Tips & tricks for wrapping transit vehicles

TTC Supertrain wrap for Fjällräven.


A recent change within some transit markets presents a unique challenge: several newer bus models feature grey pebbled impact panels on the bottom, typically between the wheel wells. The presence of this grey, bumpy plastic has made adhering vinyl very difficult. One solution is to first apply a specially formulated vinyl primer, like 3M’s IJ180mC-10LSE, a 2-mm (.08-in.) cast vinyl white film with high tack and pressure-activated high adhesion, roughly 4 to 7 lbs. per inch. The material needs to stick around throughout multiple campaigns and outlast the more temporary vinyl typically used in transit products.

Unfortunately, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause supply chain issues, some brands of vinyl, including 3M, have become very difficult to come by. Partnering with an adhesion media expert can help signmakers find appropriate replacements for products they used to rely on.

A notable example of other vinyls include MacTac’s JDT429 Digitrans, a 3.5-mm (.14 -n.) calendar film in an opaque soft white gloss meant for king posters and similar products. This film is still removeable after two years, but may leave some residue behind which can be cleaned off with alcohol. Another alternative is FLEXcon’s BUSmark 5800, a 3.4-mm (.13-in.) flexible opaque white vinyl, designed for short-term postings. This is a great material for king posters and similar products. However, it is recommended this film should be removed one year after application.

Kong poster on a OC Transpo double-decker bus in Ottawa for Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est.

Finally, the Avery Dennison, specifically MPI 2121 and MPI 2921-EZ, are both flexible 3.4-mm calendared vinyl films with a white matte finish. Both feature the same peel adhesion of 1.2 lbs. per inch) 24 hours after install, and do not leave behind a residue during removal. It is recommended these materials should be taken down after being in service for a year.

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These are all excellent substitute materials, and all of them have a myriad of uses, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Adhesive media experts recommend replacing any of these after a year of application as the longer they stay on, the more the peel adhesion increases and the film and colour degrade. If left for too long, removal can become extremely difficult. It is also recommended to use latex printing when producing artwork on these substrates, especially for jobs such as bus wrapping, which require covering contours and textured surfaces, as this printing process is more reliable. By contrast, an improper UV printing setup can make vinyl films brittle, and reduce the effectiveness of their adhesive.

Estella Tolentino-Cooke is the vice-president of production services at Pattison Outdoor Advertising. She has been with the company 11 years, and graduated in graphic design at George Brown College in 1992. She has 30 years of design and production experience working with large corporations and advertising agencies in Toronto. Tolentino-Cooke has worked at New York Life, Sun Life Financial, Purolator, DDB, Taxi, and Quadrant Marketing before continuing her career in production at Pattison Outdoor.

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