Articles of Interest
Branding of paraglider wings for advertising or sponsorship
by Keith Pickersgill
Paragliders and especially powered paragliders are being increasingly used as flying billboards to advertise brands and products. Many pilots now actively seek out sponsors to brand their wings in exchange for offsetting some of the costs of their flying.
I have branded many wings over the years and have experimented with various means of applying a logo in the most efficient way possible.
The main aspects to consider are:
- cost of branding the wing
- the additional weight of the logo (affects the flight dynamics)
- ease of applying the logo
- the time it takes to brand the wing
- longevity of the branding (will it stay on?)
- color fastness of the logo
- translucence of the logo (will the color shine through or appear as silhouette?)
- Distortion of the wing (also affecting flight dynamics)
- Can it be removed after a few years?
Many years ago we mostly used sticky-back sailcloth for logo's, but I find this too heavy and affects the wing's performance adversely by seriously distorting the way the wing deforms under load. The Weft and the Weave of the fabric no longer stretched in the manner and extent designed by the wing manufacturer.
Some dyes and paints are occassionally used, but these are either somewhat expensive or too thick and heavy.
Some of these paints require a thick brush-on or roll-on, but this ends up totally opague with no possibility of being backlit from above, so everything looks just dark, with few colours actually visible from below. Also it is heavy and eventually cracks up from repeated folding of the wing.
The thinner paints and dies are tricky to apply very evenly, so the logo may look a bit blotchy.
Some wings have a Silicone or Teflon surface protective layer which repels inks and dies.
I have developed a new technique that you may wish to consider.
You are likely to find suitable materials and facilities to do the same near your own location.
My new technique:
The benefits of this is fast, inexpensive, and great finish! It backlights extremeley well from above, especially if the wing is all white, so it actually glows with colour, much like a photographic slide held up to the light.
I use the lightest weight kite fabric available, without any UV filters or anti-porosity coatings, to save weight and cost. As the logo is on the bottom surface, it gets very little UV exposure anyway. These kite fabrics are available in a wide range of colours, and I usually find fabric in colours to suit most logo's.
A yaughting sail manufacturer nearby has a large flatbead plotter, with the fabric bed measuring 2 meters wide by 17 meters long. The bed has tiny holes through which a vacuum pump applies constant suction to keep the fabric flat and still.
These are in quite common use worldwide, so you will likely find one nearby.
Scan in the logo off artwork supplied by the pilot or his sponsor, convert it to a CAD vector file, and clean up the logo by removing unwanted lines.
Re-arrange the letters or logo components to save on material space, minimising wastage and cost. I usually manage to cut a 10m long logo from 6 meters of fabric, by careful planning and re-arranging the plot-file components.
This file can be emailed to the company with the plotter, or I take it on diskette if I wish to oversee the operation.
Now for the brilliant part:
These plotters can also hold, in place of one of the pens, a laser cutter! They lay the fabric down (up to 5 layers if doing multiple wings), and simply cut the entire logo in one operation. This saves a tremendous amount of work and time.
They usually charge a fixed fee per plot or cut, regardless of the amount of fabric or complexity of logo. I utilise every piece of waste fabric, by cutting smaller versions of the logo for the pilot's harness, flight suit, paraglider bag, etc. These I throw in free of charge.
To stick the logo onto the wing, purchase some "Captain Tape" which is used extensively in the sailing industry. I use 6mm wide on the tight curves, and 12mm wide on the straight runs. This tape is just a very thin, very powerful adhesive. It is suprisingly inexpensive.
Run the tape all along the edges of the logo (bottom side), with the protective backing in place.
Position the logo on the wing loosely, until satisfied that everything fits and is straight. Try to arrange the position to minimise the lines that are in the way. Just moving it slightly up, down or to one side, can reduce the amount of lines under the logo considerably.
Starting at the centre, peel away the backing and stick the edge down. Work towards the wingtips, making sure the logo is flat and each piece remains in its correct position.
The tape leaves an extremely thin, almost invisible layer of adhesive which creates an almost permanent bonding of the logo edges to the wing. It does not affect the fabric in any way and is extremely tough. That logo will not come off in a hurry!
Where a line is trapped under the logo, cut the logo to create an escape route to the nearest edge. If this cut is long, stick the edges of the cut down as well.
The final product is super lightweight, and with enough translucense to backlight very well in flight. Furthermore, as it is only stuck down around the edges, it still allows the wing to billow into its normal shape, without distorting nor affecting its flight performance.
It is quick and inexpensive to complete and delivers a superior finished product.
I was once on a trip to a faraway city and was commissioned to do a wing there, so I had to improvise. Not having time to track down a lasercut plotter, I "borrowed" a conventional achitects plotter, and plotted the file on consecutive strips of paper, which I stuck alongside each other to produce the entire logo. I then stapled this paper logo onto the fabric using a conventional office paper-stapler, until the two were firmly attached together.
Using a tailor's scissors, I cut the logo by hand, following the plotted lines on the paper. After removing the staples still inside the logo, I had the entire logo scanned, converted, plotted and cut within two hours! The sticking down takes about 3 hours to do a real neat job.
Sometimes a logo may be in one colour, with a thin border in another colour all around the edges. This is slightly trickier.
Take one of three routes:
1) Either cut the border from the same fabric (in the new color) and stick it down around the edges. This is more expensive, as you need to purchase a second strip of fabric in the second colour, and its a lot of work sticking down a thin "ribbon" around the inner logo, but yields the best results.
2) Or get some ribbon in a suitable colour and just make it curve to follow the logo, using 6mm Captain Tape. Less expensive, but not as neat, as the ribbon will form little pleats on the insides of any tight curves
3) Or ink on or paint the border on the cutout logo before sticking onto the wing.
A combination of these three can be used: Ribbon on the straight runs, cut fabric on the curves, some ink/paint for small irregular areas.
I hope you can make use of this system, as it is inexpensive, quick and really neat. Let me know if you decide to try this, and send me a photo of your handywork. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org