Ideas & Inspiration From QPS’ Exhibition Team
Museums are meant to be fun.
Wandering from exhibit to exhibit, inspiration around every corner.
Buttons to push, switches to flick and levers to pull. The faces of kids lighting up as they work out what goes where and how.
What’s not so much fun is when you can’t find your way around. Get to one area to find out where you wanted to go is on the other side of the museum.
Marching from area to area (and back again) in order to see everything you wanted to.
And all this with your sweet children asking you repeatedly ‘where are we going next…..?’
This is why when we’re creating museum signage and wayfinding, we think deeply about how it should all work and how it should keep the visitor flowing around the venue.
There are numerous ways to create effective and inspiring museum graphics.
Fabricated wayfinding kiosks complete with maps to keep you in the know about where you are now and where you need to go next.
Cut out letters applied to walls (and ceilings, and floors) to help with finding destinations efficiently.
Museum Signage & Wallcoverings
One wayfinding application that is proving popular is the use of printable wallcoverings.
From large wallpaper murals explaining historic timelines to printed graphics incorporating iPads and TV screens, digital wallpapers are a simple yet incredibly effective way to add more interest to a museum’s displays.
The wallpapers we use are also fully fire retardant, anti-bacterial, and easy to fit using standard decorating techniques. There’s a myriad of textured options or a silky smooth version for maximum mural impact!
Foam PVC panels with graphics attached used to be the go-to option for most museum signage. However, with the push away from plastics plus the extra expense to remove the display once the exhibition has expired, you can see why wallcoverings have become the smarter option.
Museum Floorgraphics That Create Impact
Another innovative option for museum wayfinding is the use of floor graphics.
Simple directional arrows will guide the visitor around the intended flow but with digital print offering so many more inspiring opportunities, we can help you think outside the box.
Imagine high definition images laid out across the floor and joined up with bold, colourful wall graphics. Text panels over the flooring, up the stairs and throughout the halls.
Seriously inspiring museum signage!
For a more modern approach to signage for museums, big chunky letters can be routed out and placed off the walls on pins.
These panels lend a 3D feel to an exhibit and when the accompanying displays are also set off the wall, a sense of depth helps draw in the viewer.
As we said, museums should be fun and although signage and wayfinding need to be functional, can’t we also bring a bit of fun & innovation to it too?
For more information on some of the options we regularly use for interior signage, have a read through this post on the new Dispa board and this one that delves deep into exhibition panels and roller banners.
AKA Rock & Roll-up or The QPS Guide to Roller Banners
Pop up banners, roller banners, roll-up banners or cassette banners…
Whatever you call them, roller banners are one of the most popular ways to promote your brand and push out your message.
From office receptions to motorway service-station entrances, I’ll guarantee printed roller banners are seen more each day than most other types of display print.
And that’s even before we take the exhibition halls into account.
With them being everywhere, you’d think roller banners all use pretty much the same material and same cassette mechanisms….wrong!
Different media can perform very differently in these pop-up banner units and with this guide, I look at how to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
Polyester films for roller banners
Roller banners printed using a printed polyester (PET) film are usually the most stable. Stability when talked about with pop-up banners just means the film stays flat and the vertical edges don’t curl.
A number of reasons can cause edge curl. If the film isn’t completely straight within the cassette units the bar behind the graphic can cause the print to twist. The top (or bottom) bar not being fitted properly and being skew can also be a culprit.
You’ll also see it when the film has been overlaminated for scratch protection or to make the system that bit more durable. Too much pressure on the laminator’s rollers will cause tension in the media and this tension will lead to curling. Too little can also cause issues and it shows with the edges either pulling in or pushing out.
This is where our expert on the laminator proves super valuable. His job is to make sure your prints are flat first time, every time.
Polyester is more expensive than the other options. DuPont makes most of the base material and it comes with a premium price tag for the stability and the possible slight edge in print quality.
Perfect for long-term promotions or for units that will be daily taken down and rollered back up but if you’ve got a timed event, polyester may be a little overkill.
