By Cassandra Balentine
Silicone edge graphic (SEG) solutions are display systems that typically feature a fabric print and a sturdy, reusable frame. They get their name from the silicone edge beading sewn around the perimeter. SEG systems are made up of three prime components, frame extrusions—typically aluminum, corner keys and splices, and the graphic with silicone beading.
“Frame systems vary, but always have a channel for the silicone edge to fit into,” explains Natalie Whited, VP of marketing, Orbus Exhibit & Display Group.
While simple to use, SEG frames typically require a keder to connect the graphic and frame. The keder rope—which is often sold in long rolls—is sewn onto graphics. The frame features the other part of the keder—the rails, which are usually created from extruded PVC or another elastic material to enable flexibility. SEG frames are generally square or rectangular, but custom curved and angled frames are also available.
Print service providers (PSPs) can offer SEG systems as a bundle or kit, providing the frames and graphics that are easily changed out. It is an attractive setup because it enables repeat business opportunity for new graphics. While PSPs may choose to print these graphics themselves, several frame manufacturers also provide SEG printing services that can be resold by the PSP.
SEG systems are ideal for applications like poster frames for walls, small tabletop displays, and large exhibits. Primary benefits include reusability and longevity.
Above: Close up of keder installed in a Brite Frame SEG system.
All the Rage
The concept of SEG is trendy in itself; however additional advancements and distinctive features further the popularity.
Karen Gaconnier, director of sales and business development, Brite Frame Fabricators, points out that by design, SEG framing systems are support systems for textile graphics. “Customers look for a sturdy and accurate frame to hold sometimes massive graphics with enough accessories to provide the solutions needed for their projects.” She adds that the ability to quickly quote, effectively price, rapidly produce, and efficiently ship these products is of paramount importance to buyers.
Retailers want to stand out from the crowd as customers are constantly bombarded with printed and digital signage in retail environments. “We’ve become numb to cool displays,” says Chris Willetts, director of marketing, SEG Systems. “Only the unusual, disruptive displays grab attention these days. Knowing this, clients are looking for new ways to steal attention, or ways to accessorize existing frames and displays to increase their function and impact in a cost-effective manner.”
Atypical shapes are one way to generate attention. “One trend we see is more unique shapes, rather than just 90 degree angles. Customers are looking for softer corners, bends, and turning,” shares Tara Lamb, president, Global Imaging.
Tony Rubino, managing director, Verde Fastframe, also believes the SEG market is primed to offer various shapes and sizes. “Combining the flexibility of large format three dimensional (3D) printing along with SEG, large format 3D printed technology allows for endless creative possibilities. Now more than ever, retailers have the opportunity to display attention-grabbing SEG with unusual shapes and curves,” he offers.
Backlighting is incorporated into many fabric-based SEG display systems. This is attributed to the increased versatility of the graphics and materials. “Materials that help messaging and branding stand out are in high demand. Illuminated displays and display elements are also in demand because of the richness in color and how light enhances the vibrancy to demand attention. It is easy to replace a backlit graphic with a standard graphic and turn the lights off for a completely different branding experience,” explains Whited.
Jeffrey Rubin, president, Testrite Visual Products, adds that customers have found illuminated signage to be more engaging, generating attention for the message as well as adding ambiance to retail stores.
“Big, beautiful light boxes that draw people in are extremely popular. It’s the shock and wow that backlit SEG frames create,” agree Blake Fangel and Amber Rousselow, senior account managers, Xcel Products, Inc.
Animated backlit framing is a trendy option. According to Rubino, this allows the static image to look like there is movement in the graphic by highlighting certain image areas. The effect is accomplished by programming an animation sequence of the LED matrix, effectively turning individual LEDs on and off thereby giving an impression of movement.
Another trend is a floating look. To achieve this, Nick Dinunzio, director of business development, Alpina Manufacturing LLC, says the frame is stepped inward at the base when mounted on the wall. “This helps to create the appearance of floating off the wall.”
Rick Hatton, president, E. L. Hatton Sales Co., feels the most important trend in SEG is what he refers to as “democratization.” “For a decade, SEG was the province of only the largest, most sophisticated print houses. Now, with the advances in printing technology and media, every sign shop and digital printer can play,” he adds.
Lamb also sees many PSPs renting SEG products to customers for short-term applications, like trade shows, exhibits, and events. “They are able to pay for the frame within two to three rentals, bring them back, and keep renting them for a continued revenue stream of both frame rental and graphic production.”
One of the greatest assets SEG frames present is reusability, including both prints and frames. Graphics are swapped out and depending on the product, frames are reconfigured for a new look. While the fames are reusable, keder is not.
Hatton explains that an SEG frame is reusable in two senses. First, once the frame is installed in a location, the textile face may be swapped out continually to create new promotions or fresh looks. Secondly, the frame itself can be removed, disassembled, and reinstalled in a different location. “As long as the parts are not damaged, they can be reused.”
Gaconnier says the reusability facilitates a conversation regarding economics and sustainability with the buyer. “Prints as well as frames of the same size can be reused again and again. Once a frame or a light box is on location, subsequent prints are easily produced to fit those measurements.”
