By Cassandra Balentine
Display graphics are essential across a wide breadth of industries. Silicone edge graphics (SEG) provide a high-impact, professional, and easy-to-use presentation system.
For those unfamiliar, David Nanamaker, national sales manager, Expand, likens SEG displays to picture frames fitted with dye-sublimated (dye-sub) fabric that’s easily interchangeable and gives viewers a clean, professionally looking display. “The fabric print looks fantastic and stands out far above any vinyl or paper print.”
SEG graphics and displays are used in a variety of environments, including retail, corporate interiors, and in-person events. “SEG displays provide the perfect solution to showcase and elevate your brand, offering a durable, yet lightweight option,” offers Natalie Whited, VP of marketing, Orbus Exhibit & Display Group.
Above: Orbus offers a number of SEG products.
Advantages of SEG
SEG presents several benefits for displaying graphics. Cost effectiveness, ease of use—both in terms of initial installation and change outs, and versatility are among the top advantages.
“Cost savings is a key benefit of using SEG as you can reuse the graphic for multiple events, ship relatively inexpensively, and store them without taking up too much warehouse space,” says Tara Ericson, CEO, beMatrix USA.
Displays can be shipped compact and assembled on site, often in a matter of minutes. “This is especially true of the printed textile faces, which can be folded up and shipped in an envelope at a fraction of the cost of rigid signs. With SEG-based advertising campaigns, national advertisers can ship, install, and launch new programs in a shorter time and lower cost. Even a store manager can install replacement prints,” shares Rick Hatton, business development manager, sign and graphics, Budnick Converting, Inc.
Portability also comes into play. In fact, Steve LaMarsh, director of business development, Display Source Inc., points out that the displays can also serve as a barrier to section off a large room. They provide enhanced environmental benefits to places like hotels, restaurants, and other meeting spaces by including options to reduce noise. “By supplementing SEG systems with sound reducing acoustic panels, even more tangible sound abatement can be realized—all while beautifying the area.”
From a “green” perspective, Brian Ebenger, VP of business development, Xcel Products, Inc., adds that most materials are PVC free and reusable. “Once the SEG frame is built, replacement fabrics can easily be printed without having to change out the complete display, lessening the amount of waste compared to a traditional display,” he shares.
The appearance of SEG is appealing. “The main reason people use SEG displays is because they look great. Textile prints yield vibrant colors with dye-sub, latex, and even eco-solvent and UV printing technologies,” notes Hatton.
SEG provides the capability to produce very large, seamless pieces in 2D or 3D and are easily illuminated. “The softer fabric appearance of SEG displays enable a more elegant display/statement compared to flat paper or printed plastics,” comments Nick Dinunzio, director of business development/sales, Alpina Manufacturing, LLC.
LaMarsh says SEG offers beautiful, high-resolution prints using no-glare fabrics that ensure wrinkle-, curl-, and peel-free displays that last a long time.
SEG is widely available to the U.S. market. “You’ll find SEG displays in virtually every public space today. Fabric has gone mainstream in the visual display business,” comments LaMarsh.
Systems range in size from large back wall to small poster sizes as well as backlit displays. “SEG frames are customizable and can be produced in custom sizes and shapes,” says Whited.
SEG display systems stand out and help create a significant impact, no matter the environment they are in, believes Ryan McCartney, strategic account manager, Showdown Displays.
The Down Side
While there are many benefits of SEG, challenges exist.
Even with an easy install, some find it hard to properly insert SEG into the aluminum channel. “A tight fabric is harder to install, but it stretches out wrinkles and looks great. A looser fabric is a little easier to install but can wrinkle. To avoid this, Expand typically sells pillowcase or Velcro fabrics for its hardware, which are easily installed,” explains Nanamaker.
“Although we try and make the directions as simple as possible, building the frame systems can be a challenge to some. If you are not familiar with an allen wrench, or you have a larger job that requires multiple people, I would consider hiring a third-party group to help with assembly,” suggests McCartney.
LaMarsh sees some room for better education, especially for suppliers that may be reluctant to enter the market due to a past failure with fabrics and sewn displays. “Fit issues early on caused buyer’s remorse for some dealers learning to work with SEG. Training and work aids have come a long way in the past ten to 12 years.”
SEG is also not one size fits all. “SEG offers quality color, but is not typically ideal for fine art, photographic prints,” cautions Ebenger.
Size, shape, and width limitations also come into play. For example, LaMarsh points out some frames are somewhat limited to shapes other than squares and rectangles.
Because many printers are in the ten-foot wide range in terms of printing capability, graphics may need to be seamed together to make a larger display. “In some instances, prices to print and finish may be higher than hard substrate solutions,” shares Mike Morrison, national sales director, WS Display.
