As for new trends, Murray said fabric graphics are beginning to migrate from the trade show floor out into the retail areas. “I was involved in a project about a year and a half ago when Circuit City was still around, where they started to use these round hanging structures in retail environments,” he said. “And that’s intriguing.”
Murray also feels that there is a tremendous green aspect that is still going to come. “I don’t think it’s there yet, but as more people—especially some of these larger corporations—start to make more commitments towards green and the environment, they’re going to realize there is good reason to use fabrics,” he said. “Fabric is printed with water-based inks, so there’s nothing harmful as far as VOCs going back into the environment, it’s lighter—the materials themselves can be recycled.”
Another reason for the popularity of fabric is that people are still developing and evolving creative solutions. “We’re finding that fabric, by its nature, and the use of it with metal structure, really has many interesting design potentials,” said Murray. McRae Imaging is involved with the auto show in Toronto and recently created a 60-foot car with bent metal tubing hanging from the ceiling, and it’s all in fabric. “It’s on huge wheels that are sort of arches down on the trade show floor and this 60-foot fabric car structure hangs up above these wheels,” said Murray. “We also did two 55-foot kayaks, all fabricated out of metal with aluminum, with inside lighting wrapped in fabric, and they were hung in a mall.” Another project McRae has recently done is backlighting Moss-type hanging structure. “We backlit them from inside so that they glow,” reported Murray. “When the client lit them at the trade show, they had people lined up all around the perimeter of the booth to see them. Their success was phenomenal.”
The increased demand for fabric graphics has gotten the attention of equipment and consumable manufacturers and has pushed the envelope of technological advancement. “With so many equipment manufacturers getting into the market, consumer options have increased and with it comes technical advancements like machines that print and transfer in one process,” said Tony Schmidt, product development director, Optima Graphics, Fenton, MO. “I have seen an increase in the marrying of fabric prints to aluminum extrusions. This sort of combines some of the old with the new demand for fabric.” Schmidt notes that most hardware suppliers offer an aluminum frame that is designed to allow for the easy application of fabric graphics. “This will expand market opportunities,” he said.
Schmidt recalled a project Optima Graphics worked on for the roll out of a new perfume that required graphics that were lightweight, compact, and easy to install because there was very little time for setup and they needed something very large that could be easily shipped. “Fabric prints draped over collapsible lightweight frames was the option the end client went with over some of the traditional options,” he said.
Schmidt thinks that the aluminum and fabric marriage is going to grow. “Beyond that, I see fabric graphics expanding into other markets more heavily and the printing process improving to become faster and easier.”