Wonder what this place has in store for us this year? I thought while waiting on my pass badge was being processed. As I walked in there was a lot of activity in every direction, all I could hear was the buzzing of cutters, the wailing of vacuum beds and of course the strong odour of solvent inks. Nothing new there then? Unlike last year when I was purposely visiting the show to purchase a wide format printer and laminator. This year I was looking more for new contacts for printing materials, displays & of course inspiration and new ideas.
Walking down the isles, one by one I spotted the big names of our industry, Spandex, B&P, Grafyitp etc all on huge stands dominating the entrance area… I made my way around the outer side of the show, where I was pleasantly surprised by the number of small stands occupied by new companies offering Pavement signs, moulded letters, Foamex cutters, new forms of sign illumination and much more. in fact, within a short time of entering the place, I had to find a plastic bag to put all the leaflets & samples I had lifted… it was approaching lunchtime and the place was chocka, by now I had bumped into so many people that I recognized from the boards, I wasn’t making much progress at all, I wasn’t complaining though, it was great to finally meet them in person.
Below, Graphic doming by LIKWID Art
The first stand I stopped to have a chat was “Locate” as the name says they offer Locators/standoffs for decorative glass signs and more. The thing that really caught my eye was they have come up with special locators with hidden LED inside them. In turn-illuminating glass panels for edge-lit signs without any visible light source, which I thought was amazing…, great idea guys! To be honest I found myself stopping at several stands offering all sorts of LEDs. There are just so many possibilities for illuminated signage these days using this light source, signage I couldn’t normally offer due to electrical inexperience. LEDs just seem to be “plug & play” user-friendly, easy assembled & low maintenance.
Below, LED Edge-lit locators by Locate
Off I go again, this time in the direction of the Graphtec stand, I had heard they had some new kit being shown for the first time at the show & my nose was bothering me. Walking onto the stand I spotted what all the fuss was about, not only have they introduced a new 60-inch wide cutter, Graphtec has come in with a completely new range of CNC routers starting at around £4000 upwards… Even their smallest routers/engravers boasted a substantial bed size, already knowing Graphtec’s reputation for only offering top-end machinery I thought this gave a great opportunity for the small sign firm to get into this line of work with the massive outlay. I went on to talk Graphtec’s MD Phil Kneale, where he showed me their NEW flatbed solvent printer. The machine called the Duojet 2-in-1 prints directly to rigid substrates, or can print onto rolls… it prints at 720dpi up to 63inches wide & with a price tag of less than £50k costs far less than any flatbed machine I know of in its class One to watch out for I thought!
Below, Graphtecs NEW flatbed Solvent printer
Walking on, I notice the adobe seminar stand is now standing room only, with people struggling to get a visual of what’s going on. Popular as ever I thought. But not something I have ever found the time to stand and take anything in, so on I go…
Below, Digitally printed doors direct from a flatbed printer
I came to a company called “Redline display” they had many good products but the one that really interested me was a new Flex face lightbox system. Like most light boxes, the face was fixed and the only way to maintain them is to remove the flex skin on the face, which is the downside to these sign systems. However, redline lightboxes are quite the opposite. All around the box the “sides” are on hinges/flaps. This means that one man can go to whatever area of the box that needs a bulb changed and open that part on the side. Here He can pull a handle attached to all the fluorescent tubes at that level mounted onto runners, here the whole strip of lights come sliding out the side of the box where you just unclip the bulb, replace it, slide back in and close the flap. Brilliant I thought, I am sure they will do well!
Bouncing from one stand to another, I couldn’t help but notice the number of Wrap demos on the go. Some are impressive, some not so. This sort of thing is right up my street, but I couldn’t help but notice some poor wraps in progress, not to mention the materials and training being pushed at anyone that says “wow, that looks good!” (just my opinion of course) but this line of work is pushed too much at inexperienced sign firms that are led to believe after a 3-day course they now become wrappers, if only? My favoured stand-on wraps had to be Grafityp & ad-wraps. The wrappers outshone many at the show, not just by how well they wrapped but also taking time to stop and speak to their audience when a question was asked.
Below: Mini wrap by Ad-wraps and Grafityp
By now, time was getting on; I had to make a quick beeline towards the sign world stand to meet up with the sign world editor, Colin Gillman & lots of members of the UKSG, UK Sign Group, On arrival Colin made a point of offering everyone a drink, which by the time we had got to the bar, it started to be a bit of a bad idea I think? I must have counted around 35 members of the group in there at one point, so hats off to Colin, he bought every member he could see a drink. Thinking about the prices now, it had to be the most expensive round ever! “Cheers mate”
Below: Various pics from the SignUK bar area
The atmosphere & banter was great everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, right till the end as time was called we all had to make our way. But not before we finished our drinks… we were, like last year… last to leave the bar…
Many of the UKSG had booked into the crown plaza hotel situated on the NEC complex. So from the bar, we made our way back to the hotel to have a meal & carry on with our night. It was great & I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Below: Pics from the Restaurant & Bar area at the Crown Plaza Hotel
Looking back over my time at sign UK this year, I think I can honestly say it has been the best yet. If not just for the company I was in, then the countless new products I saw & the valuable new contacts I made. I know it’s sometimes hard to get away for the day to attend, but it is something I feel is a must for any business wanting to keep up to date with progress.
Since the show, I have heard some disheartened sign maker says “oh it was just all full of digital printers, big this, big that & nothing new for the vinyl sign maker anymore” Well now we know how the traditional signwriters must have felt with the introduction of the vinyl plotter 20 years ago? My advice would have to be, to move with the times or you may get left behind.