By Lisa Guerriero
Part 1 of 2
Silicone edge graphics (SEG) are popping up everywhere. These are used in frames or displays specifically manufactured to accept the silicone edge of the fabric. Some vendors offer the entire package—fabric, frame, and edging—and even printing of the graphic; while others provide parts piecemeal.
These graphics capitalize on the digitally printed textile trend currently sweeping the industry. Common environments SEG displays are found in include trade shows and retail. The recent increase in interest has led to more than just the traditional four-sided display, now SEG systems are found in a variety of configurations and even sold as light box options.
Design and Use
SEG displays are available in a number of different scenarios. There are three basic components—the fabric, a flat silicone strip, and the frame. The strip, sometimes referred to as keder, corresponds to the groove in a frame or stand. The graphic is popped into that grove. Depending on the vendor, you can purchase a complete system, or buy each component separately.
Many SEG frame manufacturers offer a printing service that’s either in house or through a third party print shop. This gives customers the option of having their graphic printed by the same vendor who’s providing the hardware. Other companies sell the frames, silicone edges, and corresponding fabric, but do not offer printing. These organizations typically provide the client with measured templates and specifications so the customer can handle the printing on their own.
There are also select vendors that sell just the frame and the silicone strip, so that a customer can sew it into a printed fabric on their own. “We can put our customers in touch with a sewing machine provider who will have them up and sewing for less than $1,000,” says Steve Hegseth, president, Direct LED Frames.
On vendor who has addressed this part of the process is Miller Weldmaster. In response to the recent increase in SEG interest, the company developed the Digitran system, which enables users to sew the silicone edge to the printed textile. And added bonus—the device can also be used for welding the edges of vinyl graphics.
“What is most critical to this operation is the ratio to which we apply the SEG to the digital textile. We recogonize it is important for our customers to have a nice tight fit when fitting the printed graphic into their frame systems—the Digitran system accommodates this accordingly,” explains Jeff Sponseller, CMO, Miller Weldmaster.
When it comes to fabric, SEG system manufacturers says nearly any type will work, but heavy and elastic textiles present challenges. However, the complications affect the look of the display, not how it functions. “Sheer, heavy, and stretch fabrics all require measurement expertise and occasionally, sewing expertise, but the installation is the same,” recommends Paula Goodelman, VP of sales, Testrite Visual Products.
For SEG displays to be successful, the dimensions of the textile and frame must be just right. The graphic is pulled tight as a drum, but not stretched into place. A good SEG system grips the material in place, pulling it taut so there’s no billowing or wrinkling, while simultaneously avoiding distortion of the graphic from stretching.
Opinions vary on how interchangeable silicone edge brands are. An industry standard has yet to be established for the silicone strips. “I would recommend that all buyers ensure that the SEG for their particular frame is preferably 3×12 millimeters,” notes Terry Niedermeyer, CEO, North America Display Corporation.
Even if the measurements match, several vendors say the channel depth varies from one frame to another, making it hard to predict whether a graphic will fit. “Silicone edging can have various characteristics such as channel depth that work better with one system than another,” observes Tara Lamb, president, Global Imaging Inc. In addition, some vendors don’t use silicone, prohibiting the fabric and frame from matching correctly.
“In many cases, the best option is to invest in a complete system rather than trying to piecemeal together the various parts,” advises Thom Casey, online marketing specialist, Tex Visions.
SEG systems elevate graphics to a sophisticated look. In most cases, installation requires no tools—just the silicone-edged fabric and corresponding frame. “Overall, SEG graphics are easy to install and remove—all you need to do is push and pull,” says Natalie Whited, VP of marketing, Orbus Exhibit & Display Group.
Vendors note that installation of a graphic becomes less difficult as time goes on. “As with any display system, it takes a bit of practice and knowledge of some basic tips and tricks. For example, starting at the corners and moving toward the middle and using fabric gloves,” suggests Tim Artz, U.S. sales, Duo Display. Users also need to remember that the frames themselves may require some assembly.
Nearly all suppliers notice a rise in SEG popularity, especially for retail and trade show use. This surge is driving manufacturers to create more variations, which include wall mounted, freestanding, cube, ceiling hung, and modular. Lightbox options are common, and some vendors sell the frame, lighting system, and fabric as a complete kit.
SEG systems are convenient for periodic changes, such as the seasonal substitutions that are common in point of purchase (POP). “They are popular in retail environments as the retailer can send a lightweight piece of fabric to each of its locations with simple installation instructions in order to update the signage for the most recent seasonal product,” explains Artz.
Lamb agrees, noting that “anyone in the retail location can change out the graphics in a few minutes, rather than having to have professional installers for every change out.”
However, the systems are not intended for daily change outs, says Casey. Although they can be broken down, moved, and reshaped, it’s more time consuming to do than traditional POP advertising, “so the customer should make sure that this is the right display for them,” he cautions.
SEG systems are also emerging in other types of commercial advertising. “Large format fabric displays measuring five to seven feet high are becoming more popular for dramatic visual impact in branding or merchandising,” observes Connie Macias, sales manager, DSA Phototech.
Casey notes that car dealerships seem particularly fond of the SEG look. “The frames provide a sleek, modern look and the high-quality prints make the images of cars pop.”
For trade shows, as with retail, SEG systems are appealing because they’re travel friendly—the system can be broken down for compact shipping, while the fabric is lightweight and affordable to send. Reassembly is easy, and the graphic can be exchanged for different prints over the course of the show.
Quick setup time is a trend for trade show applications, shares Artz, and so is modularity.
“The ability to take a larger display such as a 20-foot island or inline exhibit and break it down into several smaller displays increases the longevity of the exhibit, and allows for a more valuable investment. Certain aspects of larger exhibits can also be broken out to create banners or light box displays, functional for everyday use,” adds Whited.
The strong visual presented by SEG displays also makes them a natural fit for artistic applications such as museum installations and interior commercial décor, including hotels and offices. “The hospitality industry and consumer market see SEG displays as a new level of art presentation. They especially like the ease of shipping a folded or rolled SEG print along with an easily assembled aluminum frame,” notes Hegseth.
Other applications on the rise include set design, auditoriums and sports arenas, interior wall décor for hotels and offices, and airport, bus, and train signage.
Logistical and aesthetic advantages combine to make SEG displays a fast-growing option. A tension fabric system offers striking images, while the shipping and change outs are convenient and practical. The fast growth of these products in retail and trade show paves the way for new applications, aided by the diversification of the systems’ designs. The next article in this two part series shares SEG products and services.
Jan2015, Digital Output DOSEG1501