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3D shapes present growth opportunity for graphics market

Graphics | January 1, 2008 | By:

The days of rigid trade show signs proclaiming “Welcome to our booth” are long gone. Exhibitors, retailers, and designers are moving quickly to eye-catching, show-stopping, three-dimensional structural displays covered with printed fabric. “Printed fabrics can take as many different shapes as you can imagine,” reports Mike Rigby, director of operations and product development at Poster Garden in Portland, Ore. “The sky’s the limit.”

Matt Rawdon, vice president of marketing, Transformit, Gorham, Maine, sees a definite growth opportunity in graphics on sculptural shapes. “For people who are trying to make a serious impact with fabric structures, it’s now within reason to apply graphics over a large area,” Rawdon says. “That was not the case a few years ago.”

As the use of dimensional displays expands, designers, printers, and fabric manufacturers are addressing challenges faced when graphics are stretched across a frame structure. “When you get into sculptural shapes it becomes problematic because graphics on stretch fabrics get distorted,” Rawdon explains. “We have to anticipate the distortion and work back from it. Rigid fabrics have less distortion, so we use them for critical messaging. With complex shapes, we have had very good results with graphics that are more environmental, or textural.”

Scott Fisher, vice president and owner of Fisher Textiles, Indian Trail, N.C., recommends matching the fabric with the curve of the display. “There are two kinds of stretch in fabric, engineered and mechanical,” Fisher explains. “Mechanical is simply taking a fabric and putting tension on both ends. Engineered stretch introduces stretched yarns into the product. Ideally most people want the fabric to stretch equally in each direction. They want a perfect four-way stretch so when they print the logo and stretch it they don’t turn a circle into an oval.”

Poster Garden is developing tools to help clients address the issue. “Stretching fabric over a frame is always a little bit unpredictable in terms of where the graphic is going to end up on the finished piece,” Rigby says. “We help our clients with templates so they can design to that shape.”

Rigby isn’t worried about obstacles. “We’re finding with fabric and tensioned shapes people are more willing to spend more money to get that look,” he says. “It allows the customer to create a more elaborate booth and that means more business for us.”

Lou Dzierzak is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Fabric Graphics.

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