Customers are more likely to come back to you when the graphic needs to be printed. “To reuse the frame, a new fabric graphic is printed, and silicone keder is sewn in. The old graphic is removed, and the new graphic pushed into the frame’s SEG channel. Typically graphics include a pull tab to make removing an installed graphic very easy,” advises Rubin.
Willetts adds that once a frame layout is decided on the changing of graphics is completed at associate skill level and require no tools. “Once the frame is installed, graphic change outs take only a few minutes,” he confirms.
SEG frames are built to last and may be unassembled and reassembled many times. Even if a frame gets damaged, they are often made of aluminum, which can be repaired and polished.
“SEG frame technology is one of the most durable and long-lasting signage and display technologies on the market,” says Willetts. “Aluminum frames are environmentally stable and won’t warp, bend, or weather, but are subject to damage through neglect.”
Dinunzio adds that the aluminum used in the frames is similar to that used on aircrafts and is lightweight and very strong.
Jason Urso, marketing manager, Direct LED Frames, comments that the life of the frames is unlimited, as they are made out of anodized aluminum that does not rust. He says under normal operating temperatures, the LEDs and power supplies are designed to last over five years.
Whited shares that in addition to the frame, SEG are also very durable. “Although a graphic is included in the original purchase of the SEG frame system, additional or replacement graphics can be purchased and the graphic can be swapped out for different shows or events, making the system very versatile. If the frame is cared for and instructions are followed, it should last as long as needed by the customer.”
Further, SEG prints that get dirty are easily washed in a washing machine like regular laundry, shares Dinunzio.
“The beauty of a fabric graphic panel is that in the event it gets dirty, the fabric can be thrown in the wash and continue to be used for years to come,” agrees Rubino.
While reusability and longevity are expected of SEG frames and graphics, it is not guaranteed for either if not properly maintained. There are several ways to get the most out of an SEG.
“In theory, the number of reuses of the frame is unlimited, however the durability of an SEG is highly dependent on the print method used to create it,” suggests Hatton. He offers pros and cons of various fabric printing processes, noting that the most durable method is dye-sublimation (dye-sub) printing—direct print or transfer—because with this process the color is infused into the structure of the textile as opposed to laying on top of it. The downside to this method is the requirement of a heat press to set the image. He adds that latex is another good option, as it provides excellent color and durability with a direct print method. Eco-solvent prints are durable but the range of compatible media is limited. He points out that UV prints do not withstand the folding and stretching that SEG installation involves as well as the other methods.
Gaconnier feels different prints require different levels of care. “Dye-sub prints can be machine washed. Other prints like UV may have to be handled a little more carefully but textile prints can usually be spot cleaned and steamed or ironed to minimize any wrinkles that appear once the graphic is stretched onto the SEG frame or light box. Wrinkles are usually not a problem. Proper handling with clean hands during the install is very important.”
In addition to the print method used, care and maintenance can go a long way. Whited suggests backlit fabrics should be loosely folded with bubble wrap or stored around a tube to avoid cracks in the ink or having to steam the graphics.
“If a graphic is constantly mishandled or cleaned with harsh chemicals, the lifespan will be significantly reduced. At SEG Systems, we recommend rolling or gently folding graphics when storing them, as well as using a gentle cleanser or magic eraser to erase any smudges,” shares Willetts.
Gaconnier points out that for backlit graphics it is imperative for printers to use textiles that are specifically made for backlighting. These have additional diffusion layers or coatings that play a big part in the quality of the illumination.
Whited also suggests removing the graphic before breaking down the frame, following proper care instructions to avoid creases, and packing it properly for shipping. “The graphic for the SEG system should be removed when the display is broken down and packaged carefully to avoid creases, tears, and damage. When properly maintained, there should be no need for additional beading to be applied to a pre-existing graphic,” she says.
Rubin suggests minimizing exposure to direct sunlight to extend the life of an SEG, as well as elevating graphics off the floor. “Many SEG systems can be cleaned if they do become dirty. However, we recommend consulting the manufacturer of your graphics for cleaning instructions appropriate to the graphic media, which can differ.”
Urso says to get the most life out of a graphic first know where the graphic will display and if it is lit or non-lit. He recommends that if it’s going to be in direct sunlight to print with UV inks. For trade show graphics, a dye-sub print on a triple white material is ideal.
It also makes sense to purchase a frame with dimensions of reusable value. “In doing so, you can continuously change your fabric panel leaving the impression that it’s an entirely new frame, without the extra cost of purchasing another one,” recommends Rubino.
Dinunzio believes that one way to ensure graphic longevity is to print on good quality fabric and use quality keder.
Attractive and Reusable
SEG systems boast several benefits for customers and print providers. Not only are they attractive and reusable, making them an in-demand service offering, they facilitate repeat business.
“It has never been easier to make SEG. They are beautiful and profitable. Now is the time to jump in,” admits Hatton.
For those hesitant to print the graphics themselves, many frame suppliers also provide services to make it a no- or low-risk decision to start offering them.
Oct2019, Digital Output