By Courtney Saba
Part 1 of 2
Light boxes are a revenue source for print service providers. Traditionally, these displays use thin rigid media—like polycarbonate or acrylic. With the advent of digitally printing to textiles, light boxes now accommodate fabric graphics as well. For both types of substrates, lighting direction and frame composition are important considerations.
Fabric or Rigid
Light boxes are designed to either hold rigid substrates or fabric. Swing or snap frames accommodate rigid materials like PVC. Silicone edge graphic frames accept a fabric with a silicone edge beading, which pops into a frame.
The introduction of fabric has influenced many vendors to transition away from rigid substrates being used in light boxes. “For this company it is all about fabric,” admits Steve Hegseth, president, Direct LED Frames. “Industry wide we see a significant shift to fabric due to the availability of high-quality printing, the ease of replacing and updating, as well as the aesthetic appeal of the prints,” he explains.
The storage and transportation of fabric factors into why many companies utilize it more than rigid substrates. Gustavo Correa, VP sales and marketing, North America Display Corporation, says they are lightweight, therefore ideal for transporting in hand or shipping—simply roll or fold. They also store in a fraction of the space that other substrates do.
Although light boxes designed for fabric are preferred, rigid substrates are ideal for certain frames. Natalie Whited, VP of marketing, Orbus Exhibit & Display Group, says traditional snap edge frame light boxes are better suited to hold rigid or semi-rigid substrates such as opaque PVC.
Which Way to Light
Light boxes are illuminated from the front, behind, or side. The direction chosen is dependent on the style and feel of the intended message. A popular preference is backlit. Hegseth believes this is because illuminating a graphic from behind provides a dramatic effect.
Whited explains that lighting from behind is suitable for fabric, as well as rigid graphics. “Having the bright white LED lighting sources located behind the graphic, it creates an even, diffused and controlled illumination that eliminates dark spots and allows both fabric and opaque rigid graphics to shine.”
Connie Macias, sales manager, DSA Phototech, says one of the newest trends is lighting from the side. The reduced size of LED lights allow them to fit into the narrow sides of frames. Side lighting also utilizes fewer LEDs—using less energy while creating even lighting with a throw of four to five feet.
Out of all materials used in light box construction, aluminum is a popular option. It is one of the strongest materials in its weight class and easily machined compared to plastic or metal.
“DSA uses aluminum for light boxes because of its strength, durability, light weight, and anti-rust properties,” suggests Macias.
Aluminum also provides a longer life for a light box and, as Correa adds, has the ability to dissipate the heat generated by the LED lights.
Most providers offer finishing options to create a more appealing final product. For example, Direct LED Frames provides a standard silver anodized finish, as well as black and white. “The finish on these frames can also be customized to any color or pattern, for example wood grain, carbon fiber pattern, and various textures and effects,” recommends Hegseth.
Variety of Light Boxes
Although rigid graphics are used with light boxes, many PSPs consider fabric when addressing the needs of their clients. Frame construction, media, and lighting are components that determine the best frame for the job. In the next part of this series read about available light boxes from leading vendors.
Mar2016, Digital Output DOLB1603