We have heard it many times before. “his other bid is a lot cheaper then your bid.” The question we inevitably ask is “what material are they using?” The answers vary but for large fleets, wrap companies cut corners and quote a lot of film with “Liquid Laminate.” Many customers don’t know any better and assume they are getting a product comparable to a film laminate. The only advantage to liquid laminate is cost. Liquid laminates have major costly disadvantages to high quality film laminates that make them more costly by then end of their life cycle.
A customer brought us trailer to rewrap. They brought the trailer in knowing the graphics that were on there were in bad shape but weren’t sure if they needed to be removed or not. When the trailer arrived, we removed some graphics and the results were alarming. The graphics were liquid laminated. This meant they were extremely thin and broke easily when we tried to remove them. The removal quote came in at a few thousand dollars. This was not something they had budgeted for. Film laminated graphics would remove easily in large pieces and could be removed in a fraction of the time. The 3M MCS Warranty even covers removability as part of the graphics performance.
One proposed solution was to wrap over the existing graphics to save time and money. The protection had deteriorated to the point where cleaning damaged the graphics. We did an adhesion test and the results were terrible. The old ink would pull right off where the graphics were adhered. This put the customer in an even worse spot. Now we were forced to remove the graphics and the customer had to pay a much higher bill for removal and preparation. Had the right graphics been used in the first place, the trailer might not have needed to be rewrapped. While the customer paid a lower initial price for the wrap, the actual cost for the graphics end up being much higher.
Inkjet film is designed to be used with a laminate. The laminate not only protects the film for the life of the graphics, it also makes the graphics thick enough to be installed. Liquid laminates are so thin, it leaves the graphics too thin to install. The graphics need to be premasked. The layer of premask is part of the cost of the graphic and after installation, this is removed and thrown in the trash. It ads time and makes install more costly than using a high quality film laminate.
Premask doesn’t stretch and must be removed before stretching around corners. This multiplies the difficulty of installation when using liquid laminated graphics on vehicles with contours. Installers are often frustrated by film breakage and are forced to deal with rips and tears in the final graphics. You don’t get to keep the installers time, they go home at the end of the day.
The customer ends up paying for premask that ends up in the trash and paying an installer for more time to install graphics that are going to last 60% - 70% as long as a high quality wrap film with a premium 3M laminate.
Liquid laminates offer some UV protection while they hold up, but the thinner layer protection offers you very little protection against physical scuffing. For large fleets where vehicles put on thousands of miles a year, this takes it’s toll quickly. Tree branches, chains, hands, fingernails and road debris are an unavoidable daily hazzard. When your graphics need cleaning, chemicals and brushes are often used to remove road grime. Over time this wears down until the protection is gone.
Every material has a life span. Liquid laminates offer a much thinner layer of protection and break down much quicker than film laminates. Harsh washing chemicals and the sun speed up this aging process. This means your initial savings of cost is spread over a shorter time period. Once your graphics start to fail, your image is on the line. Your brand is your most valuable asset and dingy old graphics reflect your values as a company. What is your image and reputation worth to you?
Years of sun and chemicals thin out the liquid laminate until the graphics start to fade and it is time to replace the graphics or sell the trailer. These graphics wear out much sooner than graphics with a high quality film laminate. The thinner graphic multiplies the time it takes to remove the old graphics once again adding to the overall cost. Going over old graphics is throwing good money after bad leaving blemishes and making the final product prone to failures down the road. Harsh removal chemicals may be used which put the paint of the trailer at risk. The initial savings on the graphics is again eaten up paying for labor that you don't get to keep. You are paying to get rid of an easily avoidable problem.
There are no magic solutions to make graphics cost less. Liquid laminates end up costing customers far more that film laminates over the life span of the graphics. They wear out faster and require much more time in processing them, both for installation and removal. Transport Graphics is committed to providing one thing to our customers in all that we do, and that is value. We have made many equipment investments over the years, all to upgrade our products and consistency to better serve our customers. We have had the opportunity many times to invest in liquid laminating equipment that could lower our initial prices. This would go against our values of honesty and integrity as we would be selling a product that we don't believe in and putting our customers in a bad position at the end of the graphic life.
We have chosen to inform our customer so that they can make better decisions for their vehicles and fleets. We do not want them to be left in a lurch and regretting their decision, even if it means more removal work for us sooner than film laminated graphics. Over the years we have helped countless customers including major brands make informed decisions and provided them with top quality graphics and service. We aim to make customers for life and have many fleets and national brands who have been with us for more than 30 plus years. We do this by sticking to our core values of honesty, quality and service.