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Tradeshows: They’re Back, Baby

(March 2012) posted on Tue Mar 06, 2012

Insight gained from attending the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.


By Craig Miller

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Our industry has developed many ways of presenting customer graphics, of course, from self-adhesive and banner vinyl to soft fabric signage, posters, banner stands, backlit prints and many others. Which worked the best at CES? I’d argue that the clear winner was dye-sublimated fabric.

Since the late 1990s, “soft signage” in general and dye sublimation specifically has increased incrementally every year. You can’t go to a major tradeshow today and not see dye-sub everywhere, and some of the results are very dramatic.

So here is my tried-and-true sales pitch on dye-sub, not just for CES but for tradeshows in general (and, in the spirit of full disclosure, it’s been a significant part of our shop’s product mix since 1997): Dye-sub fabric has always had advantages over other forms of printed roll media. Done right, dye-sub fabrics can have extraordinary image quality with bright, vivid, and rich colors. Unlike vinyls, the more you light fabric, the better it looks. Fabric is lightweight and the better fabrics are wrinkle resistant and if wrinkled, can be steamed or ironed flat again. Sheer fabrics like voile can be made variably translucent with front or back lighting. Some of the new triple-woven fabrics now have sufficient opacity to use without a blockout liner.
Too, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in demand for fabrics made from 100-percent post-consumer waste that are 100-percent recyclable. Given the fact that many dye-sub technologies use water-based inks, these are about the greenest products on the planet (other than the energy requirement in the heat press to make the sublimation happen).

And it’s important to note that those of us with an interest in printing fabric can thank the visionary individuals in our industry who pioneered fabric tensioning. Fabric tension displays account for much of today’s growth in soft signage. Large booths that used to contain tons of drayage-intensive “flat walls” are now constructed with aluminum poles and sublimated fabric that go up like an erector set.


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