covers the wrap through the entire life of the wrap including removal. The film choice is key to this warranty. Calendered films get little or no protection while a standare wrap with vertical exposure and the right material combination will get 6 years of protection. Only 3M MCS Warranty Certified companies can offer this added layer of protection.

3M Certified Installation

Premium graphics can only stand the test of time when installed correctly. We helped set the standard for vehicle wraps in the state of Minnesota. Transport Graphics was one of the first 3M Certified Installers in Minnesota. We have 15,000 square feet of indoor climate controlled shop space. Our internal training program meets or surpasses the standards set by manufacturers. We are always refining our techniques and expanding our vast knowledge of vehicle wrap films. When you want the best, accept no less than Transport Graphics.


There are no magic solutions to make graphics cost less. Through the life of a wrap, cast vinyl outperforms calendered vinyl. Looking at a wrap that has just been done, you probably won’t see a difference. Our customer got lucky that the installer didn’t know how to mask the cheap film. Many other customers have come to us after 3 years to replace graphics they were told would last much longer.

Quality matters and when your reputation is on the line, cast material from a trustworthy company is cheap insurance. We have been committed not just to cast film, but 3M wrap films when it comes to our wraps. We have been in business more than 30 years and we have tried every film brand imaginable. We trust our reputation with 3M and are proud to be a 3M Certified Installation company as well as a 3M MCS Warranty Certified company.

© Transport Graphics 2019 | sales@tgwraps.com | Phone 763-428-5035