Thursday, August 25, 2016
A Brief History of Vinyl Graphics and the Signage Industry
Since 2002, Mike Loftus has served as the president of MLE, a middle-market company that provides branding services. A major part of MLE’s business involves the design, creation, and installation of large-format digitally printed branding material inside or outside of commercial shops. Mike Loftus has a strong passion for vinyl graphics and dedicates a great deal of time to learning about new, cutting-edge techniques, as well as the history of this industry.
Machines called vinyl plotters are used to cut graphics on vinyl sheets that have an adhesive backing. Since the mid-1990s, this technology has been the main staple of sign production. Only a few decades ago, most signs were handmade or painted. The first vinyl plotter was made in the early 1980s, but the manufacturer retailed it for $10,000. Once personal computers became more popular in the 1990s, other companies began offering more affordable machines.
Toward the end of the 1990s, hybrid plotters became commercially available. These machines printed full-color images on vinyl, which meant that customers no longer had to choose between a few colors. Today, most companies use cut vinyl and digital printing to produce cost-effective signs that require much less time than in decades past.