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Seaming: Not As Hard As It Seems

Tired of sending your banners out so some one else can profit from the seaming? Now you don’t have to.

By Jennifer LeClaire

In part one of this three-part series we take a look at the advantages, disadvantages, and practical points of using banner tape as a seaming mechanism.

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  • Are you tired of outsourcing your seaming to a third-party and watching them collect profits that could be yours? Does it put you in a time crunch to send the project out and wait at the mercy of the vendor to return it on time and on budget?

    The good news is you can accomplish this task in-house, and often for a lot less than it would cost you to outsource. Indeed, sign industry experts say you can ­ and should ­ consider do-it-yourself seaming. It’s not as hard as it seems.

    Before Robert Shipman joined Instant Imprints as vice president of marketing in December 2005, he operated his own sign and graphics company in San Antonio. His company generated more than $500,000 of revenue each year, with about 60 percent of that total attributed to banners. That means Shipman’s firm literally sold thousands of banners ­ and only 1 percent was sent to a third party to be sewn or stitched.

    There are three ways to seam a banner: banner tape, chemical weld and RF welding. In part one of this three-part series we take a look at the advantages, disadvantages, and practical points of using banner tape as a seaming mechanism.

    Kudos for banner tape
    “Of the thousands of banners we produced, we seamed almost all of them with banner tape,” Shipman says. “The technique is very simple. It’s inexpensive and it is not labor intensive. If you have the production capacity to do it in-house, then you should do it in-house because there’s no sense in giving gross margins to a subcontractor if you don’t need to.”

    OK, but what is the advantage of banner tape over chemical weld or RF welding? The answer is “it depends.” It depends on where and for how long the customer plans to display the banner. Before you decide on which method to use, then, you need to understand the customer’s needs.

    For example, if the customer plans to use the banner for a long duration in a region where it will be exposed to heavy winds, then you may need to have it stitched and nylon reinforced. However, most banners are not displayed for that long or under those conditions. If it is for temporary use indoors, then there is no need to stitch.

    “There’s usually no physical reason why a banner needs to be stitched, but you need to ask the customer where they are going to install it and how they are going to mount it,” Shipman says. “That is going to be the determining factor of how you seam the banner.”

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    Choosing your banner tape
    Many different media makers produce banner tape. For example, 3M peddles its Double Coated Banner Tape, 1-mil polyester coated on both sides with a very aggressive acrylic adhesive used to bond vinyl materials.

    E.L. Hatton sells BannerUps PowerTape hem reinforcing tape. Made of polymer film, the tape is used on banners to add strength along the edge. The company bills it as an alternative to double-sided banner tape that does not require hem folding.

    LexJet’s Banner Tape is specifically designed for heavier banner substrates. It’s a 4-mil double-sided tape that the company calls “super aggressive” for hemming banners as an alternative to stitching. This heavy duty banner tape is designed for bonding applications that require resistance to plasticizers, solvents and high temperatures.

    How to use banner tape
    Shipman says banner tape is simple to use. Here’s how it works: If you are folding or seaming the banner at the top, then you gather the top edge of the banner and lay the tape down along the length of the material.

    “A lot of people make the mistake of peeling the outer barrier tape off, sticking it down and pushing it down along the way,” Shipman says. “But that puts little rolls into the tape and you don’t get maximum adhesion.”

    Instead, Shipman says, after you have applied the tape to the top edge of the banner and before you remove the barrier tape that’s on the outside of it, fold that seam over toward the overlay at the center point.

    Next, take a Stabilo, which is a pastel pencil, and mark the center point from the edge of the piece of banner material you just put the tape on all the way to the registration point on the banner.

    Then, holding down the point at which you marked the banner, take a hard squeegee and press the two ridges that run through the squeegee down onto the seam. Slide the squeegee as you bear down on it, first to the right, then to the left from the center point. That puts a crease, or memory, in the seam. You’ll be left with a good fold that is raised up but still angles into the inside of the banner material.

    “It forms like a ‘V’ pattern,” Shipman says. “Then just pull the back off a little bit at a time from the center point. Then simply take the squeegee again and run it down the length to the right and down the length to the left. While you are putting that pressure on it, it will follow the memory that’s in the banner and create a perfectly, smooth, flat seam.”

    Shipman says this technique is very simple to do ­ once you get the hang of it. The good news is it only takes a couple of tries to get the hang of it, he adds.

    Don’t forget the grommeter
    Shipman says, from an operational point of view, there is no reason why sign makers should not seam in-house. But don’t forget the grommeter. There are two options: adhesive grommeting tabs or a manual grommeter.

    BannerUps makes high strength adhesive grommeting tabs that are less conspicuous than grommets and blend into the banner substrate for what some call a more pleasing visual effect. These are available in a variety of sizes and colors and the company says they are suitable for outdoor use.

    Adhesive grommets eliminate the need for a grommeting tool, which can run several hundred dollars. However, if you prefer the hand-grommeted approach, ClipsShop makes both hand press grommet attaching machines and pneumatic press machines.

    “A grommeter is the only necessary piece of equipment you need in order to seam banners in house,” Shipman says. “And you can recover the cost of the grommeter with five banners.”

    In part two of this three-part series we take a look at the advantages, disadvantages, and practical points of using chemical weld as a seaming mechanism.

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