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Wide-format Printing: Branding spaces with printed flooring

Photos courtesy the Trade Group

By Stephanie Chavez
Trade show exhibits and other branded spaces are being enhanced today with printed flooring. Unrelated to the printing and lamination of graphics on vinyl films that are then adhered to an existing floor, this is a more durable option that can accent or highlight points of interest throughout a space, from wall to wall.

With super-wide-format digital inkjet printing, it is now possible for a print service provider’s (PSP’s) in-house team to produce 3 x 15-m (10 x 50-ft) rollable flooring, meaning fewer seams are needed for larger spaces, allowing for a more polished and professional appearance. The key is to use a durable, slightly texturized vinyl and inks that will stand up to heavy foot traffic and, in a trade show environment, the occasional forklift. Even if any wear and tear does occur, it is less noticeable on the skid-resistant texture, which is similar to the surface of a basketball, than it would be on a smooth, glossy surface. A dense padding fitted to the underside makes walking on the material more comfortable.

As with any new substrate, there will be a learning curve, with extensive testing needed to ensure the rolls can be properly moved, positioned and aligned on the printer, with the printhead carriage height adjusted accordingly.

Advantages
There are many advantages to this process. First, by printing directly onto the floor material, rather than printing vinyl graphics and then sticking them in place, much greater durability is achieved. Also, there are both top-print and under-print options; for long-term applications, printing on the reverse side of a clear material means the floor will better preserve the integrity of the graphics without damage.

Installation is also simplified. Rather than apply separate floor graphics across a space, the already printed flooring is simply rolled out in the space and it is done. With no need for specialized labour or long installation times, it can save money.

Rollable printed flooring is well-suited for trade exhibits.

Purposes
Printed flooring allows a space to be reconfigured and redefined, for a variety of purposes.

One of the more common goals with the technology is to decorate an immersive environment with custom graphics from the ground up. Trade show exhibitors and retailers, for example, can maximize their visual branding across every square inch of their space, with a printed floor complemented by wall and window graphics, among other applications.

Another practical use is wayfinding. A printed floor can draw visitors into a space and provide visual cues for a specific, sequential path.

Similarly, information can be printed on flooring for educational purposes, such as context for a display in a museum. In another example, a retailer could print product information for merchandise on their shop floor, saving space and reducing visual clutter.

Full vs. partial
Much as there are both full and partial vehicle graphics, so too can a floor be either fully or partially printed. The vinyl does not have to serve as the main base of the floor, but instead can be used as an overlay for carpets, tiles or concrete. So, a project may involve printing only on portions of flooring to accent the area.

Indeed, as with other vinyl graphics, the flooring can be cut into custom shapes, allowing a space to be modified and personalized without damaging the existing floor, whether for wayfinding, branding, education or other purposes.

Stephanie Chavez is marketing director for the Trade Group, which designs trade show exhibits and other branded spaces. For more information, contact her via e-mail at schavez@tradegroup.com.

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