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The Lure of Vehicle Graphics

(April 2008) posted on Tue Apr 15, 2008

All of the start-up know-how on this moving market.

By Jared Smith

* RIP-ing the files: Low end, $300 if you get real lucky on eBay and have an unused, fast computer with huge hard drives.High end, $1500 gets you all the bells and whistles in RIP software, and a $5000 RIP server saves a ton of time.

* Buying vinyl and ink: Low end, $1000 should be enough to buy the cheapest ink and media-then plan on re-doing the job every couple of months. Eventually you’ll figure out that using the cheap stuff is the expensive way to do it. Don’t scrimp here! High end, $2000 should get you started with a good batch of UV inks and a roll of repositionable cast vinyl with great performance, a great warranty, and some peace of mind.

* Printing: Low end, $10,000 if someone down the street goes out of business and you can pick up a working 54-inch solvent inkjet that prints about 90 square feet per hour, or maybe you already have one and someone on staff who knows how to run it. High end, $600,000 (or more) will get you 2000 to 4000 square feet per hour, and if you have that kind of cash, you can get a pretty good print operator to run it.

* Laminating: Low end, $5000 if that shop down the street has a nice used 60-inch cold laminator as well. Most large-format shops have one of these by now. Plan on $500 to get the right laminate. High end, $40,000 can get you the Cadillac of laminators-increased speed and easier to use.

* Trimming: Low end, $200 is about what our first 2x4-inch plywood and cut mat table cost to build. You’ll also need a finisher who’s good with a ruler and a blade. High end, $150,000 will get you the fastest automated trimming equipment with built-in cameras and conveyer belts.

* Installing: Low end, $50 and 3 to 4 days of your precious time if you can grab a squeegee, some prep solution, a handheld propane torch, a tape measure, a grease pen, and some masking tape. High end, $2000 to fly in one of the nation’s best installers and stand back and observe how the masters do what they do.


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