C-C-Corrugations…Never Fear, Expert Advise is Here!

Applying vinyl over rivets is one thing. Applying vinyl over corrugation is quite another. But don’t let that stop you. If you can learn to apply vinyl over corrugation, then you can tap into the lucrative world of fleets.

Corrugations are some of the most dreaded substrates over which to install vinyl. But check out these simple tips from the pros and tackle corrugations with confidence.

All of the basic application instructions apply to corrugation as they would to any substrate. That is, you must begin with a clean, dry surface. You must gather various tools, including a squeegee, pre-mask, an air release tools. And you must use the proper technique to apply the film.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to overlap all strokes by about 50 percent, understanding that pre-masked graphics require additional pressure. You’ll want to hold your squeegee at a 50-70 degree angle to the surface. The flatter the squeegee the better the result. You’ll want to mark spots to position the graphic before you install it.

Depending on the size of the graphic, you may or may not want to remove the adhesive backing. Typically, if the graphic is less than eight square feet, you will want to remove the entire liner. And you’ll want to be sure to remove air bubbles and tenting around rivets.

Be sure to visit our Vinyl section for many additional articles on preparing the surface, avoiding bubbles and wrinkles, and other tips, tricks and techniques.

A Film Designed with Corrugation in Mind 
Success begins with choosing the right vinyl for the job. There are many different options.

“Applying vinyl over corrugation does require special vinyls, but most of the film manufacturers can accommodate,” Nathan Franzblau, founder of the Professional Decal Application Association (PDAA), an association of independent certified installation companies. “However, some manufacturers don’t know the right vinyls to use.”

Other manufacturers do. Avery Dennison is one company that has designed a vinyl specifically for fleets. It’s called Easy Apply Fleet Marking Films and it promises to make installation easier and more effective no matter what the skill level of the applicator.

Indeed, Avery’s EZ 1000 Series (screen printable) and MPI 1005 EZ (multi-purpose inkjet) products have been designed to make the installation of large panel graphics on fleet vehicles much easier and quicker than in the past.

Avery’s Easy Apply is designed to limit the risks associated with graphic applications, such as wrinkling and entrapped air bubbles. The film also allows installers to re-position a graphic within the first few minutes of applying the material.

Still, Avery suggests that you read the Product Data Bulletin for details about each film for complete information about minimum and maximum application temperatures, recommended substrates, and immediate service conditions before and after application.

EZ Series films have a broad temperature range. While the film can be applied at the lower end of the temperature range, more pressure will be needed and it will take longer for a functional bond to be achieved during application. As with any manufacturer’s film, these factors are critical to the successful application and future vinyl performance.

Of course, you aren’t obligated to use Avery’s film. 3M, Oracal and others make film suitable for applying over corrugation. The key is to make sure you are choosing the appropriate type of film, regardless of the brand.

“Only thinner vinyls work well for corrugated surfaces, especially the cast line and top calendared lines. The thinner the material the more conformable it is,” says Lindsay Howard, product specialist for Oracal, a vinyl manufacturer in Jacksonville, Fla.

Three Special Tools
In addition to your typical vinyl installation tools, you will need a few additional items when you encounter corrugation: a rivet brush and some strong thumbs. And make sure you use a stiff squeegee.

“When you install vinyl over corrugation, you need a rivet brush because there aren’t a lot of flat spots for the squeegee to run over,” says Molly Waters, spokesperson for Avery’s technical marketing department. “You’ll also need to use your thumbs in certain areas to apply pressure to the film.”

The idea is to work from back to front and top to bottom. Begin with a stiff squeegee to begin adhesion. You want to run the squeegee parallel to the corrugations. You may also want to use a flexible squeegee and run it vertical to the corrugations.

Next, go over the high points with the rivet brush. Then, if the surface skips corrugations, meaning if you have areas where there are six inches or so of flat substrate, then pull the squeegee back out and go over those areas again. Finally, get the rivet brush and go over the corrugation again.

Should I Apply Over Corrugation Wet? 
There is a great debate in the vinyl installation business about applying graphics wet. Most of the pros swear against it, though it may serve a purpose for those just beginning to experiment with new techniques. When it comes to corrugation, though, the clear answer is “No, you should not use wet application methods to apply vinyl.”

“Wet on corrugation and rivets will never work,” says Jeff Stadleman, technical marketing manager for the graphics product group at MACtac, a manufacturer of pressure sensitive adhesive. “If you have conformable surfaces, then you have to apply the vinyl dry because it has to stay down. If you do it wet, then the vinyl won’t stay down over those difficult surfaces.”

Other Common “Corrugated” Mistakes
Corrugation is indeed one of the most, if not the most, challenging applications. There has been plenty of trial and error by plenty of installers over the years. “Corrugated is certainly more difficult than flat. By the time you get into vehicle wrapping, these are compound, complex curves,” Franzblau says.

Despite the degree of difficulty, there are some common mistakes that you can avoid. Applying wet is just the most obvious.

“One of the biggest errors is stretching the vinyl beyond its capability. With very large convex curves, for example, typically if you just lay the vinyl down across a corrugated surface and use heat to push them down into the indentations it’s going to be a problem,” Stadleman says. “The vinyl will try to come back up. That’s really stretching the vinyl beyond its capabilities.”

Avery’s Waters agrees. She has seen too many installers just hit the high points stretch in the vinyl. That, she says, sets you up for failures down the road because the film will pop back up out of those corrugations. While you do want to use a heat gun to help secure the vinyl around rivets, avoid stretching it.

Overcoming Corrugated Challenges
Corrugation is challenging because there is more to keep in mind than just the corrugation. Typically, when corrugation is an issue rivets are also an issue. Considering all of these factors, it takes much longer to apply to fleets with corrugation. But you can also charge much more if you can master these techniques.

Waters’ advice: Go slow. “Make sure you apply the material into each corrugation as you go. Work with each corrugation as it comes up. Take your time and try not to stretch the material as much as possible.”

PDAA’s Franzblau offers three additional keys. Make sure the surface is prepared, select the correct material for the surface, and get the training you need before you do a big paying job.

The bottom line, Franzblau stresses again, is to avoid the temptation to use a heat gun to stretch out the film. “You should apply vinyl over corrugations by working your way through the corrugations, one corrugation at a time,” he says. “Don’t get ahead of yourself.”

As seen on signindustry.com