By Melinda Tetreault
Frame extrusion technologies, specifically silicone edge graphic (SEG) frames, are popular for their ease of use and ability to work well with digitally printed fabric. For the unfamiliar, an SEG is a flat silicone part that can be seated snugly inside a frame, commonly made of aluminum. It provides a drum-tight fit that is sophisticated and clean in appearance. In addition, the construction of an SEG makes it easy to take in and out of a frame, allowing for quick graphic change outs.
Above: Orbus offers the Vector Frame Edge SEG System.
SEG framing systems are increasingly used with digitally printed fabric. Reasons include the flexibility to switch graphics on a regular basis without the user struggling or harming equipment, as well as lightweight materials that enable leisurely transport.
Digitally printed fabric is largely why SEG frames are used more than in the past. Clay Reierson, director of operations, Xcel Products, Inc., explains that before SEG graphics, most trade show and retail graphics were printed directly onto heavy stock paper, acrylic, PVC, or polycarbonate boards. While functional, the materials were heavy, difficult to ship, cumbersome to install on site, and prone to damage.
According Reierson, fabric graphics were always in the mix, but suffered from lower image resolution. Once dye-sublimation (dye-sub) printing technology and fabric quality began to improve, SEG frames became popular. “With current SEG frames, fabric choices, and printing technologies, the print quality is sharp, the color contrast is sensational, and printers create high-definition graphics that exceed expectations. This high image quality puts SEG frames in demand and is a key growth factor.”
Digital printing’s tight control of graphics is important, agrees Paula Goodelman, VP of sales, Testrite Visual Products. “Printed fabric is inherently part of SEG framing systems and digital printing produces the best results—print fidelity, color reproduction, and image clarity.”
Wide format digital printing in particular is part of the attraction. “Large seamless graphics are very popular and provide a clean look to any display frame because the graphics cover the framework,” shares Natalie Whited, VP of marketing, Orbus Exhibit & Display Group.
“Digitally printed fabric is accelerating the use of SEG framing systems because of how quickly it can be manufactured for use with an SEG—all the user has to do is print the design and sew it around the silicone edge pieces. That’s also part of what’s accelerating the use of SEG systems as a whole—the ease with which the whole framing system can be manufactured, shipped, and installed,” continues Devon Hoch, marketing manager, Tex Visions.
SEG framing systems are found in a variety of settings, really any environment that desires signage. Trade shows and exhibitions, retail, airports and transportation centers, sports stadiums and arenas, restaurants and other hospitality areas, museums, religious centers, schools, and amusement locations.
“SEG frames are ideal anywhere the ambient lighting environment needs the focus and emphasis that SEG and SEG LED provide,” shares Goodelman.
Take for example trade shows and exhibitions. Aside from looking clean and colorful, by their nature SEG graphics address two of the major cost centers for trade show exhibitors—labor and shipping. Hoch adds that SEG systems are found at trade shows because of the need for a “highly impactful display installed with relative ease. You can have an SEG frame with its accompanying graphic ready to go in under ten minutes. This is invaluable when you have several other pieces of your trade show display to put together.”
SEG frames are popular in retail for several reasons. Fabric graphics allow for large, seamless, glare-free images that create an inviting, upscale appearance. SEG frames are highly customizable, making it possible to fit graphics into nearly any retail space. The easy change out that SEG framing systems offer is also important to retailers because point of purchase (POP) display graphics typically change with the season or during special sales events, according to Reierson.
Transportation centers like train stations, subway systems, and airports turn to SEG frames. Richard J. Hatton, president, E.L. Hatton Sales Co., points out that SEG systems are ubiquitous in airports. “SEG signs have a beautiful high-end appearance due to the brilliant color, texture, and luster that fabric offers. They are available in front lit or backlit, which really makes the images pop. Also, soft sign faces are easy and inexpensive to ship to multiple locations since they can be folded and shipped in standard parcel packages.”
Superwide graphics are commonly found in sports stadiums and arenas at both the professional and collegiate level. These venues require interchangeable, temporary signage to advertise concerts, shows, and other events. “SEG systems are more economical for larger sized graphics and the logistical cost for graphic change out is much lower. They provide a fashionable image as a SEG fabric is all image with no bulky frame. The dye-sub graphic offers a dramatic high-definition image, in particular backlit solutions,” shares Michael Kurilec, managing director – Americas, EXPOLINC Corp.
Many restaurants use custom SEG graphics for a creative presentation of specials and featured items. Hotels and similar hospitality service providers use SEG fabric frames for these reasons as well. “SEG frames provide a compelling signage solution for lightweight graphics that are easy to install when menus or promotions change,” explains Reierson.
Marie Provost, marketing specialist, DSA Phototech, says the company receives requests for SEG framing systems in restaurant environments used with vinyl coated fabric graphics that resist staining and are easy to clean.
Creative messaging is found in museums. Many rely on SEG frames to advertise exhibits and shows. They allow for wall murals and large, standalone graphics that can advertise and promote museum attractions, especially seasonal or traveling exhibits, continues Reierson.
He also believes many religious and other nonprofit centers choose SEG frames because the graphics are lightweight and easy for a single volunteer to install. The fabric graphics are also convenient to store in small closets when not in use—the fabric rolls take up very little storage space.
Similarly, schools use SEG frames for advertising upcoming events and activities on campus, points out Reierson. SEG fabric frames offer a reasonably priced graphics solution that affords educational institutions with sharp-looking signage featuring a modern look and feel that appeals to students.
