Milestone edition to focus on creativity

Hannah Jordan
Monday, March 20, 2017

Termed “a true business event” by Sign & Digital UK portfolio director Rudi Blackett, the theme this year for the once regional event, is ‘Applications, Ideas and Advice’.


When 28-30 March 2017

Where Halls 17 & 18, NEC, Birmingham

Opening times 28 & 29 March – 10am-5pm. 30 March – 10am-4.30pm

More information 

Not only is it about the huge range of products on display, says Blackett, but it’s also about learning new techniques and new revenue streams and accessing free technical advice. 

“There are a growing number of materials suppliers exhibiting at the show as applications and output take centre stage in the quest for new creative concepts and display options,” he says.

Around 6,400 visitors are expected to browse the offerings of more than 180 exhibitors spread over 10,500m2 across two halls at the NEC Birmingham, between 28-30 March, all of them thirsty for information, inspiration and no doubt the free coffee and cakes offered at many of the stands. 

The show is categorised under three disciplines: signmaking, display solutions and digital printing, and although refreshing the event each year is challenging according to Blackett, visitors this year will again be able to take advantage of some new features, the most significant of which is the Creative Theatre. An addition to the regular line-up of education hubs that pump out valuable, free seminars and workshops, the Creative Theatre is aimed at visitors from the graphics and display industries. With a core focus on the processes that take place during pre-production, the daily sessions will cover topics including the future of digital signage, colour management and understanding consumer retail trends. 

For those looking for the latest software developments, the Adobe, SignLab and Corel Theatres all return in 2017, while away from the learning forums another new feature will be the Sign Trade Services Pavilion, which will host smaller specialist suppliers such as, PowerPax, Welwyn Tool Group and Signtrade letters.

Getting to grips with the sheer number of brands on display at any of these events can be a daunting task so the organisers have very helpfully, as a result of visitor feedback, listed brand names alongside suppliers at the show this time. 

“This makes the visitor’s time far more effective as they can easily identify which stands will be showing the particular branded product they are interested in,” Blackett comments. 

Names on offer include the usual impressive mix and wide-format manufacturers and suppliers will of course have a major presence. Some of those signed up include HP, Canon, Epson, Fujifilm, Hybrid Services with Mimaki, Colourgen with Mutoh, Roland DG, Esko, CMYUK, Jetrix, Spandex, Signmaster Systems, Perfect Colours, Papergraphics, i-Sub and most recently added Zünd UK, to name just a few. 

Making its worldwide debut at the show on InkTec’s stand will be the Jetrix LXi8 3.2m, high-speed LED-UV flatbed printer, which boasts a top print speed of 206m2/hr and resolution of up to 1,080x720dpi. This marks the 25th year for InkTec at the show with dignitaries expected to attend from the manufacturer’s Korean headquarters.

InkTec’s UK national head of sales Ben Woodruff says it’s an important show for them. “It allows us to be seen but also to network with resellers and customers. I’ve only missed one event in 11 years. 

“The market has changed a lot in that time. Quality has to be one of the biggest improvements; it’s come on leaps and bounds and people are noticing and want to get involved. They come to the show with their minds set on finding a device to buy,” he adds.

One of the largest stands at the show will be hosted by Canon who will give the new Arizona 2280GT its UK debut together with the entry-level Arizona 318GL. The manufacturer will also be discussing its hotly anticipated new UVgel technology, which it claims will “break through the speed barrier”, removing bottlenecks and making POS, billboard, wallpaper more easily accessible. 

Also getting its UK debut will be the new Mimaki UJF MkII UV flatbeds as well as the TX300 textile printer on the stand of supplier Hybrid Services, whose managing director John de la Roche has been to all 30 S&D shows. 

“The first one was literally the size of a tennis court and the signmaking industry was very much aimed at vehicle graphics and small signage but now you have people wrapping buildings,” he says. “I’m a big believer that applications sell machines; you have to inspire people and that’s what we will be doing.”

One last-minute addition to the Mimaki stand will be the JFX200-2531 LED UV flatbed, which is making its UK debut. The 2.5x3.1m format makes it suitable for applications including road signs, wall decoration, doors and other big items.

