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Grand Communications

The Pioneer of Tensioned Fabric Makes Noise for a Communications Giant

By Kim Crowley

The use of large format fabric with digitally-printed or vinyl graphics opens up a world of opportunity to trade show exhibitors, entertainment and set designers, museums, event planners, and more. Fabric output is lightweight, easily portable, suitable for outdoor use, mood enhancing, pliable, and accepts vibrant color graphics.

For the inside story on fabric display output, we go to the source—Moss, Inc., and the man whose invention has forever made a mark on the camping, event, marketing, and display industries.

The Father of Tensioned Fabric
Artist and industrial designer Bill Moss invented the technology of tensioned fabric. In 1955 he patented the first pop-up tent, and 20 years later he and his wife Marilyn founded Moss Tent Works in Camden, ME. Moss’ tents became world-renowned, with a legion of fans, from Jacques Cousteau, to Himalayan explorers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

In 1983 at the Outdoor Retailer Show, Moss created a stir with a framed fabric backdrop used to showcase their tents. The display was revolutionary. It opened up an opportunity for Moss as a new supplier of curvilinear, lightweight fabric and frame solutions. After selling his tent business in the 1990’s, Moss was able to focus on his new venture, eventually adding state-of-the-art in-house digital printing capabilities and CAD-driven fabric cutting machinery.

A Grand Format Fabric Provider
According to the company, Moss, Inc. is the world’s largest manufacturer of tensioned fabric solutions for exhibit, event, and retail design markets. Today Moss employs over 325 people at its manufacturing facilities in Belfast, ME and Chicago, IL, and a rental depot in Las Vegas, NV.

"We do a lot of trade show work, more and more retail, and some museums," says Bart Reed, operations manager, Moss, Inc. He tells us that Moss provides solutions for the exhibit builder, who in turn sells to the end user.

Moss offers 45 standard, pre-designed shapes for its tensioned fabric output. Exhibit builders can access drop-in CAD files for these standard shapes to add their design or mock up an idea. Over 2,000 rental items are also available from Moss, including tensioned fabric, conference rooms, bars, walls, soft tables, and lighting.

Some of Moss’ customers include Access TCA, American Express, The Grammy Awards, Lexus, Marshall Field’s, Motorola, Progressive Gaming, and Seagate. The company’s creations have appeared worldwide, from countless trade show venues to department store visual merchandising displays; corporate events; the Food Marketing Institute Show; sophisticated restaurant interiors; on stage at the VH1 Diva’s fund-raiser; at Times Square’s M&M’s World store; and in decorative lighting fixtures at the Radisson hotel in Frankfort, Germany.

In October 2007, the Industrial Fabrics Association Inter-national awarded them with three international achievement awards for outstanding specialty fabric projects. One award was for printed tensioned fabric structures produced by Moss, which were set onstage, and in five rooms at PepsiCo’s multi-city health and wellness events. PepsiCo Consumer Day 2007 was designed, produced, and managed by TruEvents, headquartered in Hartford, CT. The Award of Excellence was presented to Moss, Inc. for Nokia’s Electronic Entertain-ment Expo (E3) trade show booth.

The Nokia booth included a lounge environment, truss covers for the lights, and custom fabric kiosks produced by Moss, Inc. The Nokia booth was de-signed by Art Guild of Thorofare, NJ.

Using Fabric
Output from Moss can range from sewn-on appliqué work to fabric attached to structures with permanent adhesive, to permanent outdoor vinyl graphics, removable vinyl graphics, and inkjet graphics. Moss, Inc. offers a vast number of fabric options to choose from, including poplin, nylon, mesh, taffeta, spandex, banner cloth, muslin, poly linen, and Sunbrella fabric.

All of the available fabrics fall into six categories. Options are solid, mesh, sheer, stretch, metallic, and outdoor. Moss also special orders fabrics to satisfy specific customer needs where necessary.

The newest fabric offering hits on the consumer interest in green items. Sixty percent of the yarn used in making Moss Green Knit is one hundred percent recycled. Seven carbon producing manufacturing steps are eliminated in its production.