PVC roller banner media
The first of the more cost-effective options is a PVC film. Still relatively flat and stable, it can be more susceptible to curl when left up for a long period of time.
PVC will still have the ability to take on plenty of ink and create a hi-definition result.
In fact, almost all of the media we have tested over the years have given acceptable results – some we have had to profile the printer to, some have worked well out of the box.
When you’re using roller banners to promote your brand, making sure your corporate colours appear exactly as they should is probably the most important aspect. To ensure colours are consistent, we calibrate all our machines individually.
Polypropylene roll up media
Another option for roller banners is a high-quality polypropylene film. Strong, tear resistant and with excellent lay-flat properties, PP is also the most cost-effective of the three options.
If eco-credentials are important to your campaign, polypropylene is recyclable. Important when you have a couple of hundred of these to dispose of after the event.
Depending on how long you need the units to last and also what price point you need to hit, all of these films will do the same job equally well with only a few differences between each media type.
Banner PVC for roll-ups
Keep an eye out for this one. We’ve seen a number of roller banners being offered at knockdown cheap prices because they use a standard banner PVC.
Don’t get me wrong, banner PVC has its unique place when cable tied to railings or festooned over buildings but in a roller banner unit, no thanks.
No matter how thick the grade used, it will suffer curl badly especially when under the stress of being up all day.
If the price looks too good to be true, check what media the printer is using. You only get one chance to make that first impression – don’t let your brand down by racing for the low-end.
Laminated versus unlaminated?
Back in the mists of time, all roller banners were laminated. In this previous age, they were also about four times the cost they are now…
Usually overlaminated with a ‘sandtex’ or textured finish, the laminate was there to stop the image being scratched or damaged.
To be competitive, many of the display films available now offer anti-scratch protection without the need for a laminate.
Inks are also a lot more durable than they were previously. Technology has changed form water-based printers to solvent, latex and UV curable. With each generation, the need to laminate for scratch purposes at least becomes less necessary.
We print all our roller banners on our Fuji UV curable printers. These inks are pretty much bulletproof and the finished roll-ups laugh in the face of the laminator.
Our experienced bod on the laminator may not be needed too often for roller banners but rest assured, we’ve got him busy with many other products we produce.
Grey-back versus white backed roller banner films?
You’ll see many options out there for roller banners. It’s not just about the media or whether its anti-scratch or not.
Another element to keep check of is the backing of the product. OK, so everyone is hopefully looking at the front of our graphic and not even concerned with the reverse.
But what if the sun behind causes a shadow of the pole that holds up the film to show right through your most important message?
You’d be surprised how often this can happen. It’s the main reason we standardised on a grey-back film.
We can’t control every eventuality but we can limit the potential issues wherever we can.
So, more to roller banners than you thought?
Make sure to read and memorise this post next time you’re looking to update your displays. Or to make it simple, give us a call on 01782 413789.
We’ll make sure you get the right roller banner for your requirements.
A Designers Guide to Aluminium Composite
If you’re just entering the graphic design industry, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of print materials out there. The truth is, graphic designers are faced with a lot of options when they’re ready to take their designs to print. And while more options mean more power, it’s important to understand the basics in order to choose the best material for your needs.
To help you better understand your options, we’re diving into our second print substrates 101, with a focus in this article on aluminium composite—AKA Dibond.
Maybe you’ve heard of Dibond, maybe you haven’t, but we’re here to get you up to speed with this highly durable material.
What is Dibond and How is it Made?
Dibond is the brand name of one of the top aluminium composite materials (ACM). Often used to create permanent high valued outdoor signs, this material consists of a plastic polyethylene core sandwiched between two aluminium sheets.
The combination of plastic and aluminium coating makes Dibond extremely durable and much more lightweight and shock-resistant than pure aluminium.
In addition, because this material is completely solid, it can easily be cut into intricate details without losing the integrity of the piece. This property makes Dibond a popular choice for signage designs that may require trimming after printing.
