Car Wrapping with Mimaki – Is UV the Cure?

With advancements in digital printing, Mimaki’s latest UV curable inks offer car wrappers a revolutionary new way to upgrade your ride.

Car wrapping has become more creative and experimental than ever before. Today’s current trends see vivid new textures, bright colours, and bold patterns adorning vehicles all over the world, which look to remain popular for years to come.

However, the business of car wrapping is not new, on the contrary, it has been around since the 1920s. For many years tailor-made paint jobs, while cost prohibitive for most, ruled the market for vehicle customisation. People were able to give their vehicles a full makeover with designs of their own choosing, and subtle, and not-so-subtle effects or colours. These were often unobtainable from the original dealer, meaning that the customised vehicle was truly one of a kind. Think back to John Lennon’s famous 1969 Rolls Royce Phantom, painted with a flower power design, befitting the time, which was categorically refused by Rolls Royce when initially requested by the Beatles star. With bespoke designs now a common sight across film and TV, vehicle customisation has hit new heights of popularity, and personalising your vehicle is deemed a status symbol by many.

Today, newer forms of customisation are now dominating the scene, and gone are the days of just traditional custom paint jobs, in favour of the newer, simpler, more affordable, and ultimately more efficient car wrapping.

The Technology

The car wrapping industry’s estimated value surpassed a whopping $4.7 billion USD at the end of 2021 and is forecast only to increase over the coming years, with a predicted growth of 22% by 20301. Evidently, there has been huge momentum in the industry, and the various inroads that have led to this come from advancements in the technology and materials used, from the film, ink, adhesives to the printer itself.

The process is simple. Wrappers use large-format roll-to-roll printers to print colours, designs and now textures, onto a vinyl film with an adhesive layer, that is then fixed to the vehicle using a heat gun to trigger the adhesive.

Traditionally, eco-solvent and latex inks were the staple for wrappers, renowned for their durability. However, as these eco-solvent wraps fall short due to the time needed to dry the inks before the lamination process can take place, more companies are starting to look for alternatives.

To transform the market, Mimaki realised that to save wrappers even more time and money, a new kind of method would need to be implemented.

Wrapped car mirror showroom example
Showroom example of car wrapping
Wrapped car mirror
Behind the scenes image of the car wrapping process

Is UV the Cure?

It was always widely thought that UV-curable inks would not work for automotive wraps, as the rigidity and inflexibility of the ink would prevent it from smoothly fitting to the curves and concaves of a vehicle.

As experts in roll-to-roll and flatbed printing and with an extensive portfolio of UV printers, Mimaki embraced this challenge, and their R&D department made it their goal to be the first to make these UV curable inks applicable to wrapping.

Thanks to Mimaki’s LUS-200 flexible ink, specially developed for the car decorating world, Mimaki is not only demonstrating that this UV ink is perfect for car wrapping, but that the results far exceeded those of the conventional methods, both in terms of quality and performance. When combined with Mimaki’s UCJV300 UV roll-to-roll printer, which cures the ink as part of the printing process, they found that the end-to-end process was significantly faster when compared with conventional methods.

With extreme flexibility and material adhesion, the LUS-200 ink can achieve high detail accuracy and precision levels.

Another winning feature of these inks is their extreme resistance to external factors, such as weathering, washing, stones, etc. Despite this, the removal of the wrapping made with Mimaki’s UV ink is easy to perform, unlike previous methods, and leaves the machine’s bodywork completely intact.

Mimaki ’s UCJV300 series with LUS-200 inks carries the 3M™ MCS™ Warranty, the most comprehensive finished graphics warranty in the industry. The warranty provides full, non-prorated protection for the intended life of each graphic, including fading, cracking, peeling and other aspects of the graphic performance.

To Wrap it Up

The continued popularity of car wrapping, bolstered by advancements in digital inkjet printing, will inevitably lead to further exciting developments and possibilities, enticing more and more companies and end-users in. What’s more, as the capabilities continues grow, innovative creatives are starting to look beyond wrapping just vehicles. No matter for business or pleasure, vinyl wrapping will ensue, and Mimaki will be there every step of the way.