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Safety: Job One

Onsite Decals.com outfits emergency and public-safety vehicles

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Throughout May, www.signweb.com will pay tribute to the many dynamic, exciting faces of vehicle graphics with a new project every weekday (except the Memorial Day holiday). Enjoy this as an early appetizer before the forthcoming, month-long feast.

Onsite Decals.com (Fulshear, TX) proprietor Steven Burke began his graphic-arts career as a pre-press worker and artist at his family’s commercial-printing shop. When he turned 18, he joined the screenprinting industry and later founded Speedway Shirts & Signs in 1996 with his wife, Kelly Ann. The company ultimately expanded to five divisions – vehicle graphics being one of them — and a 12,800-sq.-ft. facility.

Given this challenging economy, he sold his behemoth shop and most of his divisions last year and chose to focus solely on emergency-vehicle graphics when he founded his current company this year in a 1,200-sq.-ft. facility (an additional 2,400 sq. ft. are under construction, Burke said) with a mobile unit that facilitates installations at the customers’ jobsite. He fabricated his first graphics kit for a newly elected constable, and has grown his business to serve more than 170 Lone Star State agencies. Although some large entities order plotter-cut graphics for up to 150 vehicles, the average job comprises two to five. He said the fraternal nature of public-safety agencies serves as a double-edged sword.

“This is a tough market. It took us awhile to establish our shop as one that does good work at a fair price,” Burke said. “When we started in this market, most agencies used national companies that used off-the-rack, cookie-cutter design templates. We attend two or emergency-services industry shows a year, and most of our work comes through referrals. But, this clientele is a brotherhood; if you botch a job for one, word spreads quickly. We honor all warranty claims whether or not they’re our fault.”

OnSite Decals.com cleans all of its vehicles twice before graphics installation. First, they spray and wipe Texat application fluid, which Burke said functions as a cleaner because it interacts well with vinyl. Next, installers use Sprayway C-60 solvent-based wax and grease remover.

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For standard vehicle-graphic installations, the shop uses Oracal USA 751 and 851 cast films; for projects that require reflective material, they use Oracal’s 5600 media.

For plotter-cut projects, they process the film on 36-in. Summa Inc. plotters with tangential blades; for thermal-transfer applications, they use a 24-in. Roland DGA Corporation and 40-in. Summa DC3 printers.

To date, he said the shop’s most challenging job entailed decorating a Rosenberg, TX mobile fire-safety station used to instruct children about fire and storm safety. “This was a difficult project because we had to install over corrugated siding. This required very skillful maneuvering with a heat gun to conform the film,” Burke said. “Also, we’re used to creating designs with sharp, clean lines, and this required a more elaborate, kid-friendly design.”

To install graphics, OnSite Decals uses Lidco Teflon® squeegees and allows only a 1/8-in. film tolerance for multi-vehicle jobs. Burke offers a five-year warranty on all the company’s jobs. When premature failures occur, they’re usually caused by the grueling conditions emergency-services vehicles face.

He credits Dustin Sydow, his project manager and “vinylologist,” for his role in executing the company’s voluminous workload. Burke said, “Without him, there’s no way we could turn out three to five vehicle graphics every day.”

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