The generic name of Dibond is aluminium composite. However, because the brand has dominated the manufacturing of this material, many simply refer to this product as Dibond.
It was originally created more than 20 years ago by 3A Composites, which was known as Alcan Composites at the time. 3A also manufacture similar products using aluminium such as Hylite and KAPAtech.
They also manufacture the paper board we covered in this blog post about Dispa board printing. We wouldn’t recommend Dispa though for your new shop signage!
Dibond Usage in the Sign and Print Industry
Those in the graphic design industry will likely encounter Dibond when they are ready to take their project to print.
Dibond is one of the most popular outdoor signage materials, especially for signs that are intended to be permanent fixtures. Its varied uses include company logos, retail signs, directional signage and shopfitting.
Aluminium Dibond signs are ideal for mounting as they offer the flattest panels of any material. You’ll see Dibond being used in many exhibition displays. Next time you’re at the art gallery or museum, have a peek at what the prints are mounted to.
Further, because each aluminium composite panel is made up of plastic and thin aluminium sheets, Dibond is very lightweight and sturdy. In fact, the combination of these substrates is designed to withstand the outdoors, offering a waterproof and heat resistant surface that will not warp in the sun.
Some of the top uses of aluminium composite in the sign and print industry include:
- Long-term outdoor signs
- Typographic signs or projects with intricate details
- Expensive digital prints and graphics
- Mounted logos
- Retail signs
- Parking signs
- High-end real estate signs
- Creative projects
Outside of the sign and print industry, Dibond also has applications in decorative lighting, furniture construction, interior design, displays, and more.
Case studies on the durability of this material have shown it to be a top contender for those in need of a superior finished quality and weatherproof signage.
The Pros of Aluminium Composite
- Long-lasting and highly durable
- Protection from outdoor conditions like rain, snow, and the sun
- Can be cut easily without damaging the integrity of the sign
- Offers the flattest panel of any material, making this material ideal for mounted signs
- Visually appealing effect due to the multiple substrates
- Lightweight thanks to the plastic core
- More shock resistant than regular aluminium
- Does not warp in the heat
- Can protect expensive digital prints and graphics
The Cons of Aluminium Composite
- Different finishes can carry more expense
- Slightly less rigid than solid aluminium
Different Types of Dibond
As the first and leading manufacturer of aluminium composite material, Dibond has created a variety of products to suit any designer’s needs.
Some of the most popular Dibond products include:
Butler finish: Characterised by its shiny and polished surface. By adding a clear lacquer to the surface of the panel creates this effect.
Dibond Digital: This material is specially designed for maximum ink adhesion. This grade of Dibond can create truly striking digital prints, allowing your design to shine. If you’re interested in Dibond printing, this is likely the best option for you.
Dibond Décor: Characterised by its wood appearance. This is perfect for signs that call for a more rustic aesthetic.
Dibond Mirror: Featuring a glassy and reflective surface, this grade of Dibond offers a mirrored surface that is unbreakable and half the weight of a conventional mirror.
Dibond FR: This variety of Dibond features a mineral core, giving it the fire retardant classification.
Dibond Structure: If you want to give your sign a unique look, Dibond Structure offers a signature surface with unique finishes to the aluminium.
Dibond Eloxal: This material features an additional anodised coating making it much harder and more durable than the standard paint system.
Alternative Products to Dibond
Aluminium composite offers maximum durability and visual appeal, making it perfect for long lasting and important projects. However, the high quality of this material does come with an added cost and may not be the best choice for every job.
If you’re looking for alternatives, consider some of the following:
- very lightweight
- less expensive than Dibond
- recyclable Polypropylene
- suited for external use
Foam centred Board:
- ultra lightweight
- very inexpensive
- paper exterior
- suited for indoor use only
- less expensive than Dibond
- highly durable
- many different thicknesses
- suited for indoor or outdoor use
Each of these alternative products has their own pros and cons. It can simply boil down to your specific project needs.
