If you have been to an airport, convention center, shopping mall or retail location in the past couple of years, you may have seen a fast-growing form of fabric display: silicone-edge graphics (SEG). SEG has become popular because it is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to install fabric signage.
Here’s how it works. You print a graphic on fabric, then sew a thin, silicone strip — called, variously, a keder, welt or gasket — around the edge of the graphic, using manual or automatic sewing equipment. The gasket then fits into a groove in a thin aluminium frame. The graphic is thus pulled taut and from a distance it closely resembled rigid graphics. It has become popular for busy public locations — like airports — since an added benefit is that it also absorbs sound.
The secret to installing high-quality SEG is making sure the graphic precisely fits the frame. “Taking precise graphic measurements is of critical importance when print service providers finish backlit graphics with a sewn silicone edge for a tight, uniform fit in frame systems,” says Michael Compton, Product Marketing Manager for Top Value Fabrics (Booth 2155). “This eliminates possible issues with sagging and bunching of the graphic on the edges where the graphic is snapped into the frame.” Compton will be presenting an educational session called “Selecting and Printing Backlit Fabrics” today from 9 to 10:15 am, in Room 333.
Once you have a template (there are SEG kits available which include frames in standard sizes), it’s very easy to print additional graphics to the correct size, pop the old graphic out and snap the new one in place. The ease of SEG eliminates the need for professional installation, as the printer — or even the customer — can install or replace a graphic in, potentially, seconds. LEDs or other lights can be placed around the edge or behind the frame to create backlit fabric displays. SEG displays can also be disassembled and reused for traveling displays, such as trade show graphics.
There are some caveats to working with SEG, particularly with regard to fabric type. Specifically, a fabric that has a certain degree of stretchiness is imperative to allow it to be pulled tightly enough on the frame. Unstretchable fabrics may fit poorly on the frame and start to sag, particularly after multiple uses.
“For SEG sewing, choosing a backlit fabric with dimensional stability is critical in the finishing of backlit graphics,” says Compton. Part of the presentation will include best practices for choosing SEG sewing equipment.
With SEG, you are also not limited to square or rectangular graphics. Some SEG frames are circular, which can help create even more unique and eye-catching displays.