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Robert Davidson of Spectrum Signs wins

the All Ireland Vehicle Wrapping Championship.

All Ireland Wrapping Champion Robert Davidson wrapping in the final round All Ireland Wrapping Champion Robert Davidson wrapping in the final round The hottest show in town this week was on Tuesday 8th April when competitors for the All Ireland Vehicle Wrapping Championship descended on Sign + Digital’s premises in Tallaght, Dublin, to do battle.

The theme of the event was ‘Discover. Learn. Be Inspired’. Apart from the Wrapping Championship itself, attendees had the opportunity to meet with some of Sign +Digital’s leading European suppliers who were exhibiting on the day including Roland, 3M, Orafol, Metamark, R-Tape, KD and many others. Attendees had the opportunity to view and discuss products on display and receive expert advice on any questions or information required. They also had the chance to visit the company’s newly expanded Creative Centre which houses various units all designed to bring the world of sign making and digital print to life.

The brainchild behind this extraordinary colourful show was Sign + Digital’s MD Leo Maher, a young and forward thinking businessman who is constantly looking towards the future and the development of his business. He gave some background as to how it all came about.

A bird's eye view of the competitors working on the 4 Volkswagen caddy vans A bird's eye view of the competitors working on the 4 Volkswagen caddy vans “This whole idea came into my head when I visited the Web Summit in Dublin a while back,” he said. “I saw the quality of the event they put on and I’m standing there looking at it and said to myself, this is amazing, it was a world class event. I go to Fespa, Sign UK, shows in America every year and it dawned on me that we need something like this in Ireland, something that’s going to be relevant to the industry, it’s going to be fun, will gather people together and I wanted to put on a good event that would help the industry to give people a platform and an opportunity to use their skills and create a competition out of it as well.”

As Maher stood there at the Web summit he was already thinking about what he could do in the sign making industry when the Wrap Championships came to mind.

Competitors working hard to beat the clock Competitors working hard to beat the clock “So I decided to put on this big event to showcase sign and digital materials, to give an opportunity for customers to showcase their skills to their peers, as well as to educate customers about what we do and how we do it. So that’s how it all came about. But it was looking at other world class events that gave me the catalyst to create what you see here to-day, “he emphasized.

In all, 24 top vehicle wrapping specialists from all over Ireland were divided into seven separate groups to take part in a “knock-out” competition which was judged by independent international experts. Each round lasted 45 minutes. The competitors were given various wrapping tasks to complete in that period on one of four individual Volkswagen caddy vans. The winners of the initial stage then progressed to the semi-finals, with the winners of that round going into the final. At the end of it all, one lucky competitor would win the day and be crowned “All Ireland Vehicle Wrapping Champion”. The prize was to represent Ireland at the FESPA Digital World Masters in Munich in May, making 2014; the first year there will be a representative from this country in the competition. So here are the details of the competition.

First round groups:

Company Name

Group 1

  • Vision Signs
  • The Sign Place

Group 2

  • Custom Window Tinting & Car Valeting
  • Sign & Design Kilkenny

Group 3

  • Sattal
  • Universal Graphics
  • MieTeck
  • The Sign Fella

Group 4

  • Dyna Signs
  • Signrite Omagh
  • Carstyle Ireland
  • Signlines

Group 5

  • Freeneys
  • Sign Select
  • Adventure
  • Spectrum

Group 6

  • Newtone
  • Crosbies
  • Inksplash

Group 7

  • Zoom Graphics
  • BM Graphics
  • Signal Signs
  • Retink Graphics
  • Sign Systems

And the overall winner was Robert Davidson - Spectrum Signs.

The finalists were:

Konstantins  Makovojs Carstyle Ireland

Stephen Carley Crosbie Brothers Ltd

Phil Dillyston The Sign Place

Final 4 - The Sign Place Phil Dillyston, Crosbie Brothers Stephen Carley, Carstyle Ireland Konstantins Makovojs, Spectrum Signs Robert DavidsonFinal 4 - The Sign Place Phil Dillyston, Crosbie Brothers Stephen Carley, Carstyle Ireland Konstantins Makovojs, Spectrum Signs Robert DavidsonSo Robert Davidson of Spectrum Signs is now officially the All Ireland Vehicle Wrapping Champion 2014.

One of the competitors who took part in the Vehicle Wrapping Championship, Aidan Collins, from Freeney’s Graphics gave his views on taking part.