We understand that there is a lot to consider when choosing the right signage material for your needs. If you need to run through options to find the ideal substrate for your project, get in touch on 01782 413789.
Looking for more substrate guides? Check out our post here on Correx and Correx printing.
A Tough Paper Product For Internal Graphics
I’m always on the lookout for unique products that can be used to complete jobs in a different way or provide a different purpose.
When we sat down with 3A Composites and looked at their new DISPA® board, we immediately spotted a display board with a few unique differences compared to the substrates we already carry on the shelf.
I’m seeing more eco-friendly, environmentally friendly and recyclable products come through our door. With the growing focus on getting away from plastics, we’re all for using them wherever we can.
Made from 100% FSC certified paper DISPA looks like its got first-rate recyclable credentials.
For info, FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. It’s an organisation that started in 1993 to promote the use and management of the world’s forests. Approval by the FSC means the wood used in its construction has been sourced responsibly and the forests where the timber originally came from are being renewed.
It’s not just your sign and display products that can show the FSC logo – look around the next time you’re at the DIY store and you’ll see it on wallpaper, flooring, conservatories, doors and furniture. If it’s made from wood, it should have the label on it somewhere.
By using paper stock for the complete product, DISPA stays lightweight and manageable even in the bigger sheet sizes. As a ’built-up’ sheet with a number of layers utilising the same paper for the core, 3A Composites claims DISPA will stay rigid, stable and flat through production and in final use.
3A Composites calls the core of the material a ‘unique structure of embossed formed paper.’
I think of it almost as a cardboard Correx. All the paper ‘waves’ or flutes in the middle of the media giving it this strength and durability.
Being constructed completely from paper, it’s an internal product only and can be susceptible to the issues of being dinked on the edges. It’s the same possible damage as with any other softer substrate if mishandled. Just be careful when it’s in the print room and during installation.
Specifications and using DISPA Board
Thickness wise, DISPA board is only available at 3.8mm. Thick enough to keep warp-free and steady for hanging signs, POS units and displays.
As a board, its ideal for short term and lightweight promotional campaigns. But if you’re looking for something more substantial, check the alternatives we list further down.
Sheet sizes off the shelf should cover most jobs. From 1250x1840mm to slightly oversize 8×4 and 10×5. When creating complex point of sale display units that need CNC cutting and folding and we need to get it all on one sheet, we’re covered.
One of the big plus points of DISPA comes from its bright white, smooth paper faces. If you print using flatbed UV curable inks, printing DISPA board should cause no issues.
Double-sided hanging signs or point of sale cards become simple to produce when your board stays flat on the print bed and both sides have exactly the same properties.
As with DISPA board printing, the processing afterwards should be equally as stress-free.
Unlike plastics and metal substrates, paper materials can be converted using either manual tools or on the cutting tables. The only issue I can see is that the edges could crush if guillotined. Its the same with Correx or foam centred boards. Check pressures if it is an issue or look at converting using different kit if possible. It CNC cuts with little effort by using standard knives and settings.
Alternatives to DISPA board
Alternatives to DISPA include standard display board or display card. Also, these usually max out at around 2500mic thick.
They also don’t have the internal structure of DISPA with the laminated faces and built up embossed paper. For something like hanging signs though, they may be a viable alternative.
Dufaylite, Xanita board or Reboard are other options depending on the final application. Usually, a bit thicker, this honeycomb centred media (not quite like an Aero bar) is always popular as the substrate behind free-standing display units. It is strong, prints well and easy to cut and convert.
Foam centred boards like FOAM-X or KAPA are also popular for internal POS and hanging signs. Lightweight, strong and made from a sandwich of paper plus polyurethane. Foam core boards work well but most are not recyclable. DISPA, card and other 100% paper alternatives can also come in at a lower cost.
We’re putting together a Substrates 101 guide to the different media options within the sign and print spectrum – have a read through our details on Dibond printing or our post on Correx printing here.