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Vehicle Graphics Project of the Day: Light Up My Ride

New technology helps vehicle wraps shine at night.

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Though vehicle graphics offer a unique off-premise advertising opportunity, their standard media can’t maximize post-sundown impressions. Reflective vinyls provide some nighttime visibility, but only when light shines on them. Therefore, illuminated vehicle graphics have represented a service provider’s holy grail.

Luma Brite™ Technologies (Merritt Island, FL) hopes to fill this void. David Brainard, who operates the Mad Wrapper, a vehicle-graphics provider, and Smart Car Skins, which specializes in decorating the diminutive, namesake vehicles, partnered with Dave Schumaker to develop the technology.

“My wife [Kim] and I had decorated textiles for more than 20 years, and we decided to transfer our skills to vehicle wraps after taking a training class. Working with vinyl is much less messy than screenprinting,” Brainard said. “We had a customer who was really insistent about purchasing illuminated wraps. The existing technologies were too expensive, which led us to develop the Luma Brite system.”

After having tested several components, they determined luminous wire provided the most cost-effective option. Luma Brite’s technology comprises phosphor-coated wire that’s embedded within vinyl after the media has been printed and cut to shape. The low-power system hooks into a standard, automotive 12V battery system, where it draws less than 5A, or the equivalent of a 60W lightbulb, to illuminate the entire graphic. According to Brainard, Luma Brite’s phosphor system represents a “green” technology because it incorporates more than 90% of its energy into light. It can also be hooked into a rechargeable, solar-power source. The system also allows pre-programmed Flash and animation sequences.

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Even with illumination, he said the vehicles enjoy the same regulatory exemptions as other vehicle graphics. Brainard said, “As long as the graphics aren’t red, blue or flashing, which could be confused with a police or emergency-services vehicle, these graphics aren’t subject to any codes.”

The owner of Rum Runners, a Boca Raton, FL bar, ordered a van wrap that, when not used for deliveries, will remain outside the shop. Brainard scaled the letters to fit a wrap fabricated by another company and installed them. He said customers and passersby marveled at the illumination’s resemblance to neon, and noted, “Installing neon tubing on a vehicle’s exterior would pose obvious dangers and tremendous expense. I’m confident there will be demand for a product that safely mimics neon’s luminescence with low power consumption.”

The company has filed for two U.S. patents to protect its process, and has begun transferring the technology to billboard illumination and other signage applications. Brainard and Schumaker also seek other shops that would like to license the technology.

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