“I started in group 5 and had to prepare and wrap a panel in 45 minutes, “he stated. “I didn’t feel too bad. This morning I was in early to get prepared but when you’re actually up against the clock its nerve racking. You get used to doing this type of work in your own environment and it was tougher than I thought here anyway. There were a lot of fantastic people taking part, some who do it full time every day. It’s a great experience and Leo has done a fantastic job setting this whole thing up.”

His boss Tom Freeney added a few words.

“When I first heard about the competition I thought it was a little bit crazy,” he said. “ I imagined it would create tension between bookings and a little bit of bad vibes about ‘why wasn’t I picked etc’, but no, as usual Leo has it run very well and very professional. Winning is not the important thing, the fact that someone from our company was chosen to take part is a win in itself, particularly for the lad himself. He told me he was nervous, but it’s good experience for him.

L-R Leo Maher, MD Sign + Digital, Robert Davidson (winner), and Paul King MD of Spectrum Signs “As it turns out now it was another good idea, colourful, but then Leo doesn’t do things by half as we all can see. I wish him continued success.”

One of the many visitors to the show, Anthony from Motto-Graphics, based in Aghanloo, Limavady, NI, gave his thoughts on what he had seen.

“We travelled down to view the competitors and see their techniques,” he commented. “It’s impressive the speed that these guys can go at. We don’t get that many car wraps where we are but the speed them boys can work at in 45 minutes to wrap the whole front of a caddy van is incredible.”

Anthony added that he felt the whole set up was brilliant.

“I liked the work shop for a start, it’s open, well laid out and next door with all the displays going on, in fact I think we have just purchased some new machinery. We would purchase a lot of our material from Sign + Digital more than any other company.

Anthony said it was a long morning’s drive down to Dublin, but it was “well worth the effort to come down and see what was happening”.

The show didn’t just stop there! As mentioned earlier, many leading European brands were on hand to exhibit their products as well as helping to advise and give visitors information and some new ideas.

Nigel Price, International sales manager for Metemark remarked, “What we are focusing on to-day, because it’s a wrapping championship, is a new wrapping product, MetaWrap MD-X, which is unique in the market. No-body in Europe has anything like this. It’s a 50 micron film, but it’s not a cast film. And because it’s not, it allows us to position it in the market at about two thirds of a cast film. So people can use it to wrap things they wouldn’t wrap because a cast film is more expensive. Films are made in different processes but the actual chemistry of the material is exactly the same as a cast film, and it’s the chemistry of MD-X that gives the durability to the product.”

Price went on to talk about the event. “It’s a credit to Leo and his team,” he said. “They have put in a big effort to create a show that obviously lots of people have come to, and it’s very successful.”

Brett Newmann, technical and sales director Roland DG UK added his voice to the proceedings; “We work very close with Leo and the boys here at Sign + Digital. I’m over here to help support this event which is a fabulous occasion,” he said. “We have three machines on display, an XP-540, a VS-540 and an XR-540, all of which are print and cut models, designed for different levels of businesses and production. There are not many companies that print every day, so the versatility of these devices allow a business to either print or just cut depending on the demands they have on any given day.”

Newmann went on to say that Sign + Digital were doing a wonderful job for Roland adding; “Ireland is a lot more buoyant now, there is a lot more production taking place and we can measure that from our ink sales. When they increase it gives us a good sign that people are busy”.

ORAFOL stand ORAFOL stand His views on the event were equally positive, “I think the nice thing about this is that, yes, people come to see the competition, which is the big pull. It raises the profile of the competing companies, it’s good for their staff to be involved and participate but equally visitors can come, look at what’s happening and then spend some time looking at all the other things that are going on here, so it’s like a mini-exhibition, nice and relaxed with no pressure. The interesting thing is that when you look around this building everything that has been produced has been printed on a Roland. And there is a vast array of things from wallpaper, posters to floor laminates and signs and much more, all so colourful. At the end of the day that’s what the customer‘s are buying, the colour, the print, the output, so when they come in here to-day and see it being used on the walls, everywhere that they look, it’s fantastic. They suddenly realize that actually there are all these different applications that they can do. People tend to get stuck in a rut such as we print banners or labels or we print vehicles and what tends to happen is that since they are supplying the same customers, they keep getting chipped away on price. Now they can see new applications which they can sell to the same customer, and they can find new customers and develop new revenue streams”.

Judd Stephenson, international sales person from KD also had some comments to make as well.