The company stresses that the look of the final piece is greatly affected by the fabric type. To choose a fabric, care should be used when considering the look customers want to achieve, unique graphics or lighting requirements, how long the project will be in place, whether it will be dismantled and reassembled, and any special fire safety requirements.

All Moss, Inc. fabrics are certified to meet or exceed the fire safety ratings of NFPA 701, California State Fire Marshal’s Section 13115, CPAI-84, and German Fire Code DIN 4102/B1. Appropriate Fire Retardant Certifi-cates are packed with every Moss, Inc. product.

A useful guide to caring for fabric projects is available on Moss’ Web site. Topics include specific stain removal, repairs, packing, storage, and cleaning. The company also offers a one-year repair or replacement guarantee if an item fails because of a flaw in its manufacture.

Moss Workflow
Once artwork and CAD drawings are received, the Technical Design Department reviews files for usability in production. The Graphics Department then pre-flights artwork to check that resolution is adequate, artwork is high quality, and color-match information is provided. If the project involves custom shapes or graphics, the Technical Design or Graphics Departments email a proof for approval. From submission to delivery, Moss’ typical timeline is eight to ten days for most projects.

Fabrics are digitally printed on one of Moss’ two VUTEk 3360 FabriVu grand format printers from EFI, Inc. Read tells us that Moss was the first U.S. company to have one of the printers delivered. The VUTEk 3360 FabriVu can switch between solvent and dye sublimation solvent printing and uses EFI’s VUTEk inks. Output can reach up to 360 dpi resolution.

To process files, Moss, Inc. uses ColorBurst Systems’ RIP. For finishing, Moss uses an 80x80-foot Gerber cutting table, stitching equipment, and heat cutting technology.

Projects are designed for easy setup, but Moss, Inc. also offers professional installation services. Depending on how elaborate the project is, installation can require an hour to half a day to install. The stage at The Grammy Awards required a crew of 12 plus a Moss, Inc. supervisor to set up in 12 hours during the night.

Because the bulk of the company’s output is for trade show use, Read tells us that the company has gone in and trained some of the trade show exhibit builders on their product installation.

Dynamic Communications
A recent project produced by Moss, Inc. was designed by FitchWalker of NY to help Motorola promote its mobile communications technology. The Motorola project created a pop-up shop on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and entailed a number of unique structures and materials produced by Moss, Inc.

To communicate the sleek, reflective finish of the hip new Motorola MOTOKRZR phone, surfaces throughout the retail environment’s first floor were transformed with metallic, mirrored, and glossy material. Two shimmering arches and a back wall were approximately 17x 8.5 feet tall, fabricated in metallic silver stretch illusion fabric and using the Moss ModernEdge framing system.

A 15x8.5-foot-tall wall was printed with UltraPrint IDS dye sublimation printing on a VUTEk 3360 FabriVu. It also made use of silver stretch illusion fabric and Moss’ ModernEdge framing system. A decorative fabric ceiling was also created for this unique space.

In addition, a custom projection screen was used in the store, and the space integrated kaleidoscope artwork created by artist Joshua Davis into the exterior and interior graphics.

The second floor of the Motorola retail environment was decorated with two curved, tunnel-like, fabric panels to focus attention on pedestal displays featuring Motorola’s ultra slim, red MOTORAZR V3 and the red Motorola Bluetooth Headset H500. The sales of the popular mobile phones and accessories, as part of Motorola’s dedication to (PRODUCT)RED, in part raises money and awareness to help women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Vibrant red panels and the text of the (PRODUCT)RED Red Manifesto adorned the second floor space. The panels and text were achieved using Moss’ UltraPrint IDS graphics. Moss, Inc. also fabricated a dropped ceiling and cash wrap for the space.

Fabric Speaks
The Motorola pop-up store is one great example of how using digitally printed grand format fabric output can help create a dramatic, eye-catching experience.

Whether it is used on the trade show floor, at a museum, a corporate office, on stage, or at a retail site, tensioned fabric output speaks to viewers. Its drama helps communicate a moving message.

Moss, Inc. has pioneered some of the technology behind tensioned fabric and continues to raise the bar with the projects they create.

Jan2008, Digital Output

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