Vehicle Wraps: Cast or Calendered?
Wraps like this Mini Cooper are ideal opportunities to use an ultra-calendered vinyl
Car wraps like this one on a Mini Cooper are ideal opportunities to use an ultra-calendered vinyl

As vinyl manufacturing advances, more choices come to market. We all know choice is good for consumers. In the sign industry, we see this in the growing number of options for printable vinyl for car wraps. A few years ago there were only a few cast vinyls suitable for vehicle wraps. Now there are more options including some premium ultra-calendared films that are contributing to the financial well-being of wrap installers. As cast vinyl devotees will be quick to point out, an ultra-calendered film is not always a suitable solution. So how do you know when to use cast and when to use calendered vinyl for your vehicle wraps?

It's All Good! Let’s start with the similarities. Both cast and ultra-calendered films provide outstanding print quality due to good dot gain control and a high white point. The result is good image clarity with crisp detail and vivid color for all major solvent and eco-solvent printers. Almost all vinyls engineered for wrap applications use some form of air egress technology to facilitate removal of trapped air pockets during installation. SignWarehouse currently offers seven varieties of premium air egress vinyls suitable for wrapping; PrismJET 230 Ultra, ORAJET 3551RA,  3951RA, Avery EZRS "SuperCast", and 3M Comply ControlTac. They all provide installers a faster way to apply a large section of a wrap or fleet graphic without repeatedly repositioning the panel. Five of these are cast films and two are ultra calendered products. They all look great and are fairly easy to apply. How do you know which film type is right for your job?

Premium Cast Wrap Vinyl: The 3M, Avery, and ORAJET 3751 & 3951 vinyls provide all the traditional advantages of a cast adhesive backed film. They offer excellent conformability over compound curves and rivets and in deep channels. Casting also produces unparalleled dimensional stability which means that, once applied and cured, these wraps will stays put for years. Some are rated for up to seven years outdoors in vertical applications. Your ink won’t last that long of course, and you certainly hope your customer wants a new wrap installed long before then. And any wrap left on a vehicle longer than two and a half years is going to be difficult to remove cleanly. But it’s good to know that the vinyl will not shrink, crack, peel or otherwise detonate before the end of the useful life of the printed graphic. In car wrap applications, the conformability over compound curves is what makes cast vinyls so attractive.

So if you're wrapping a curvy car like a Volkswagen New Beetle or Porsche 911, you should definitely opt for a premium cast vinyl. Why wouldn't you want to use that for every job? Simple economics. That extra conformability costs more to manufacture and therefore costs more to install: typically about a dollar per square foot. In an increasingly competitive market place, some jobs will go to a lower bidder. Rather than lose those jobs, or lose margin by using cast film on every wrap, you can be more competitive and more profitable by using an ultra-calendered vinyl when possible.

The Ultra-calendered Option: PrismJET 230 Ultra and ORJET 3551RA are ultra-calendered vinyls engineered for vehicle wraps. PrismJET 230 Ultra is a 2.4 mil vinyl and ORAJET 3551RA's face film is a 2.75 mils thick. Both have an exceptionally smooth face film, outstanding conformability, and dimensional stability. These products are recommended for fleet graphics and full or partial wraps on vehicles with flat surfaces and simple curves. They also perform well over rivets and corrugations. Think Hummers, pickup trucks, and panel vans. For these kinds of graphics, 230 Ultra and 3551RA are the economical alternative to cast. PrismJET 230 Ultra costs about 60¢/square foot, as opposed to a dollar for a cast film. In a price-driven economy, using a vinyl that costs about 40% less can make the difference between bidding and winning; between meager margins and healthy profit.

Click here for a PrismJET 230 Ultra installation guide. If you just want basic product specs, here's your link. Just keep in mind that, as good as these vinyls are, they're not quite as conformable as a 2mil cast vinyl. So if your customer wants to customize a Chevy HHR, quote that job with 3751RA, 3951RA, EZRS, or ControlTac. If you're doing a full or partial wrap on a Scion XB or some other slab-sided vehicle, consider the ultra-calendered option.