Q. What are the most recent trends in the fabric graphics market, as related to the wide-format field?
Bernard—Visiting the SGIA trade show in October I was amazed. There were fabrics everywhere. I have never seen so many inkjet printers printing on fabrics, exhibit systems for fabrics, and so many suppliers of fabrics. The range of available fabrics suitable for digital printing has expanded exponentially.
Many of the new fabrics are aimed at the interior decor or even apparel market (the range offered by Verseidag even includes silver and gold metallic fabrics). This is a very promising new market for digital wide-format printing, but will require marketing to interior designers and fashion designers.
Crestin and Woods—Exhibit houses are using fabric graphics a lot for their customers. In terms of architecture, it provides new possibilities. It also answers two main concerns from the end-users: reducing overall costs and becoming greener.
Retail professionals are using more fabric graphics. It can be used as a picture for advertising, but also as an element aimed at creating an atmosphere such as a false ceiling made with stretched fabric. Textile graphic also allows end users to play with lighting, as we see very often on staging projects.
Schmitt—From the market standpoint, our customers are increasingly taking applications that are historically based on rigid panels and infusing fabric. Many of the large aluminum structures that had rigid Sintra panels are now being produced with fabric. Aluminum suppliers are producing special profiles to incorporate fabric and this is completely changing the Trade Show industry.
From the technology side, the big trend is direct to fabric. Historically, digitally printed fabric was done is two steps and now the printers are being made to eliminate a step and print direct to the fabric.
Richard Beck, Catalyst Exhibits—As wide-format is big, bold and sends a message, we also prefer to look at the details, the small workings of fabric and print. Try to understand how fabric and graphics will work with the different lighting in the environment it will be displayed—do we go with a trendy metallic fabric, will it be opaque or should it be shear? Mounting or hanging of fabric creates a detail. Fabric can wrap around an interior structure as easily as it can be tensioned from an external mount.
Kozar—The tradeshow industry is constantly pushing the limits of fabric. Large fabric tension structures with pillowcase graphics are very popular and continuing to grow. Backlit fabrics are becoming more popular and can be used in very unique ways to accentuate the fabric. Larger graphic sizes are now possible with fabric due to its light weight and ability to fold up and ship with smaller dimensions.
Q. Can you talk about a specific project that you are working on where using fabric was the key reason to go ahead with the project?
Bernard—We are working on an exhibit system project utilizing fabrics, but I can't release specifics as yet. I can, however, say that as a dealer for Duo display systems, we have started promoting their Duo.mercure exhibit systems that uses fabrics for all the graphics.
Beck—We just completed RSNA in first week of December 2008. Our client wanted to showcase new products and requested an impact area for their "Launch of New Products." They determined that it would mainly be a corporate color with minimal images and very large. The Design Team researched different materials to give the structure a shimmery glow. The size was also an opportunity, as the production team researched construction methods that would allow a realistic installation time and engineered to meet all safety requirements. The project solution was fabric.
Kozar—We have gained a significant amount of business by offering fabric graphics. Dye-sublimated fabrics represent the fastest growing portion of our business and we use textiles with virtually all of our displays such as backdrops, banner stands, truss graphics and aluminum structures.