Amusement parks, fairs, and boardwalks are all locations that thrive on bright lights, vibrant colors, and catchy messaging. With customizable sizing and fabric that takes the wear and tear of high-traffic zones, SEG fabric frames are a common choice for installing eye-catching graphics designed to stop passersby in their tracks, suggests Reierson.
“Many of these spaces were traditionally dedicated to paper, vinyl, and rigid pieces. Fabric is portable, reusable, durable, lightweight, environmentally friendly, and has a much more high-end appearance. Paper, vinyl, and rigid on the flip side are easy to damage, difficult to ship, have problems with glare, and could provide a low-end aesthetic,” adds Tara Lamb, president, Global Imaging.
Basic SEG frames allow for a cleaner and more sophisticated look when it comes to digitally printed fabric, but as popularity grows frame enhancements are prevalent. Light boxes, shapes beyond traditional squares and rectangles, and even larger sizes are some of the newer trends.
“One of the biggest trends is using SEG frames for light boxes. Traditionally, light boxes are done as a snap frame, with the print secured around the edges because the frame snaps shut around it. This produces an obvious frame edge around the light box—something a customer might not want if they’re going for a sleeker, modern look. An SEG light box is the obvious solution to this problem. The fact that the SEG print slides into the channeled bars of the frame means the light box looks ‘frameless,’ which is something more buyers are looking for, especially for larger light boxes,” explains Hoch.
As LED technology advances, Reierson says today’s SEG frames must adapt and be sure to use the newest and best lighting available. “It is crucial to stay ahead of the competition and make the graphics really pop.”
“Backlit SEG frames are the hottest trend in exhibition displays,” according to Jose Simoes, print manager, Expand International of America, Inc. “In the busy environment of a trade show floor, for example, a backlit display helps an exhibitor’s message stand out.”
Another trend involves requests for custom-angled frame shapes. “These include frames that are cut around doorways, odd angles to compliment architectural features, or corporate branding and different shapes—such as hexagons or triangles. It’s not only squares and rectangles anymore,” suggests Reierson.
Lamb agrees, and says that there is a demand for custom-bent offerings for customers looking to offer unique and custom shapes. Global Imaging is involved in the creation of this type of system.
“Modular injection-modeled polymer corners and T-extenders with side rails create infinite shapes and sizes from a few components with no special tools. Pieces snap together like a toy,” explains Hatton. The company’s newest product is a similiar configuration.
“The use of SEG frames for mega-size graphics is also increasing. We’ve made a lot of frames that exceed 100 feet in width and don’t require the graphics to be seamed. Frames using 180 degree connectors expand to virtually any length to accommodate the large-scale graphics and can be broken down into small boxes for cost-effective shipping,” adds Reierson.
While SEG frames are inherently easy to use, there is still the step of adhering the keder to the printed fabric. Traditionally this involves sewing, which may be an additional cost or step print service providers (PSPs) are hesitant to take. To address this concern, there are enhancements being made by vendors like E.L. Hatton. This includes a no-sew, peel-and-stick keder tape.
PSPs offering digitally printed fabric graphics should consider bundling SEG frames into the sale. The actual install, setup, and takedown are so user friendly, it eventually makes the customer come back for more—earning repeat business.
“By offering both printed fabrics and SEG frames, print providers can offer a complete fabric visual display solution to their customers,” shares Provost.
“It is wise for print providers to start offering SEG frames for their graphics because of the sheer number of advantages SEG offers over traditional frames. Customers make customizable frames available in a number of sizes and styles, and can be single- or double-sided for their use,” explains Hoch.
For PSPs in the retail space, Lamb says offering SEG systems secures large retail and POP contracts. “Most retailers are now changing their graphics six to eight times a year. When that is multiplied by the number of locations per retailer, this adds up to potentially enormous annuity income.”
Lamb also gives the example of exhibit producers who offer custom printing of fabric adding SEG frames as a new revenue source. “This could possibly replace the free pipe and drape offerings in traditional trade show booth rentals. These producers can now leverage income by offering custom printing as well as the rental from the structure itself, while freeing the client from having to ship booth structures, which leads to drayage charges.”
“The framework and graphics are the total solution. Offering the entire solution simplifies the ordering process and make it easier for PSPs to market to their customers,” adds Whited.
Kurilec explains that one of the more challenging parts of SEG systems is achieving a drum-tight fit with the graphic. “Having a frame you have experience with readily available in the shop ensures the graphic fits correctly.”
To ensure profit on an SEG framing system, Hoch provides examples of general markups, citing they vary from 30 to 50 percent and sometimes more depending on marketing budgets for the end user. Resellers, in Hoch’s opinion, can expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $1,200 for one display.
Simoes cautions to not just consider cost. “As with most products, you can find very inexpensive units online all the way to moderately priced systems. For example, an 8×8-foot frame can retail for a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars. Look for ease of installation, packaging, mounting, hot spots if backlit, quality finishing, and material. If the system is portable this is even more important—you do get what you pay for.”
SEG frames are popular because of their ease of use and ability to work well with digitally printed fabric. Silicone edge technology allows for quick set up. The fabric is a light weight product that decreases shipping costs. These reasons alone make SEG framing systems desirable to a variety of locations including retail, trade shows, airports, universities, and restaurants.
Oct2018, Digital Output