To the wall

By PrintWeek Team, Monday 29 October 2012

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Capitalising on the fashion for wall-to-wall coverage

Wall graphics has come a long way over the past decade
and is now used in a range of business and domestic environments. And with the right kit, wide-format specialists are well placed to cash in. Words Simon Creasey

They call it the Facade-printer. It’s a high-tech piece of kit capable of applying large-scale graphics based on digital artwork onto walls, by rapidly firing thousands of ‘colourballs’ at it. And it could be the next big thing.

Alhough that would be quite unlikely, as the good news for wide-format printers in the wall graphics sector is that this machine, built by German design company Sonice Development to wow their clients, is at present just a gimmick.

The homage to wall graphics is still useful, however, in demonstrating just how far the application has come on in popularity over the past 10 years – wall graphics is now a must-have item in many restaurants, offices and public spaces, worthy enough for attention-grabbing concept schemes like the Facadeprinter. Yet, while the high-margin work is certainly attractive, printing wall graphics is by no means simple.

The concept of wall graphics has been around for roughly a decade in the UK, which has lagged behind some European neighbours in terms of adoption rates, but over the past five or so years, it has really gained traction with printers offering an increasing number of substrates and innovative large-format solutions.

“Six or seven years ago we spotted that there was an opportunity to get into large-format wall coverings, but to start with it was difficult to get people to grasp the concept,” says Alistair Travis, national sales manager at large-format print media supplier Papergraphics. “We spent two years banging our heads against walls doing promotions at print trade shows and talking to people about it and eventually we got people to realise the potential that this market had, so they got on board and look where it is now. Today it’s on everybody’s list and top of most people’s agendas.”

Papergraphics gained a foothold in the market by offering Digimura, a wide-width fabric-backed vinyl printing base, specifically developed for digital printing. Two years after the company started selling the product, it was shifting in the region of 500 rolls. This year, Papergraphics is expecting to sell somewhere in the region of 7,500 to 10,000 rolls.

That’s largely thanks to the explosion of customers who have opted for wall graphics over other forms of decor. From restaurants to retailers, offices to property developments, airports to schools, wall coverings are finding a home in numerous different environments.

“In terms of who we supply to, it’s in the new BBC building in Salford, it was in every single Starbucks across Europe and the Middle East for four years, Orange phones used it for a complete refit of their retail units in the UK and Barclays also used it for a complete refit,” says Travis.





Innovative large-format printer Leach has “innovation in its blood”. Founded in the 1890s, the company’s longevity is largely attributable to its ability to predict the direction that the market is heading and then develop products to meet these future needs. In recent years, some of the company’s most successful products have tapped into the self-install trend that sales manager Nigel Moxley says has been one of the biggest shifts affecting the wall graphics industry. Although it offers some clever easy-to-install tension fabric systems, Leach has made the biggest splash with its Stik magnetic wallpaper, which is used by major retail groups including Arcadia and Gap. “They absolutely love it because we’ve completely cut out installation,” explains Moxley. “People have been doing magnetic graphics for years, but the magnets were expensive to buy and it was environmentally unfriendly because you had to dispose of them afterwards,” explains Moxley. “So the clever thing that we did was to permanently fix the magnet on the wall and then we ship out graphics with iron filings on the back. These can then simply be rolled onto the wall by in-store staff in seconds.”

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