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Signs WA Joondalup
Written by Trine Larsen

Conformable vinyl and the importance of post heating

Vehicle graphics needs to be installed using high-end conformable vinyl, and here at Signs WA Joondalup, we use only the best, and are one of only a few Australian companies who are 3M Select platinum Graphic providers. However, using the right vinyl is not enough, you also need to know how to install it for the best possible outcome. So we thought we’d talk to you about post heating and why it’s important when installing a vehicle wrap.


What is post heating and why do we do it?

Post heating is one of the final steps when installing vehicle wraps and graphics. When the installation of a vehicle is complete, we go over the wrap with a heat gun, focusing on the channels, recesses and trim edges where the vinyl has been stretched and manipulated to the contours of the vehicle. The act of heating these areas allows the adhesive to form a secure bond with the substrate, as well as stabilising the vinyl to the new form it has been forced into. Conformable vinyl has what we call a memory. Heating the vinyl a little bit will make the memory reset to its original form, but with a lot of heat, the vinyl will lose that memory and stay where it has been conformed to. Without post heating, the vinyl will want to return to its original form, and if post heating isn’t performed correctly, the vinyl will eventually lift and pop back to the shape it was before stretching it. The magic number for resetting vinyl memory is 95-120 degrees Celcius. Reach this temperature range during post heating and your vinyl will remain in its new form.

To show how vinyl memory works, have a look at this video, where a little heat is put to stretched vinyl and it pops back to the form it was before it was stretched.

Using heat when installing vinyl is key to success, not only does it work to set the new vinyl memory during post heating, but a little heat will also help any overstretched vinyl return to its original shape. It’s all about achieving the right temperature when working on a vehicle wrap, and our certified installer are intimately familiar with the best practises for successful vinyl installation.

It’s important to be careful when heating up your vinyl as putting too much heat on it while overstretching it during installation will make it impossible for the vinyl to return to its original form and may distort the image on the vinyl.

What tools do we use to post heat?

At Signs WA Joondalup we use what is called a heat gun. It’s essentially an overpowered hair dryer which lets out a lot of heat, and the key to any successful vinyl wrap, is knowing how to use this tool to the best of its capabilities. When using a heat gun be careful as there is a big chance of burning yourself. They run hot, so caution is important, even after you turn it off.

During installation you don’t want to overheat the vinyl, and with a bit of practice, you can learn how best to control the heat that the heat gun creates with the use of distance and technique. Holding the heat gun on one spot for an extended amount of time can ruin the vinyl you’re trying to manipulate, and in extreme cases it can even damage and burn it. When using a heat gun, it’s best to constantly move it over the vinyl in circular or back and forth motions so as not to overheat. Constant movement when heating vinyl is important to avoid damage.

Have a look at these videos, created by 3M, explaining how a little heat can help you achieve the best possible wrap.

In addition to the heat gun, we use a laser temperature reader, this helps to ensure that we reach the correct temperatures during post heat and is an invaluable tool in ensuring the post heat is done correctly.

How to post heat.

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of post heating and why we do it. So now we want to give you a little lesson in how to post heat your vinyl.

Post heating shouldn’t be started until the wrap is complete. Make sure the vinyl you’re about to heat up has been applied securely in all recesses and channels. In order for the repositionable media adhesive to work as it is designed to, sufficient squeegee pressure must be used when applying the vinyl to the vehicle. Before starting on the post heating, make sure none of the vinyl has lifted in any areas and check for air pockets. This will ensure the success of the post heat and stop any vinyl from burning from the heat. When you apply the heat to your wrap, work in smaller areas at a time ideally 200-250mm wide sections. Move the heat gun over the vinyl and use your laser thermometer to ensure the right temperature is reached. Make sure you never stop moving the heat gun, or you may experience burning. The process of post heating may be a lengthy one, depending on the heat gun you use, but don’t be discouraged, this step is important. Repeat the same process over all your recesses, trim edges, overlapping sections and channels until all the parts of your vehicle are done. Be sure not to miss any small or seemingly insignificant areas. Once you’re done, inspect the vehicle for any imperfections.

In a perfect world, we’d keep the vehicle in our garage for 24 hours after application, but this is simply not possible with most commercial vehicles. Time off the road means money down the drain. This is why we offer some of the best warranties for our wraps. If anything fails due to fault on our part, we will fix it.

How to choose the right installers.

The sad thing regarding post heating is that this is the step that most installers and especially DIY’ers forget, or where they make mistakes. Post heating is a step that should never be skipped, as it ensures that all those stretched areas remain where they have been stretched to. Your vehicle wrap is simply not complete without post heating. Many installers these days are self-taught, and simply don’t know about post heating. It’s not something they consider when wrapping, because initially, the importance of post heating is not apparent. After post heating there’s no visual change to the actual vehicle wrap, but rest assured, if this step is skipped, it will cause problems down the line. When choosing an installer, be sure to ask them about post heating. Even better choose 3M trained and certified installers. Certified installers are the ones with actual training from the people who create the product, and those are the installers most skilled in working with vehicle graphics. Listen to your instincts when choosing an installer, the cheapest installers are rarely the best, and they are often the ones skipping this crucial step in the interest of saving time and making more money to the detriment of your wrap.

At Signs WA Joondalup we are 3M Certified, and all our installers have extensive training in car & vehicle wrapping and post heating. In addition to 3M Vehicle Wraps, we are equally proficient in applying many other brands, such as Avery, Hexis, Oracal and Arlon vehicle wrap vinyls.

Post heating is not something we take lightly, as it is the step that will make or break your vehicle wrap.

If you want to know more about wrapping vehicles, or pricing on vehicle wraps, feel free to contact our helpful sales team today.


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