Material differences

Applications, as the show strap line suggests, are a key theme and as such the event attracts a growing number of substrate manufacturers and suppliers every year. This year is no different and making its first appearance at the show since 2009 is UK-based display manufacturer Arken POP. The firm offers everything from poster frames or cases to lightboxes, pavement signs, hanging systems and forecourt signs. Business development manager, Vicki Cox says the stand will focus on bespoke solutions. “The trend has been moving towards digital, however there will always be the need to communicate static messages and we need to stay ahead of our competitors by continuing to develop new products that work well in an ever changing market place,” she adds.

Adding its contribution to the ever more exciting and innovative selection of substrates will be show regular, Antalis, which will be exhibiting from what will appear to be an American diner. “The idea being”, according to Antalis head of channel sign & display Chris Green, “is that people can see our range of products displayed in the sort of applications that they are designed for be it floor or walls.” 

The stand will focus strongly on easy-apply graphics among a host of other products including car-wrapping vinyls and graphics from Drytac that can be applied to carpets. He says: “There has been a lot of diversification in the market in recent years and people are looking for innovation, even the most experienced signmakers. We’re not just a paper company, we want to inspire and innovate.”

As well as offering colour management seminars as part of its Digital Academy initiative, Antalis is set to unveil a new “hardware partnership” at the event, which Green says is a big move for the business. Full details will be revealed at the show but the tie-up will involve Antalis promoting a range of printers, including flatbed and roll-to-roll, entry level to production.

Blackett says that since heading up the show the most memorable event for him was in 2003 with the arrival of the super-wide machines. “They were complete game changers,” he explains. 

“As an industry driven by technology, we have seen great advances in sign-making techniques, and particularly the emergence and dominance of digital printing in the last 15 years. Wide-format print has brought the sign maker and graphic output company a whole new world of possibilities, with an array of stunning large format graphics. 

“We are now seeing a growing range of substrates and materials, advances in finishing systems and a wider range of output and applications, like textiles and soft signage. 

“The future looks bright for the sign and digital market.” 


Creative Theatre

Tuesday, 28 March 

12:00-13:30 Creative solutions with digital signage. Chair: Danny Adamson, group managing director, Stocksigns 

14:00-15:30 Exploring interior decor. Chair: Frazer Chesterman, co-founder, InPrint and FM Brooks

16:00-16:30 Future materials: creative, cool and commercial. Joe’s 3 Cs: A look at creative, cool and commercial apps and technologies/materials. Speaker: Joe Wigzell, academy and creative centre manager, Roland DG

Wednesday, 29 March

11:00-11:30 Latest trends: understanding customer expectations and experience in retail. Speaker: Katie Watershead, designer,

12:00-13:30 Creative retail signage solutions. Chair: Michael Gietzen, managing director, Identity Group. Case Study: Exterior signage at Eurotunnel terminal 

14:00-14:30 Dos and don’ts of colour management. Speakers: Jan Edgecombe, managing director, Revolution Digital, and Giles Bristow, digital support manager, Antalis

15:00-15:45 Understanding the benefits of variable-data printing. Speakers: Joe Wigzell, academy and creative centre manager, Roland DG, and Suzanne Smith, product trainer and specialist, Corel

Thursday, 30 March

11:00-11:30 Understanding the art and science of wayfinding. Speaker: Sian Kelly, chair, The Sign Design Society

12:00-13:30 Innovation in wayfinding and directional signage. Speakers: Sander Baumann, Designworkplan; Sian Kelly, The Sign Design Society; Sean Brereton, The Velvet Principle; Joan Zalacain, Zalacain Wayfinding; and Aad Kalkman, Mijksenaar Wayfinding Expert

14:00-15:00 Creating effective advertising and branding opportunities with wrapping. Chair: Dan Lockley, business development - Hollywood Monster; Thérèse Wynn-Davies, marketing manager, PVL (UK); and James Deacon, Bigger Stickers and Graphityp

Business Theatre

Tuesday, 28 March

11:00-12:00 More money, more customers, more focus. Speakers: Christoph Clermont, EFI DirectSmile; James Priest, Assured Systems; Colin Gillman, Graphic Display World; Tony Kenton, It Has To Be Brilliant; Alex Granat, Transeo Media; Tim Cox, Vpress

12:30-13:15 How the Philips EnabLED signage programs may be relevant to you, your suppliers and your customers. Nathan Millen and Cees Overdijk, Philips Lighting Intellectual Property

