The UK’s dedicated wide-format signage and display exhibition is back in its usual slot and venue. Digital Printer looks ahead to what the show will offer and some exhibitors’ news

Sign & Digital UK was one of the first shows to resume its normal schedule after the interruptions of the pandemic years, with a respectable showing in March 2022, and is back this year with increasing confidence as the industry continues to recover from the lockdown periods of interrupted business.

Industry names already confirmed include Roland DG, EFI, eProductivity Software, Epson UK, Morgana, Premier, Hexis UK, Vivid Laminating Technologies and swissQprint. According to organisers Faversham House, there will also be a host of familiar – and maybe not so familiar – exhibitors ready and waiting to welcome visitors from across the sign and large-format digital printing world.

Event director Jenny Matthew says, ‘Last year we had a great show, even though the country was just getting used to the idea of getting out again. However, this year promises to be a no-holds-barred celebration of all that is good and great in the wonderful world of sign-making and large-format digital printing. I have spoken to many people who say that SDUK 2023 will be their first opportunity to see the latest technology and innovation for several years, and they can’t wait.’

In addition to the array of exhibitors on the show floor, there are other features at the show, designed to educate and inform sign-makers of all shapes, sizes and experience levels. One of these is the UK Wrap Battle 2023, hosted by Hexis, will run throughout the show, giving visitors a chance to see the very best practitioners of the vehicle wrapping trade as they demonstrate their skills in a battle of speed and accuracy to claim the title of Best UK Installer 2023.

Meanwhile, the Sign Studio aims to have something for everyone in vinyl signage, from novices to veterans. Running every day, this features live demonstrations and practical workshops hosted by experienced sign-maker Paul Hughes. These sessions will allow visitors to learn more about the basics of vinyl application, vehicle livery, wall coverings and other uses for the material.

‘I will give practical, hands-on demonstrations designed to inform people looking to take their first steps in vinyl application and those wanting to add to and develop their skills. There will even be something for more seasoned pros on the hunt for the latest tips and tricks,’ says Mr Hughes.


Explanations forthcoming

Complementing these are the SDUK Explains Lounge and a brand-new feature, the Sign Surgery, both hosted by the International Sign Association UK (ISA–UK). Throughout the show, there will be daily presentations and panel sessions covering the big issues affecting sign-makers and wide-format print providers. The topics covered in these will include sustainability, overcoming the skills shortage challenge and how to grow your business.

Building on last year’s outing, the Explains Lounge will host a comprehensive programme of presentations designed to engage, inform and inspire. All of the sessions are free to attend and there is no requirement to pre-register.

Event Director Jenny Matthew explains, ‘We have invited experienced experts in their field to explain how to make your sign business more successful. They will look at various important topics, such as when it’s right to outsource or take work in-house, how to win more tenders, and how sign-makers can work together to build their businesses.’


Panel beating

Daily panel sessions bring a range of industry experts together to discuss the big issues affecting the signage industry. On Tuesday 28 March, a group of experts from BPIF and POPAI will examine the danger of ‘sustainability satigue’. They will discuss how to reinvigorate the market to keep sustainability in focus and benefit themselves, their customers and the planet.

Wednesday’s panel session (29 March) will be hosted by Women in Sign-Making, focusing on the role of men in supporting women in sign-making. On Thursday 30 March, the panel will examine the skills shortage affecting sign-makers up and down the country. They will discuss the pain points for the sign industry, and highlight the key actions companies can take to overcome them.


Successful surgery

A new feature for 2023, the Sign Surgery will take place alongside the Explains Lounge and will be an informal environment where visitors can put questions to ISA-UK directors. Craig Brown, CEO of the ISA UK, says, ‘The Sign Surgery will be a vibrant and welcoming place where visitors come to discuss the issues and challenges most important to them. ISA members with decades of experience in all areas of sign-making will be available throughout the show to answer questions and discuss real business issues. We have seen and lived it all in signage as a group, and this is a rare opportunity to share this knowledge with fellow sign-makers.’

Ms Matthew concludes, ‘The Explains Lounge will be based in the heart of the show and we have put together a schedule that should have something of interest and value for everyone attending the show. Whether you are a small start-up looking to gain vital knowledge and advice from experienced industry experts, or a more seasoned professional wanting to keep up to speed with the latest developments, we have something for you on the Explains Lounge.’


Exhibitor highlights

Materials from Drytac for the large-format print and signage applications will appear on a variety of stand across Hall 2 at the NEC, where they will feature in product demonstrations from Epson, Roland DG, Soyang Europe and Mimaki distributor Hybrid Services. Experts from Drytac will also be in attendance to answer any questions.

Workflow and MIS specialist eProductivity Software (EPS) eProductivity Software is promising an exclusive first look at what it touts as ‘a revolutionary new mobile app that will change the way you approach installations, invoicing and delivery’. The rest of the company’s Productivity Suites and other modular solutions will be in action, with opportunities to speak with experts, about improving workflow, increasing efficiency, or expanding capabilities. Specific technology areas covered by EPS include web-to-print, imposition and print MIS/ERP solutions, backed by live demonstrations and hands-on experiences, plus expert consultations and advice.