A large graphic could potentially sag in long horizontal pieces. Jordan Hueth, Southwest regional territory sales representative, Global Imaging, Inc., says this is avoidable with the correct supports, which can be achieved by consulting from a qualified, experienced frame supplier.
Durability is another consideration, SEG frames are generally used indoors as the prints and frames are not intended to withstand harsh weather conditions.
Dinunzio comments that while SEG can be utilized outdoors, the material used should be made for UV exposure and wet environments so it will not deteriorate outside.
Ericson admits the initial purchase costs can be high. “This initial investment is offset due to the reusability of SEG displays, providing a greater return on investment.”
SEG frames were trending prior to COVID-19 lockdowns. Because many of these displays are placed in heavy foot traffic areas, the lockdowns and restrictions hit a lot of SEG’s prime clientele.
“However, just like the economy, the demand for and resulting investment in retail and in-person experience has bounced back dramatically in 2022,” shares Hatton.
Morrison says the market has exploded in 2022 as trade shows and live events come back strong. “Despite inflation challenges, the fact that hardware can be purchased one time and graphics changed easily and when necessary is driving the popularity of SEG. There was a noticeable decrease of SEG sales in 2020 and parts of 2021, but the market is strong. Barring any more issues, the trend should continue to stay strong and increase into 2023,” he predicts.
While demand for SEG displays may have came to a halt for the exhibit and retail industry due to COVID-19, Ebenger saw increased interest in other areas due to the simplicity of install.
During the height of the pandemic, Whited noted a decline in popularity of SEG displays in the traditional in-person event and trade show environments. However, she saw an increase in SEG light boxes and frames in retail. “Due to their versatility, SEG display use shifted to retail environments and corporate interiors for added branding and messaging.”
Like many other products and industries, Dinunzio feels that the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to alternative uses for SEG displays. “Freestanding SEG displays were configured to be utilized as wall partitions in many settings like salons and gyms. Also, conventional wall mount SEG displays/frames were used to inform people of social distancing recommendations and for wayfinding signage at COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites,” he argues.
“The popularity of SEG has only continued to grow post-pandemic due to the fact that it can easily be cleaned, sanitized, and reused from one event to the next,” agrees Ericson.
“Prior to COVID-19, SEG was primarily thought of as a framing system for event signage, but during the pandemic SEG demand and use cases exploded,” comments Hueth. “Fabric graphics can be washed and disinfected. SEG frames can also be used to frame rigid materials such as clear acrylic, which can also be disinfected. SEG framing has become a standard for barriers in public places, office spaces, countertops, and temporary structures such as testing sites.”
The popularity of SEG took some hits during initial COVID-19 lockdowns. However, new uses emerged as result.
“I believe SEG is more popular today compared to pre-pandemic,” states Ebenger. “From a cosmetic perspective, SEG is equal to or superior to any traditional display. But with the simplicity of shipping, handling, and installation, more companies seem to be moving toward SEG. Additionally, traditional displays that include rigid products that have had extreme shortages due to lack of resins are pushing some companies to look for alternatives.”
Whited says, “with the return of face-to-face events and a return to normalcy for many businesses, SEG displays are in high demand from clients that serve all industries for all types of uses—not just live events, but for healthcare, pharmaceutical, retail, and education.”
“There seems to be more awareness for SEG as the market comes back for shows and events and a pick up in retail activity as people are looking for a cost-effective and easy way to execute their display campaigns,” shares Morrison.
Dinunzio says the softer, cloth-like display is eye catching and stands out. “With the return to in-store shopping the appeal in the retail setting appears as strong as ever. Furthermore, with many companies beginning to welcome employees back to the office, SEG displays/frames are a popular option for corporate interior décor graphics.”
The popularity of SEG displays has remained strong throughout the last three years, notes LaMarsh. Print providers and exhibit builders expand into other markets using their expertise to bring life into many spaces previously neglected. “Branding, team messaging, inspirational images, and social media backgrounds are all ways for grand format visuals to be successful. Fabric using SEG frames is the perfect, economical solution,” shares LaMarsh.
“Trade shows are back, which is great, and although it seems exhibitors may not be going with the large elaborate booths you saw in previous years, they still want their booth space to stand out,” suggests McCartney. Additionally, he says retail stores need something to effectively catch the eye of a consumer walking by to relay a new product or sale. “SEG display systems accomplish that while remaining economical.”
SEG is lightweight, easy to install and change, vibrant, and brings in recurring revenue for print shops.
“Since SEG entered the market over a decade ago it has retained the same primary advantages,” says Hueth.
COVID-19 lockdowns presented a challenge for these graphics at the beginning, but they emerged stronger than ever—finding new uses and building on the old.
Learn more about SEG displays at digitaloutput.net/webinars and view an archived broadcast.
Oct2022, Digital Output