Opportunities with Backlit Signage and SEG
Technology moves fast in the world of print. As components and processes improve, inevitably applications become easier for print service providers (PSPs) to offer and become easier for the vertical markets that they serve to utilize an effective, affordable, and impactful graphics solution. In recent years, opportunities in backlit signage and silicon edge graphics (SEG) have exploded due to advancements in the necessary inks, equipment, and substrates and increasing creativity applications for the format. Is this upward trajectory set to continue?
Danielle Yuthas, VP of marketing, SpeedPro, certainly thinks so. “Clients are investing in the ‘wow’ factor, and SEG frames are a great way to achieve that. All soft signage is in high demand at the moment, but we have seen more movement toward backlit graphics,” explains Yuthas.
Looking at some of the benefits in the backlit signage and SEG space, the most obvious is the striking visuals. Backlit soft signage and SEG applications — both backlit and non-backlit — can make for a dramatic experience. Mike Horsten, MD, ZEMT Consultancy, proposes that SEGs and textile graphics offer “brilliant colors that are still better than any other technology on the market today.”
Beyond the aesthetic advantages, SEGs are among the most installation-friendly options in the signage space. “Installing SEGs is so much easier. You don’t need a specialized team of installers. It’s so simple to just pop things in and pull things out,” says Lily Hunter, senior product manager of eCommerce and supplies, Roland DGA. In increasingly fast-paced retail environments, the ability to switch up a display if there is a new promotion or campaign, or simply to ensure the interior stays fresh, is a big draw. “The retail worker or hospitality worker are able to install it, remove it, and replace it so easily and quickly. If it’s a dye-sublimated product, they can also wash it and refresh it.”
Similary, Yuthas adds, “All retail personnel can install SEG fabric with little to no experience.”
These soft signage solutions are also easy to store. They are lightweight, so they are easy to carry, install, and ship, and they also offer sustainable advantages, an increasing focus for businesses in retail or hospitality. “The use of PVC-free films, and greener materials mean that these media and fabrics that are great for serving as backlit signage for the purpose of advertisement and decoration, but also show that responsibility to the environment,” explains Hunter.
Horsten adds: “People are getting more environmentally conscious, looking at eco or green products is crucial. Textiles in general, if you look at those kinds of products, they are recyclable, they are easier to handle, and they’re less wasteful.”
There’s Opportunity. But What Now?
So, what do PSPs need to take advantage of the ample opportunities with backlit and SEG signage? If you’re already working with the equipment needed, entry into the market is fairly simple. “SEG frames are turn-key, eliminating the need for additional equipment and personnel,” says Yuthas. “If you’d like to print the dye-sublimation fabric in-house, as long as you have a dye-sub printer and heat press, traditional large-format production teams can easily handle the introduction of fabric.”
However, it’s important to do your homework. Yuthas adds: “There is a learning curve because most fabrics shrink during the sublimation process. When sublimating fabric, it is subjected to 450 degrees and high pressure, which causes it to shrink up to 1-2%, in width and/or height. To complicate matters, some fabric stretches and some do not. You have to learn about the fabric that you are printing and try to maintain consistency of those products through the supply chain.”
Hunter echoes this position; the barriers to entry are lower than ever, but you must know what you’re doing. “If you’re used to printing banners and suddenly, you have to slow down and print backlit signage on media that might be more expensive and maybe not as forgiving, because every flaw shows when it’s backlit — it can be daunting. However, nowadays there are so many media options that are easier to work with for backlit. So, it’s an opportunity where, as long as these print service providers know the types of media available for different applications, then it’s easy to start utilizing and offering them.”
Dye-sublimation doesn’t need to be the only avenue, Hunter explains: “There are opportunities for different types of backlit signage. If you’re a PSP with an eco-solvent printer, or you are only familiar with eco-solvent, you can still produce backlit signs.” She also outlines the importance of the right ink set, continuing: “One of the main things that sets the TrueVIS printer apart is the ink itself. Users can add orange and green to the standard configuration for that extra pop. If you’re printing different corporate or brand colors, having that extended gamut really helps. A lot of products can look fine printed where it’s front lit, but when that light goes on backlit signage, you need that ink density to avoid a washed out look, and that’s where our high density TR2 inks are advantageous.”
While the retail industry and trade shows spring to mind when we think of backlit and SEG signage, there are a range of possibilities in the hospitality space, some already out there grabbing the attention of restaurant diners, hotel guests, or theater goers, many just waiting to be discovered and implemented. Hunter comments: “It can even be part of the artwork. You could have beautiful artwork behind a hotel check-in desk for example, or you could incorporate a backlit signage as an artwork that displays the brand, creating that sense of emotion, creating a welcoming and exciting environment. There are definitely a lot of industries that can benefit beyond retail for that attention-grabbing feature.”
Horsten agrees that the applications beyond retail are where the creative opportunities lie: “Let’s be honest, the retail side of SEG is milked — the cow is empty. There’s not much more to come up with! You have the wallcoverings. You have the product information. It’s pretty much done. You can start putting it into car showrooms and dealerships for example, and there are huge opportunities with hotels. Think about a hotel chain where you can do all kinds of things into the rooms for them to make them unique.”
Horsten also believes that the blurring of segment lines, particularly when it comes to interior decoration, will be another boost for backlit graphics and SEGs — if they have the creative nous, that is. He explains: “SEGs and textiles in general, will merge into interior decoration type products. We will see these bespoke solutions in our homes and offices, and the winners in this space will be the people that are creative and come up with applications that nobody else has — the magic of print is the application.”
Karis Copp is a U.K.-based journalist and communications specialist. With a background as a writer and editor in the print industry, she writes about print and technology news and trends, reports on industry events, and works with businesses to help them tell their stories and connect with their customers. Follow her on Twitter @KarisCoppMedia.