“We are an Italian company and Sign + Digital are our distributers here in Ireland. For digital print we supply products which allow people to support, show and display their prints. Whether it’s a door frame, a roll-up stand made out of cardboard, frames for textile banners, fastners for the wall, cable and suspension systems, indoor, outdoor, free standing, roll mounted or backlit with LED’s, we supply all of these products. So we are giving the support that gives the printer the ability to present the job.”

KD stand at the show KD stand at the show Judd said he found the event really worthwhile. “This is really good. It’s alive, there are a lot of people and we are getting a lot of enquires which is good for me and my company. From a manufacturer’s point of view it’s helpful to speak directly to our customer’s customers to get their feedback, because this helps us with our product development.”

Udo Kokott, responsible for the quality of digital materials from ORAFOL was also on hand to describe some of the products his company was promoting.

“We are showing a selection of some our product range such as digital printing materials, car wrapping media and some reflective materials,” he explained. “We have changed the formulation of our cast films to ‘lead chromate free ‘pigments which is now a requirement of this region. One of the products on our stand, ORACAL 970 for car rendering, is a 110 mic premium wrapping cast which meets that requirement. It is not for printing, just to change the colour of the car. Another product we are highlighting is ORAJET 395 1RA which is a wrapping film, but you can also print on it. A further product which has some different structures is ORACAL 975, a cast film which is also ‘lead chromate free’. It’s designed to allow users to produce some special effects on a car.”

Kokott was enthusiastic about the show. “This is a good chance for us to show our wrapping products because there are many car wrappers here and it’s a great opportunity for us to present ORAFOL’s solutions to them.”

Christina Hosback, marketing manager with Sign + Digital also explained some details about Sign + Digital’s expanded Creative Centre and what is encompasses.

It’s split into a number of different units which accommodates a meeting room for visitors and staff training, a customer training room where clients can be shown the various methods of vehicle wrapping, window graphics, and much more so that people can see how the various textures and media will look on different applications. The heart of the creative centre really starts with a mini display area for retail and exhibition which shows items like frames, hanging solutions, POS displays, menu boards, wire cable systems, light boxes, to name just a few. Next door is a retail shop which sells fixtures and fittings as well as accessories for the sign trade. Adjacent to that is a demonstration area for wide format which houses three Roland LF printers, a number of laminators, a Rollover Flatbed Applicator, one of the largest available in Ireland, cutters and trimmers and in addition, all the walls of this room are decked out to showcase the different applications that can be achieved with a wide format printer such as a dedicated retail section, a vehicle wrap area, digital wallpaper range, in fact anything that can be produced using large format digital print.

Part of Sign + Digital's Wide Format demonstration room at its Creative Centre Part of Sign + Digital's Wide Format demonstration room at its Creative Centre As Christina commented, “The entire area is designed to bring sign and digital print to life. Customers get to see the white rolls of vinyl and then see exactly what the finished product will look like. This then allows them to talk to their customers about new products which they can offer.”

Maher finished off by making some observations and comments.

“We had one customer there and it was very funny. He said to me one day after we told him the event was on in a few months time and that we would be wrapping caddy’s and his reply was that caddy’s are too easy to wrap! I explained to him that caddy’s are easy to wrap when you’re in the comfort of your environment. But when there is disco music going, judges, an audience, lights, it’s not easy. Believe me, this guy was shaking.”

In relation to the overall show itself he had this to say.

“Everybody who came or participated in the competition have all enjoyed it, and that’s the main thing. We have nothing but negativity for four or five years now in this country, so something that’s a bit more fun, more positive with people walking around enjoying the day is good.

“For us it’s important as well that some of our main suppliers have had a chance to meet up with our customers because they don’t normally get that opportunity ever. We talk to them on a regular basis obviously, but when they meet our customers it reinforces some of the issues we have raised with these companies about certain problems we are having in the market or other issues.”

Although it was a one day event, Maher was adamant that the show didn’t stop there.

“I walked as many people as I could through this building to-day and everyone said I have to do this to my business,” he said. “They have to engage their customers the same way as we do in order to educate our customers about what they can do with their machines. But they also have to that with their customers if they want to move forward.

“Customers who visit your premises don’t want to see white walls, they want ideas. I now have numerous appointments with companies to go and help them turn their premises into a showroom.”

After a fun filled and exciting competition surrounded by a rainbow of colours in every part of the building, DPNlive would like to congratulate Robert Davidson from Spectrum Signs on winning the All Ireland Vehicle Wrapping Championship and particularly Leo Maher and his team for putting on such a professional, dazzling show. Well done Leo!

For more information on the show and on Sign + Digital please visit

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