Hit the Road Sunning

TKO Graphix wraps University of Michigan's solar car for the Veolia World Solar Challenge Australia.

Big Picture

The Job Being deemed “America’s number-one” after six American Solar Challenge wins just wasn’t glory enough for the University of Michigan’s (UM) Solar Car Team. So, it set out to conquer foreign soil last fall and entered the Veolia World Solar Challenge Australia. To increase its chances of winning the 1800-mile race through the Outback’s Stuart Highway, the UM team attempted to make its eleventh custom car – the Quantum – its lightest vehicle yet. To do this, the team skipped the paint job and instead opted for a wrap.

“Quantum has been streamlined and is 200 pounds lighter than our previous car,” says Santosh Kumar, strategy director for UM Solar Car. “The wrap is part of our whole system of improving the car. We estimate that we shaved 15 pounds off with the wrap.”

The solar-powered, single-seat race vehicle uses the same amount of energy that it takes to power a hair-dryer and can reach speeds of more than 105 mph. TKO Graphix in Plainfield, Indiana, was chosen to dress-up Quantum with a wrap that would be able to endure the Outback’s harsh elements: brush fires, dust storms, heavy winds, rains, and extreme temperature swings. In addition to the car itself, UM also called for a small trailer and large hauler to be wrapped.

Production Creating artwork for such a unique vehicle proved to be no easy task: “We worked with UM on how the panels should be broke down and how much bleed to add, but they used their own renderings for the final breakdown,” says Randy Clark, TKO director of communication. “We’d typically use vehicle templates for this step; this was a little more complicated, however, since there is really nothing like it on the road. Unfortunately, we never had access to the car or to scaled drawings until installation. But, thanks to UM’s accuracy, no additional pieces needed to be printed after the install.”

Once artwork had been received from UM, TKO performed color correction to hit the specified PMS colors. Then, the shop used its EFI Vutek 3360 with Onyx ProductionHouse RIP, outputting onto Avery MPI 1005 Supercast RS vinyl. It finished the job with a Seal Image 600 laminator and Avery DOL 1360 overlaminate to ensure the wrap could indeed withstand the harsh environmental conditions.

“Four of our employees installed the graphics on the solar car, the car hauler, and another trailer over 48 hours,” says Clark. “The installers had to use a lot of heat, along with a lot of patience, to conform the graphic around the complex curves of the car,” says Clark.

Unfortunately, heavy cross winds caused technical issues with the Quantum during the race, requiring road-side repairs. But, the team came back to take home third place.

The Client University of Michigan Solar Car Team

The Players TKO Graphix (www.tkographix.com)

Tools & Supplies EFI Vutek 3360, Onyx ProductionHouse RIP, Avery MPI 1005 Supercast RS vinyl, Neschen Seal laminator, Avery DOL 1360 overlam


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