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Paint is so last year! A vehicle wrapper gets to grips with the OKI ColorPainter M-64s

Motorsports vehicle wrapping expert Jason Price is the lead creative designer at Jellyfish Design. With over 15 years experience in motorsports Price has printed and wrapped everything from a Honda Civic to a Le Mans prototype.

Jellyfish recently invested in an OKI ColorPainter M-64s and was approached by OKI to print and fit the unique vehicle wrap for the launch of its ‘Print My Ride’ campaign that was launched in partnership with Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race team Motorbase Performance. Price describes the OKI ColorPainter as ‘sturdy, reliable, a great all rounder, and by far the best printer in its class’. “I call it my ‘Weapon of Mass Production’,” he enthuses. “It’s by far the fastest printer I have used to produce a full race wrap livery on. It’s not just devastatingly quick; it’s ridiculously quick!”

Here Price shares his opinion on using the top-of-the-range OKI ColorPainter W-64s for vehicle wrapping.

Having speed and quality is a must in our particular arena as we work a lot in the motorsport industry and having the ability to react quickly is essential. Using the OKI ColorPainter to print for vehicle wrapping elevates this printer to a whole different league as quality, speed and consistency are all available in abundance. Also, the machine's consistency of output is just as important if not top of the list. If we are to replace the graphics on the door of a race car after a first corner shunt in practice we need have the confidence that the colours are going to match - and with the OKI they certainly do. 

We have the seven colour OKI ColorPainter M-64s, giving us one of the biggest colour gamuts of all wide format printers, and the tonal range has to be seen to be believed! I have pushed the printer by using some of the craziest artwork I could muster and it handled it all without even breaking a sweat. The light cyan, light magenta and grey allow the colours to have extra depth. Tones can be deep and rich, or subtle, but either way all are faithfully reproduced.

The ink usage is also less than other printers in its class but they stretch further with the material before 'ballooning or whiting' out. This affords you, the designer, to push the colours and design further than before, especially with deeper richer colours.

One thing that has blown us away is the ColorPainter's ability to lay deep colours down flawlessly, time after time. I have never come across a machine that can put a black down that actually looks like a black vinyl. There is no hint of banding whatsoever, even using a relatively high-speed print set-up.

This colour set-up, coupled with the variable dot size technology, is nothing short of exceptional and gives you the confidence to use the ColorPainter for jobs that previously would have caused issues. The variable dot size has been around for some time but the OKI has got it nailed!

With the vast array of materials on the market today, from papers and canvas to self adhesive vinyl, the ability to quickly get these printing at their best is a must. Loading in a material and picking a middle of the road profile to use with it is really not the best approach. This will not produce an output that shows the machines full printing capability. 

With the ColorPainter, profiling a material could not be simpler. Using the VPM software, the ColorPainter will print a set of bands using each of the heads then scan and measure the print. It will then re-do the print and scan until the best setting has been achieved. It will do this automatically, but it is a pleasure to watch the machine in action (for all us print tech geeks anyway!). You can choose which level of quality to profile for each material, so you need to decide which quality levels you will use for each material, i.e. you wouldn't print a pvc banner using a 720 x 720 dpi 16 pass set-up, so there is no need to profile that in.

I did made the mistake of choosing some ‘all-for-one’ material to profile, and needless to say it took a while and quite a bit of material to profile them all! However, this whole process is so easy to do and over time you will build up a catalogue of materials which will print beautifully every time.

As a rule we use 3M IJ180 to do fully printed wraps. There are other equally good materials available but we like it and it works. It is an easy material to work with from print through to fit. 

The ColorPainter is certainly built well, and is an imposing bit of equipment which instils a level of faith in its ability to work hard all day for you. This sturdiness is most definitely required when you have a full 50m x 1.6m roll of material to put on the back! The loading mechanism is a solid piece of engineering that gives the user the confidence that it can handle anything you can throw at it, and feeding the material in is also a breeze. Once fed-in and rolled back to straighten it up, OKI has provided a handy pinch roller locking handle at the rear - which in my opinion is a godsend - so you can pop round the front to set the edge guards in place.

Considering the blistering speed that the ColorPainter can throw print out, a decent take-up system is a must. And following the build quality of the rest of the machine, the take-up system is built equally as well. The ability to pull the entire take-up mechanism out, which is on heavy duty castors, is a great idea. It makes attaching the sheet to the take-up core a breeze, and you can manually control the initial few inches of take-up to ensure all is well. Then, push the whole mechanism back into place with a reassuring 'clunk', flick the drive switch and you are good to go.

I printed a full 30m of material for a vehicle wrap and the take-up didn't even break sweat - no straining or slipping drive motors. The ability to move the whole lot forwards when completed also makes taking the printed material off the take-up system a lot easier

Comparing the ColorPainter to other wide format printers is a tricky thing to do, especially as the ColorPainter has so much to offer and handles pretty much everything you can throw at it. If there is a downside I guess it would be the level of maintenance required, whether automated by the machine or a user-based requirement, but you also have to do this with any other wide format inkjet printer if you want it to print flawlessly for you day-in, day-out. I can’t stress how important this is for all wide format printers. Thinking 'I will clean it tomorrow' will only cause you problems from the outset and you will begin to have print issues. The best way to avoid this is to follow the manufacturers guidelines for daily and monthly cleaning. 

To put it into simple terms, spending half an hour a day ensuring that all cleaning routines are followed will ensure that a full eight hours worth of solid printing will go without incident.

In my opinion all vehicle wrappers should take a look at this bit of kit from OKI. Since we have had the printer I can say it has certainly changed my perspective on printing full colour vibrant wraps for motorsports for the better.

Jason Price

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