Visitors to Mimaki distributor Hybrid Services’ stand will be able to view the new direct-to-film (DtF) TxF 150-75 printer that also made its debut appearance at Printwear & Promotion Live in late February. The Mimaki DTF works on cotton, polyester and polyester blended materials, and the print can be applied to both light and dark coloured fabrics. DtF offers a simpler workflow compared to other garment printing methods, and the inks are Oeko-Tex Eco Passport certified.

Also present on Hybrid’s stand will be the dye sublimation TS330-1600 and the other models in the 330 series of printers, the solvent print-only JV330-160 and its integrated solvent printer/cutter sibling, the CJV330. All three models share a common 1.6m platform, claiming high performance and productivity, coupled with ease of use. On the flatbed UV side, printers at opposite ends of the size spectrum will also be on show, with the A2/A3 format UJF Series displayed alongside the JFX200-2513EX 8 x 4-ft model. Both offer direct to substrate printing on a wide range of materials and items.

Morgana and Intec are partnering to exhibit a full range of die-cutting solutions. This includes the AeroDieCut, which uses existing wood and steel dies for cutting, creasing, perforating, embossing and debossing. For a full digital approach, the highly automated new ColorCut SC6000 is said to provide an ideal entry point. Flatbed die-cutting options from the Intec stable include the creasing and cutting dual-tooled flatbed ColorCut FB775 and ColorCut FB9000 Pro models, which deliver high performance and ‘unparalleled’ media control via creasing forces of up to 1.5kg and a cutting force of up to 1.2kg. Morgana’s top-of-the-range Valiani Integra is suitable for working with thicker substrates and targeted the world of signage and packaging.

Sign & Digital UK preview

The BN-20D desktop printer marks Roland DG’s entry into the direct-to-fabric sector

Premier will be showcasing products from its extensive range of display graphic media including key brands such as Contra Vision, Neschen, Ultraboard, Ritrama and Plexiglas. The company’s team of experts will be on hand to deliver product information, demonstrations and advice on how to transform spaces with memorable, innovative retail displays and graphics.  There will also be live competitions running throughout the course of each of the three days, with some prizes up for grabs and one or two special guest appearances.

PrintiQ will be returning to the show with an increased stand presence and more demonstrators following its success at last year’s event. The MIS developer will bring its latest software, which delivers business intelligence information and builds a managed workflow solution that allows users to see accurately where they are making or losing money and provides data to underpin actions. Among the various modules to be shown are Quote Intelligence, Payment Gateways, Shipping Manager, plus rich API interfaces that connect and drive online systems to create a complete automated ordering and tracking service from ‘quote to delivery’.

A range of wide-format print solutions will be shown by QPS, including a Colorjet Verve 2513 UV flatbed printer running throughout the three-day event, using Nazdar inks., which will also be featured in their own right. QPS will also be able to discuss how DuPont Artistri textile inks, for which is a distributor, will work with ‘almost any’ printer and are suitable for multiple textile applications including apparel, fashion accessories, interior design, exterior flags and signage, soft furnishings, active wear, garment decoration and direct-to-garment printing.

Roland DG will show the new TrueVis models announced in January 2023, including its first resin printer, the AP-640 and the MG & LG series of UV print-and-cut machines. Alongside these newest machines, the VG3-640 and SG3-540/300 printer/cutters will be displayed. Roland hasn’t confirmed but it seems highly likely that the company’s baby DtF printer, the BN-20D, which was shown at Printwear & Promotion Live, will also feature.

Soyang Europe and Josero will demonstrate hardware from manufacturing partners Fujifilm, Jetrix and Mimaki, as well as display an applications wall with products created using its own wide- and super-wide format digitally printable materials. The latter will include non-PVC banner materials, textiles, wallcovering and décor media, plus self-adhesive floor coverings.

Another returning exhibitor from 2022 is SwissQprint, which will be running live demonstrations of the high quality Nyala 4 flatbed UV printer, along with the roll-fed Karibu. Information about other models, including the Kudu, the most recently introduced high-end UV flatbed model capable of over 300sqm/hr output and with 10 configurable colour channels, will also be available. Specialist applications including neon inks, texture printing and 3D effects will be shown in addition.

Show stalwart Trotec will be back too, with a range of product demonstrations, including the biggest of its large-format laser cutters, the SP3000. With laser power options up to 400W, a 3210 x 2210mm working area and a host of productivity features, the PS3000 is designed for demanding production environments and enables an optimised workflow that complements the print process. In addition, Trotec will give live demonstrations of the Speedy 400 Flexx and Q500 laser engraver and cutter systems, which both offer high-quality laser finishing for printed products. The company’s range of sheet materials, including engravable laminates, wood and acrylic, will also be on display.

Vivid Laminating Technologies will be showcasing all its major product ranges: the VeloBlade Nexus range of wide-format digital die-cutters, the Matrix systems for lamination, foiling and special effects, and the Easymount systems for wide-format lamination. Vivid staff will also demonstrate the company’s Zip Core packaging software, which is has been designed to optimise packaging design from start to finish, and the VeloTaper fully-automated flatbed taping system, a patented innovation designed and developed in-house by Vivid in the UK.