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New application makes watercraft projects easier

Graphics | January 1, 2009 | By:

A lot has been written about vehicle graphics—meaning cars and trucks—but watercraft have not received the same attention, perhaps because water and wind create an even more challenging environment. This might be about to change. One of the cooler applications of wide format digital graphics print I have seen recently is the application of repositionable vinyl onto watercraft. 3M offered trade show attendees an opportunity to apply this material with essentially no training, proving just how easily it can be applied.

As Tim Boxeth, marketing manager for 3M, reports, “We are definitely seeing this application growing, both on the commercial and personal side. It started out in the commercial side, with advertisers using watercraft graphics for big events like offshore racing or the Bassmaster series, but now we’re seeing a lot more personalization, with individual boat owners adding custom graphics. Wrapping a boat or other watercraft is much less expensive than a custom paint job.”

Indeed, a watercraft wrap may cost several thousand dollars, while a custom paint job may cost tens of thousands. From an application standpoint, many watercraft projects will be easier to apply than some of the creative vehicle wrap projects we’ve seen because typically watercraft don’t have as many tight, round curves.

“We have many of the same companies doing watercraft wraps as we have doing vehicle wraps,” Boxeth says. These graphics producers are selling this service on the commercial side by going to boat builders and dealers. On the personal side they are typically going to boat shows and marinas to advertise the ability to customize watercrafts.

In one of 3M’s lines, the Controltac Graphic Film IJ180-10 and Controltac Wrap Film IJ380cv3 with Comply v3 adhesive, are now covered by a two-year watercraft wrap warranty. This inclusion of the warranty can help overcome the fear of producing and applying watercraft wraps because of the added challenge of all that water. 3M recommends using edge seal; otherwise, the materials for watercraft wraps are the same as for vehicle wraps.

But if digital graphics applied to cars and trucks present a good market opportunity for printing establishments (and I really believe they do), then boats and other watercraft should be another profitable niche that print shops might want to target.

Am I all wet? Let me know at

Tim Greene is director, wide format printing and jetting technologies opportunities, for InfoTrends, Weymouth, Mass.

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