Thursday, September 25, 2008

How do you wrap a 40 foot bus anyhow?

With all the fleet graphics we produce, there are bound to be questions by colleagues and clients on how the wrap is actually applied to the bus. To answer that, I placed a call to Glen Deltondo at Applications Unlimited International, Inc. to get more details. Here's the inside story.

Think of a bus wrap graphic as a giant crack and peel sticker carefully applied on all four sides of a 40-foot bus. These decals are printed on a unique 3M material that is slightly thicker than a credit card and output in 52² inch wide sections, then painstakingly seamed together so they match perfectly. The back is coated with a strong adhesive that will endure the harsh southern California sun, as well as the nightly run through the bus wash.

Application of a bus wrap takes place in one of OCTA's three bus yards and normally requires 24 to 30 man hours to complete. A crew of three is typically used to adhere these huge stickers onto the bus. It requires a good eye and great Exacto knife skills. The most time-consuming part is all the careful cutting around the doors, ventilation ducts and windows.

So how long will they last once you get them on the bus? Manufacturers will guarantee the product used on OCTA's buses up to 4 years against fading, peeling and cracking.

Oh the joy of removing the wrap!
It takes up to 4 man-hours to remove a bus wrap and a lot of brute strength. Most 3M adhesives are temperature sensitive and will peel off easier when heated. Due to the flammability of the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) stored at OCTA's bus yards, no open flame can be used to heat up the bus wrap. Instead the buses are parked outside to soak up the sun and "loosen up." Then comes the tug-a-war to pull off the wrap. Luckily the windows stickers contain only half the adhesive and peel off quickly.