By Cassandra Balentine
Part 1 of 2
Silicone edge graphics (SEG) provide a high-quality display solution. These systems are designed to incorporate stunning fabric graphics with a framing system that predominately features the image without the interference of a display unit.
Print service providers see increased demand for SEG, and therefore offer them for a range of purposes. Founded in 1986, PhotoWorksGroup is a 17-employee, full-service graphic production company located in a 15,000 square foot facility in Charlottesville, VA. Its core capabilities include dye-sublimation (dye-sub) fabric printing, direct to substrate printing, inkjet printing, photo lightjet printing, giclée fine art reproduction, design and file management, prefabrication consulting, and a range of display and exhibit solutions.
To perform these functions, the shop continues to invest in printing and finishing equipment. Currently, it runs a Mimaki USA, Inc. JV3 solvent printer, as well as a Roland DGA Corporation printer used for dye-sub work. It also employs a LightJet photo printer.
Last Fall, the company invested in a Zünd G3 XL digital cutter, which Geoffrey Kilmer, president, PhotoWorksGroup, says has made a big impact on its shop. It features a 5×10-foot bed and is able to cut fabric up to 10×50 feet, which is the size of the largest panel the shop has ever needed to produce. Since fabric printing is a growing part of the business, the shop also invested in an Impulsa sewing machine system—distributed in North America by Global Imaging, Inc.—that enables efficient and automated sewing.
Additionally, the company looks to expand into latex, and has its eye on a Hewlett-Packard Latex 360 printer, a large format printer featuring an eight-inch touch screen and a 64-inch roll width. “From what I’ve seen, it’s very versatile, you can print to fabric and vinyl. The latex ink is designed to stretch better than solvent, helpful when you’re installing vinyl graphics over compound curves, and the color saturation is very good,” he offers.
A Better Display
SEG frames are one area of expertise for PhotoWorksGroup. Kilmer points out the growing popularity, “It’s a smart system that caught on in a big way in the U.S.,” he says of SEG applications. The company celebrates six years working with dye-sub, and is invested in the future of fabric-based applications, such as SEG.
He says SEG is a generic term describing the system, which features a silicone gasket sewn into the perimeter edge on all four sides of a graphic printed on fabric. “The first flat gasket that came out was a silicone rubber, and more manufacturers have since gotten into the mix producing the gasket from a PVC vinyl as well,” he offers.
The framing, which Kilmer describes as aluminum extrusion, features channels that enable the gasket to fit in with ease. The system set up results in a dominant graphic and concealed frame. “The miter-cut frames provide a thin line that goes onto the wall; it almost looks frameless for free standing, double-sided exhibits. The fabric graphics are non-reflective and ideal for trade shows, point of purchase, museums, and sports facilities,” he says.
For its SEG work, PhotoWorksGroup relies on the FabEze framing system, which is the company’s custom designed aluminum extrusion for accepting SEG.
The graphics are created using dye-sub inks on the Roland. They are printed to transfer paper, which is then transferred to the fabric using a Practix Mfg. calendar heat press. Kilmer says for dye-sub, they transfer at 400 degrees to polyester.
The shop purchases its polyester fabric from a variety of distributors based on the need, including Aberdeen Fabrics, Inc., Dazian, and Fisher Textiles. “Heavy knit, stretch, sheer, mesh—we use all kinds of different weights and characteristic based on the application. For example, we use mesh for temporary outdoor banners. We find that they show well and don’t carry as much wind load. For office dividers we use sheer fabric, which sometimes we will layer in front of poplin for a cool effect,” says Kilmer.
Backlit SEG is also gaining popularity. “It is really catching on and replacing the old standard, which was Duratrans or Fujitrans. Backlit SEG are easier to handle, they don’t scratch, and are non-reflective so you don’t get an unsightly glare,” he says. “Typically they are lit with LED light sources, and some of them are grid systems that go across the back, while some are perimeter lights. It is a very effective system for backlighting graphics, and you can ship the entire display in a tube for easy installation.”
PhotoWorksGroup offers SEG services for a range of environments. Kilmer points to a recent application created for the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington D.C. He says airport graphics are one of its most popular industries, and the space often requires many large graphics.
He finds that fabric-based SEG systems are replacing traditional signage in this industry for a number of reasons. “It’s more cost effective, it’s easy to install, and you can reuse the frame—almost anyone can take it out and put another graphic back in,” says Kilmer. He says the airport was used as a test market for the durability of the graphics and they have performed well. “People lean against the graphics and scrape their suitcases along the surface. You can print on particular knit fabrics that are very resistant to damage,” he comments.
In addition to providing the graphics, PhotoWorksGroup generally handles install, especially for larger systems. “We install much of what we produce, especially if it is a permanent display.”
Prepped for Growth
PhotoWorksGroup is poised and ready for future growth. The company is well versed in a variety of offerings, and is excited about the potential for SEG and other fabric applications. “I would say we’re on a growth path,” says Kilmer. “The economy is turning around and we foresee more business, and without the investments we’ve made in automated finishing, we wouldn’t be able to keep up.”
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Jun2015, Digital Output DOSEG1506