Utilizing Today's Media for Trade Show Success
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Utilizing Today's Media for Trade Show Success

While choosing among new and improved media, inks, hardware and software can become overwhelming, it is an essential component that separates the good sign industry professionals from the best.

By Jennifer Chagnon, Coveris Advanced Coatings

Sign makers that understand and are open to trying out the new can achieve tremendous results.

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  • From technical conferences to retail exhibitions and beyond, there are trade shows to address just about every topic. In the hectic trade show environment, hundreds of companies are clamoring for the spotlight. Amidst the buzz, the sign industry professionals that create the most innovative, compelling signage are the ones that will achieve the most success.

    While choosing among new and improved media, inks, hardware and software can become overwhelming, it is an essential component that separates the good sign industry professionals from the best. Sign makers that understand this delicate balance and are open to trying out the new can achieve tremendous results.

    A Guide to the Trade Show Market

    Trade show graphics utilize a wide variety of media to create everything from tabletop displays to banner stands and beyond. As with other applications, there are several variables to consider prior to choosing the media for the job.

    To select the appropriate option for producing graphics for trade show displays, sign industry professionals should first take into account four critical parameters: calculation (amount), location (where), application (how) and duration (longevity). This information will help determine the appropriate media and production approach.

    Once the specifications and requirements have been pinpointed, there are various factors to consider. Today's innovative media feature several choices with differing finishes, compositions and printer capabilities. Below are some of the most common media choices; as well as useful tips and advice for selecting the right media to create eye-catching trade show graphics.

    Today's innovative paper choices are ideal for in-booth mounted graphics and oversized poster graphics, as well as retail and point-of-sale applications.

    Photo and poster papers are popular options for trade show graphics because of their excellent image quality and photorealistic results. When choosing among photo papers, consider satin and gloss finish papers that are universally printable across solvent, eco-solvent, UV cure and latex printers. Bringing in one SKU that works across all platforms can reduce inventories and enhance production flexibility.

    In addition to versatility, sign makers should look for economical papers that are dry off of the printer. By enabling sign industry professionals to print directly to take-up reels, these new options save both time and money.

    Sign industry professionals specializing in latex printers should choose photo and poster papers featuring a vinyl topcoat. Unlike other papers that will lose their glossy finish from the reaction between latex inks and microporous coating technologies, papers with a vinyl topcoat will sustain their glossy finish.

    There have also been significant advancements in block-out papers. The growing list of two-side printable block-out papers allows sign industry professionals to easily print on both sides for double-sided hanging signs or poster boards that are clearly visible on the busy trade show floor. The block-out side of these products also enables window graphics without reflections, which can be applied to any clean, dry glass surface. Sign makers should choose eco-friendly block-out papers that are biodegradable.

    Lastly, latex saturated papers have become a cost-effective choice among sign and banner supplies. The added durability and high versatility of latex saturated papers make them the ideal choice for the creation of trade show graphics, wall murals, outdoor advertising and POS displays. Sign industry professionals should select latex saturated papers that have enough translucency to act as a backlit.

    For sign industry professionals that use eco-solvent inks, there are new latex saturated papers on the market featuring heavier coatings for improved production speeds. There are also new products that meet ASTM standards for use as wallcoverings. Papers such as these deliver the versatility to streamline inventory.

    Backlit Films

    Backlit films are becoming increasingly popular because of their ability to create high resolution, eye-catching displays. By investing in backlit films, sign industry professionals gain the ability to produce lightbox graphics for the tradeshow environment, as well as for retail, POP displays and transit venues. Light box applications are ideal for trade shows because their vibrant colors call attention to an exhibitor's booth.

    Sign industry professionals should use matte to textured, lustre finish for the construction of backlits, which are commonly imaged on polyester or polycarbonate-based films. Polycarbonates are reverse printed and then viewed through the backlit film or from the non-print side. Polyester films are available with a textured finish on the viewing side of the film.

    Sign industry professionals looking for dye-based offerings should select backlits with a polyester film base for uniform, low-grain backgrounds. It is also important to consider how the backlit looks with the lights off. Innovative technologies have allowed for easy viewing, even with the lights out, as well as optimized opacity for maximum color without hot spots.

    Beyond dye-based media choices, there is a growing list of versatile backlit films for use across solvent, eco-solvent, latex, UV cure and aqueous inkjet printing systems. Choose films that produce maximum transmitted and reflected ink density to ensure vivid color and high image resolution.

