Awnings, tents, canopies, or any type of item used to shade and/or advertise is not a new service. Companies manufacturing these solutions are established in their local communities, serving customers near and far for decades. As is the case with Capitol Awning Company, spotlighted in the September print issue, a successful company takes what they know and grows as technology advances. The same is true for the three companies profiled below.
Providing a Vision
In business for 72 years, St. Louis, MO-based Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures, Inc. manufactures fabric, standing seam, and all-metal awnings and canopies; exhibit components; experiential displays; and industrial fabrication. It is known for its design and engineering excellence, as well exceptional customer service. The company regularly goes above and beyond to meet and exceed a customer’s original vision.
Since starting the business in 1941, Lawrence has grown and evolved with the times. Starting with the technique of hand painting graphics onto awnings, it now offers capabilities to directly print onto awning fabrics with the help of its proprietary hardware and ink sets. It learned about the different opportunities regarding digital through its membership of the Industrial Fabrics Association and Professional Awning Manufacturers Association.
At events held by both organizations, attendees from Lawrence took part in various seminars regarding digitally printing on awnings. In addition, it teamed up with various fabric manufacturers and print houses to share knowledge of ink formats and printing platforms. With this steady flow of communication, Lawrence is presents its customers with a variety of options.
While Jeni Anders, graphic solutions, Lawrence, agrees that the digital market for awnings is definitely leading the way in the industry, there are various methods and substrates affected by this. “It appears baby steps are being taken to print directly to cloth material and the advancement in vinyl is better due to the longevity of the inks and material,” she continues.
Despite the pull of vinyl over textiles for ease of creation and durability, Anders finds customers gravitating toward fabric, citing that many of Lawrence’s clients prefer the fabric/cloth look over vinyl appearance—and ultimately it comes down to what the client wants.
Customers request graphics and logos that are consistent with their corporate colors, and with the advancements in materials there are more options to ensure this occurs. As such, Lawrence’s clients respond favorably to digital printing on awning material.
Anchor Industries Inc. of Evansville, IN was founded in 1892 as a small riverboat supply house. Fast forward to current day and 300 employees work in over 350,000 square feet of production capability. The company offers awnings, rental and commercial tents, shade structures, safety pool covers, agricultural storage, canvas bags, outdoor amusement products, and contract sewn items.
When working on awnings for customers, a popular technique involves printing on Trivantage thermal film from Glen Raven, Inc. Logos are printed via a Mimaki USA, Inc. solvent printer and heat sealed to Glen Raven Sunbrella material.
According to Tami Freson, marketing manager, Anchor, “the print film gives us an advantage over hand painted graphics. We can produce complex graphics as opposed to painting single color or two color logos on awnings.”
Anchor recognizes the benefits of working with digital to efficiently produce awning materials for its customers.
Understanding the need for a sign business that caters to retail facades, Joseph Lanza, president, JC Awning, acquired the company in 1990. “I knew immediately that many retail locations needed an entire façade improvement and an awning was the best way to accomplish that. I found it necessary to consider the entire signage and awning package and focused on the design rather than selling products,” admits Lanza.
The Port Chester, NY company is part of a larger group of businesses that include Sign Design and WrapFX. While these two sign-based entities utilize many digital services, the awning part of the group has yet to fully embrace digital print. However, it is moving in that direction. This is primarily because of advancements in fabric. It does a lot of work for its sign clients on canvas, for example, using a Roland DGA Corp. eco-solvent printer.
While JC Awning and its sister companies always try and use the latest technology, the group finds that fabrics encounter a bit of difficulty when it comes to zoning laws. “We are in the lower NY/CT areas and permitting is a growing challenge. I would like this to change and will keep attempting to up sell digitally printed fabric as we grow,” explains Lanza.
A good shop—whether it is sign focused or offers solutions such as awnings—knows to grow with the technology and its customers’ wants and needs. All of the awning companies mentioned here look to digital as a way to keep pace with the competition and offer clients the best output they can.