13:45-14:30 Franchise opportunities – benefits and practicalities. Speaker: Sara Jeffery, franchise recruitment manager, Signs Express

15:00-15:30 Accessing equipment to build your business – what are the options? Speaker: Matthew Gilbert, Paragon Bank Business Finance

15:45-16:15 Cover maintenance & service contract agreements. Speaker: Lawrence Hebron, RolandCare

Wednesday, 29 March

11:00-12:00 Where are the opportunities in wide format? Chair: Simon Eccles, Digital Printer Magazine

12:30-13:15 A toolkit for growing your business. Speakers: Edward Currer, Vinyl Impressions, and Frazer Chesterman, InPrint and FM Brooks

13:30-14:30 Business diversification: temporary pop-up and retail structures. Speakers: Judith Kelly, Land Securities; Ian Scott, Unibox; and Antony Behiels, Shop and Display Equipment Association

15:00-16:00 Where digital meets traditional – signage solutions for 2017 focusing on SME signage companies. Speaker Michael Gietzen, Identity Signage & Printing

Thursday, 30 March

12:00-12:30 Sign maintenance and planning regulation. Speaker: David Catanach, British Sign & Graphics Association

12:45-13:15 An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. Speaker: Joe Wigzell, Roland DG

13:30-14:00 Making the Apprenticeship Levy work for you. Speaker: Charles Jarrold, chief executive, BPIF

14:15-15:15 Business Diversification: soft signage. Speakers: Rolf Smith, partner, Ashgrove Trading; and Fiona Reid, operations director, Grafenia

Adobe Theatre

All days

10:30-11:15 Creative Cloud Mission Control – Adobe Bridge CC (2017)

11:30-12:30 Making Colour Simple – Adobe Creative Suite

13:30-14:30 Ask Adobe – Adobe Photoshop CC (2017)

14:45-15:45 Two Are Better Than One – Adobe InDesign CC (2017), Adobe Illustrator CC (2017)

16:00-16:45 Teach Me Video – Adobe Premiere Pro CC (2017)

Corel Theatre

All days

11:00-11:45 CorelDraw Graphics Suite – An overview of new features

12:00-12:45 Variable-data printing with CorelDraw

13:00-13:45 Wilcom DecoStudio with CorelDraw Graphics Suite

14:00-14:45 CorelDraw Graphics Suite – An overview of new features

15:00-15:45 Variable-data printing, with CorelDraw

16:00-16:45 (28 & 29 March only)

CorelDraw Surgery

Signlab Theatre 

All days

10:30-11:15 Getting to know SignLab

11:45-12:30 Maximising print – print and cut workflows in SignLab and Digital Factory

13:15-14:00 SignLab v10 highlights. Faster, easier and more powerful

14:30-15:00 SignLab Specialty Packages – featuring SignLab VersaWorks Edition and SignLab Mimaki Edition

15:30-16:00 SignLab Tips & Tricks.

Signmakers’ Workshop

All days

10:30-10:50 Basic application of vinyls. Learn the basics of applying vinyl graphics and what vinyls/techniques to use when and where

10:50-11:15 Moving on from the basics. Applying multi layers of vinyl; Flood coating of substrate with vinyl; working on glass-etched films

11:15-11:30 Q&A session

12:00-12:15 Vehicle livery. An introduction to vehicle graphics 

12:15-12:35 Moving on from the basics. Applying graphics to the front of vehicle – making it look straight; flood coating recessed panels

12:35-13:00 Starting vehicle wrapping. Applying vinyl over recessed and basic curves; trimming vinyl on a vehicle – dealing with door/panel seams; using heat and post heating

13:00-13:15 Q&A session

13:45-14:05 The basics of making a signboard. Find out how and from what to make them

14:05-14:20 Moving on from the basics. Step-by-step guide to making your own sign trays; frames – what, when and how; making and fitting your own flat-cut letters

14:20-14:35 Q&A session

15:15-15:35 Wall and floor graphics. One of the fastest growing sectors

15:35-15:55 Moving on from the basics. Applying graphics to painted walls, textured surfaces, brick work, floors and carpets

15:55-16:10 Q&A session

16:10-16:45 (28 & 29 March only) Anything goes. Got a sign making related query? Q&A session


© MA Business Limited 2021. Published by MA Business Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, London, SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales no. 06779864. MA Business is part of the Mark Allen Group .