    Once the backlit has been produced, it is critical to properly finish it. Regardless of the backlit film chosen, cold pressure laminates are recommended for backlit films. For outdoor backlit applications, lamination with encapsulation is the best way to ensure complete water-fastness. With semi opaque films, the use of a diffuser layer typically provided with a lightbox will increase overall density to the image. Additionally, clear films require a diffuser layer to avoid hot spots.

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    There are many banner media options available for the production of display stands and indoor/outdoor promotional banners. When choosing among the plethora of options, look for durable strength, universal banners. In today's eco-conscious world, it is also important to consider recyclable media.

    As with the other media choices discussed, cross-platform printable polyester banners deliver maximum cost effectiveness. There are also an increasing amount of pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) options, which enable sign makers to just peel, print and stick the media to a foam core or three-dimensional substrate. By eliminating the need for spray adhesive, these banner options cut down on production time and lessen the margin for error.

    For trade show applications that require durability, there are banner media available today featuring both Tyvek and polyolefin for added tear-resistance, as well as protection from water and UV damage. Other popular, durable banner media include materials constructed with premium scrim. These choices are ideal for hanging signs since they feature superior draping properties.

    Block-Out Films
    Specifically designed for retractable banner stands, block-out films present a great choice for sign industry professionals. Look for universal choices that feature an anti-curl layer for added stability and durability on the busy trade show floor. Additionally block-out films with bright white printing surfaces enable added color pop.

    There are a wide variety of block-out films available today. For universal printing, sign industry professionals should ensure that the film chosen features an anti-curl layer. Products with a polypropylene printable surface and a metallized film layer in between are ideal to deliver block-out properties.

    For sign professionals interested in an economical block-out film for solvent/eco solvent printing, many manufacturers offer block-out polypropylene without the metallized layer. Featuring the same block-out and lay flat properties, these options provide cost savings because they eliminate the need to meet compatibility requirements of water-based printers.

    Sign industry professionals using UV-cure printing technology can find similar cost savings with block-out UV films. As in the solvent example, products designed for UV cure printing can be much more economical because they do not need to meet water-based coating conditions.

    Many manufacturers have also begun to offer block-out films for the growing latex market. Unlike polypropylene constructed block-out films, the new generation of 100% polyester block-out films are not heat sensitive. As a result, they will not buckle, curl or warp in latex printers.

    Lastly, some manufacturers have block-out films designed for tradeshow construction in two steps. To achieve this, sign makers should look for 16.5 mil. block-out films and pair them with a 5 mil. laminate for perfect 21 mil. trade show construction. As with other block-out films, make sure that the product selected features an anti-curl layer, white backer and the ability to be used multiple times.

    Repositionable Adhesive-Backed Products
    Repositionable products with low-tack adhesion are already popular for short-term residential graphics and retail displays, but they are now being used for event signage. There are many repositionable adhesive-backed products constructed of polypropylene available, which are ideal for short-term event signage.

    These products enable exhibitors to apply the product directly to most surfaces-skipping the mounting step for in-booth graphics. The durable polypropylene construction is sufficient for multiple uses and, unlike vinyl, will neither shrink with heat nor suffer any edge curling. Additionally, polypropylene enables the ability to print full bleed, as well as recycle the material after use.

    Tips for Creating High Quality Trade Show Graphics
    Once trade show graphics have been produced, it is critical to properly finish them to meet the demands of the trade show floor. Regardless of the material used, sign makers should select laminates that protect graphics from dirt and scuffing, and prolong image integrity.

    Many of today's leading manufacturers offer matched components to accompany their media choices. When choosing among laminates, look for options that meet the unique criteria for trade show signage, including anti-glare properties and simple installation. Sign industry professionals should also consider pressure sensitive adhesive laminates, which simplify the production process.

    The trade show graphic market has and will continue to be a steady source of income for sign industry professionals worldwide. By utilizing the flurry of new and improved materials hitting the marketplace everyday, sign industry professionals can help exhibitors stand out from the crowd. The new breed of trade show media promise to not only enhance production flexibility, but to deliver maximum cost effectiveness.

    About the Author
    Jennifer Chagnon's digital imaging career spans over nine years in the industry. During her tenure at Coveris Advanced Coatings, Chagnon has served several roles extending from product development to sales and marketing. In her most recent position as director of digital imaging, Chagnon has played a pivotal part in growing the company's award-winning Magic brand portfolio of digital imaging media, Magiclée® brand of digital fine art and specialty media, Museo® Fine Art brand digital fine art media and Jet Set® brand of products for the CAD market. Chagnon is widely recognized in the digital imaging industry as a thought leader, frequently publishing bylined articles in leading trade magazines and speaking at industry conferences. For additional information, visit http://www.magicinkjet.com.

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