Managing the customers’ expectations of longevity is key.
by Thad Bowes, marine division director, Rainier Industries Ltd.
Printing on fabrics is fairly nuanced, and there are a number of factors that affect the final results, such as the materials used and whether the boat is exposed to the elements year-round or is covered when not in use. Graphics will fade over time, so those exposed to sunlight will fade more rapidly, particularly red pigments. Managing the customer’s expectations of longevity is the key.
Look for inks and textile substrates that are compatible. The results will largely depend on the textile being printed and what options the printing company you work with has; the printer may want to test-print to your particular textiles.
Having some printed samples in your sales kit is a great idea. Then when a customer dreams up a project, you can present viable options within your standard offerings. Use the samples to do your own tests and let the customer do the same. Scratch and fold it to find how it holds up to abuse. Ink adhesion is critical. Demonstrate results in the presentation to your customers. You’ll be giving them a clear idea they can use to intelligently gauge their return on investment.
Sometimes customers will ask if they can print directly to an existing top. The answer, really, is “no.” As some general guidelines, woven acrylics accept baked-on graphics using the Sunbrella Graphics System (SGS). Vinyl can be printed directly on a roll-to-roll printer, using either UV-cured or solvent inks. Both options require clean, flat fabric. Covers that have been designed for, and installed on a boat, won’t satisfy these requirements.
The best alternative for an existing top is to print on fabric yardage and apply that onto the cover separately. This is the easiest and most cost effective method, be it woven acrylic or vinyl. Printing or otherwise applying the image/lettering onto the fabric and fully incorporating it into the cover is another way to go.Â But the reality is the cover will outlast the image in most cases.