Bay Area Imaging
As printing on fabrics continues to increase Bay Area Imaging is continuously testing new fabrics from a various manufacturers, because not every fabric works well on every printer. “We do direct digital printing with solvent and pigmented inks,” explained Walter Bernard, owner, Bay Area Imaging LLC, Webster TX. “With these types of ink, the coating on the fabric is of prime importance. Heavy coating usually results in better and more vivid prints, but takes away from the suppleness of the fabric and makes it more prone to wrinkles and scratches. We are looking for fabrics that print in vivid colors but do not have the feel of a starched shirt.”
Bay Area Imaging is experiencing an increasing demand for fabric banners in spite of the higher cost. “They just look more upscale,” said Bernard. He adds that while applications for trade shows and exhibits continue to increase, he wishes he could say the same for interior décor. “We still need to do a better selling job to interior designers,” he stated. “We do, however, see more projects for wall covering materials with fabric-backed vinyl.”
Perhaps the most significant trend, according to Barnard, is the demand for more environmentally friendly materials. “Cotton is, of course, biodegradable, but does not print as vivid as a coated polyester fabric,” he said. “It’s also more expensive.” He added that while polyester is recyclable, not all of the coatings applied to it are. “We see manufacturers working towards and beginning to offer coatings that are recyclable,” he said. “Another hurdle is to find recycling companies that will accept printed polyester fabric. We would like to see fabric manufacturers and distributors to set up recycling programs like Lexjet does with DuPont Tyvek banner material.
Marco Alvarez believes that digital graphics and textile printing have opened the door of possibilities for the design community. “With the wide variety of textiles available, designers now have an incredible tool that will give them the opportunity to create unique brand specific environments,” said Alvarez, president/CEO, Fabric Images Inc., Elgin, IL. “The use of more translucent fabrics has become a growing trend.”
Fabric Images recently produced the Dr. Pepper Lounge for the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. “This project was originally specified to be made of steel and laminates,” he said. “Using aluminum and fabric provided a cost-effective solution, while giving the client the look and feel that they desired.
Fabric Images has done several other unique projects this year, including the “Z Pod” Burnham Pavilion in Chicago, the stage for the G20 Summit in Philadelphia, the press event for the new Virgin Galactica, Blackberry U2 World Tour and a few more. “I think that an interesting one is the new Chedraui Store in Guadalajara, Mexico,” said Alvarez. “This store won an award this year from A.R.E (Association of Retail Environments) 2009 Grand Prize and 2009 Visual Presentation Award for the ‘Oval Fabric Ceiling Elements.’ The uniqueness of this project was the Oval Fabric Ceilings and the 150x18-foot organically shaped canopies.”
As for what’s next, Alvarez sees five-meter dye-fabric graphics. “I believe that the fabric market will continue to grow as it offers brand marketers and designers are great palette of styles and effects.”
Bob Murray, president and owner of McRae Imaging, Mississauga, ON, Canada estimated that perhaps as much as 90 percent of trade show displays are fabric. “Well, maybe not 90 percent, but the majority of displays,” he clarified. “It’s become incredibly well accepted into the exhibit and trade show arena, and people like Moss with their hanging stretchers have really done a good job of introducing fabrics.”
Murray said larger display houses and bigger displays started adapting and adopting fabric instead of heavy panels because it reduces drayage, is easier and quicker to ship, and you can do wider widths on fabrics than you can do typically on sheets of things.”