By Cassandra Balentine
Silicone edge graphics (SEG) are a trendy and efficient display option, well suited for retail, trade show, and event marketing. Fabric manufacturers and distributors continue to create materials that support SEG, incorporating features like stretch and recyclability.
Above: UFabrik Soft Backlit Textile is a 100 percent woven polyester designed for backlit applications.
For fabrics utilized in SEG, the most predominate requirement is stretch, followed by opacity, and sometimes sustainability.
“The best SEG fabrics will feature stretch, opacity, good white point, and for retailers—recyclable fabrics,” states Ken Bach, business development director, CleanRTex, by Aberdeen Fabrics.
“Stretch is an important feature of SEG fabric because it must have just enough, and not too much, to give a tight fit in the framing system, while also maintaining a clearly visible printed image,” comments Sharon Roland, director of marketing, Fisher Textiles.
She adds that a tight fit is key in keeping the desired aesthetic of the frame, with crisp, clean lines. “Loose or ill-fitting fabric does not have the same effect.”
Steve Weiss, NA sales manager – sign, Serge Ferrari, agrees, noting that when it comes to SEG, features like stretch for ease of installation are essential. “Uniform shrink and stretch allows the printer to create the graphic to the correct end-use size. Furthermore, most professional printers now fit a graphic to the frame prior to sending the graphic out, which is important for an easy installation.”
Opacity is another feature to consider. “The fabric needs to have just enough opacity to not be able to see the frame through it. For backlit SEG especially there must be no pinholes or hot spots, where the light shows through,” shares Roland.
Wrinkle-resistance is important to ensure graphics can fold and ship in a box, versus on a roll to save on shipping costs, she adds.
Additionally, environmental demands play a role in customer requests. SEGs are known to be easy to change out, which Nova Abbott, head of marketing, Kavalan, says is even more impetus for switching to a sustainable textile solution. “Such high turnover of materials means more strain on the environment.”
Where to Spot SEG
SEG displays are known for versatility in terms of easy installation and low shipping costs. This makes them a popular option with retailers, from big box stores to restaurants, but the opportunities don’t end there.
Bach says SEG is used by anyone using backlit displays, as well as some trade show displays.
Following the pandemic, the return of events and conferences mean SEG continues to see a resurgence, adds Abbott.
“SEG continues to be very popular in the retail space. With competition always increasing, SEG provides a quick, easy, and impactful way to change out promotions and campaigns, which can be carried out by store employees rather than professional installers thanks to their user-friendly nature,” offers Abbott.
However, the potential does not end with retail and events. Abbott sees a growing opportunity in the hospitality space, including hotels and restaurants, where SEG are a great way to foster a connection between the visitor and the brand and offer an easy way to add a “wow” factor. “As choosing a sustainable and environmentally responsible product or service becomes increasingly important to consumers, using a ‘greener’ textile solution for SEG hospitality displays can be a strong differentiator,” he offers.
While retail and exhibitions are primarily where SEG displays are used, Michael Crook, business development director, UFabrik says “stretch frames are starting to be utilized in commercial interiors for elements such as single-piece wall graphics.”
Weiss says retail/point of sale (POS), trade shows, décor, and just about anywhere graphic advertising and branding are needed, SEG displays provide an excellent option. “The versatility, functionality, and customization make SEG the single most widely used textile system in the marketplace.”
Roland points out that trade show booths continue to be the number one source for SEG, although retail stores, sporting events, concerts, banks, hospitals, car dealerships, as well as airports all are catching on to this trend.
SEG fabrics continue to evolve with advancements in textile manufacturing and the need to meet demands related to things like sustainability.
CleanRTex by Aberdeen Fabrics offers Aberdeen 6653+R100, which is made from 100 percent recycled yarn and according to the company the only graphic fabric manufactured without producing waste water thus not adding microplastics into the environment. Aberdeen manufactures its fabrics under the CleanRTex process, which according to Bach, is the most environmentally friendly process in the industry. “This fabric has the stretch needed for easy installations of SEG and is high opacity to block out the frame.”
Bach says the product was developed by the request of its customer’s customer, especially for retail displays. “Retailers request green products that look good in their stores while being easy to install.”
Fisher Textiles’ newest SEG fabric is ET8050 Super Sonic Backlit, made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled polyester. It contains 48.7 recycled PET bottles (500ml) per linear yard and is a soft, sueded knit fabric that produces excellent vibrancy of print, amplified when backlit. The fabric weighs 7.7 ounce/square yard, is stocked 126 inches wide, and is flame retardant (NFPA 701).
“This product was developed last Fall in response to the increased demand for sustainable print media,” offers Roland.
Abbott believes that Kavalan Moonlight River is a “revolutionary replacement textile signage banner that eliminates the dyeing and washing process, thereby reducing its overall freshwater usage by 67 percent.”
The high-quality, flexible material is well suited to both backlit and non-backlit SEG displays.
Abbott points out that textile manufacturing is a highly water-intensive process. “The motivation to develop Kavalan Moonlight River in 2018 was the need to address textile production’s impact amid an impending global water crisis—more than one billion people are currently without access to freshwater and known reserves of freshwater sources such as underground aquifers, rivers, and lakes will start to disappear by 2040.”
As with Kavalan’s full range of PVC-free banner solutions, Moonlight River matches traditional banners’ quality, durability, and performance, while being better for the future of the environment.
Serge Ferrari recently re-engineered its Seemee Select Blackback Premium to achieve an eight percent stretch. This change is designed to make it an easy to install blackback. Weiss says it is now the third highest-run fabric in the industry. “This fabric provides several improvements to traditional blackback print fabrics, including a whiter print surface and better scratch resistance on the black backside. It also provides excellent color rendering for dye-sublimation (dye-sub), UV, and latex prints,” shares Weiss.
New in 2023 is a re-engineered Greyback, a sister product to Serge Ferrari’s blackback as a blockout without a back coating.
Weiss says these products were developed as the company understands that to maintain a leadership role as a manufacturer of fabrics, remaining strong in SEG fabrics for both frontlit and backlit is necessary.
“We started with soft and heavy knits as well as stretch and then developed our backlit for direct UV, direct dye-sub B4400, and transfer dye-sub B4420, which gives the customer added stretch for ease of installation. We then developed our 3.2- and five-meter Seemee Select Zumba, a widely used five-meter backlit seen in airports, retail malls, and major global events such as the Superbowl.”
The company listened to the market and feedback from its customers to guide its research and development efforts. “Stretch in Seemee Select Zumba and Seemee Select Blackback Premium were added as they’re critical to North America’s largest printers and installers,” says Weiss.
UFabrik Backlit ECO Textile is produced from 100 percent recycled PET plastic bottle waste. Combined with traditional flame protection certifications, it is also REACH, Global Recycled Standard certified, and complies with California Proposition 65.
SEG remains a popular and effective display option. Its primary benefits include its propensity for easy install and change out. Due to the fabrics utilized in the process, they are also lightweight and cost effective to ship and travel with. Stretch, opacity, and increasingly, sustainability are core features end users are looking for out of SEG textiles.
Oct2023, Digital Output