Integrating White Ink: The Decal Source

On course with NASCAR.

When NASCAR fans watch their favorites roar round the tracks, chances are likely they’re also seeing the digital printing expertise of The Decal Source (TDS, thedecalsource.com) in action. Since 1998, the North Carolina-based company has been a primary source of vehicle graphics so integral to the NASCAR look.

“We deal with about 65 teams, 50 percent of the entire field in the Sprint Cup Camping World Truck and Nationwide race series,” reports Anton Justad, operations manager. “We do the cars and trucks used in the races, as well as the haulers which bring them there.”

As Justad notes, the print technology employed has changed with the times. In fact, The Decal Source’s name testifies to its origins, when cars and trucks were painted, then decals identifying the team and sponsors meticulously applied. Today, though, he reports most vehicles are wrapped in five sections, using templates that TDS has developed for each race series.

“An entire car is advertising real estate. The teams try to sell as much as possible,” notes Justad. Primary sponsors can pay as much as $16 million for visibility on the hood, trunk, and sides of a competing car or truck. Associate sponsors fill in the remaining space, for much less. All graphics are printed directly to 3M or Oracal air-egress vinyls, then given a protective coat of 3M’s 8518 Scotchcal Glosscal overlaminate.
The panels are produced with HP’s Scitex FB700 flatbed digital press. The printer’s white-ink capability, and its opaqueness, is the ideal solution for some challenges, says Justad.

This combination, he says, has helped achieve a realistic, 3D effect on decals representing headlights, tail lights, and fog lights on cars and trucks sponsored by client Toyota Racing. “The use of white ink comes into play when printing on clear vinyl,” he explains. “The shadows and 3D effects are printed on the clear vinyl. The actual fog light reflector image is printed on white ink to keep the base paint color from bleeding through.”

White is also used with specialty vinyls used in vehicle wraps. “It’s allowed us to print graphics directly on metallic and neon-colored vinyl,” continues Justad. “In the past, if a team wanted a door number bordered with metallic paint, we’d have to install the graphic as a decal.

“White is printed on the metallic vinyl, then a 4-color process spot color is printed on top of the white. The white keeps the metallic from mudding the printed spot color as the color is not one hundred percent opaque.”

And as much as white ink has enabled The Decal Source to provide NASCAR teams with better solutions, it’s also pointing the company toward new markets for its expertise.

“Once you have the ability to print with white, the possibilities for what you can do are truly endless,” says Justad. “We’re now expanding into different segments of the print market as well, printing white on things like black PVC for P-O-P, and printing color on reverse applied graphics for windows.

“There are a lot of neat things you can do with white ink.”


For more on white ink's possibilities, check out these shop profiles:
Visual Marking System: A crossbow proving ground.
Unicorn Graphics: Finding a new level.
PSP: Short-run solution, long-term benefits.

Superior Graphics: Awareness of new possibilities.


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