Exhibition Stand Materials & Finishes
What are exhibition stands made of?
What are exhibition stands made of?
Design and exhibition materials go hand in hand with one another. Certain materials will have certain performance capacities and it is critical to provide as much information as possible to your stand builder early in the design stage of the project. For example, let’s say you have finally reached a custom booth design that you are happy with, then suddenly you wanted to use metal rather than timber – it will not be as simple as switching materials because each material has their own manufacturing methods and costs involved to make certain architectural components look the way you want it to. So there more information you can provide during the design stage the better. Below are some examples of important information you can advise your stand builder:
Tight budgets will give you limited booth design potential, but if you have a flexible or high budget, then there are so many things you can do – in this case you should speak to the experts to find out your options. Be realistic with the budget and try to be as accurate as possible, sometimes if you can increase your budget 10-15% that is enough to take your booth impact to the next level.
Certain materials will last longer than others, and other materials may cost more to refurbish or may struggle to make look like new again. Consider what your long-term goals are and whether you’d want to reuse the same booth and store it or just make a new booth for each event.
There are certain regulations that apply, whether they are structural or venue specific, it is important to understand these restrictions when designing a custom booth at different locations. For example, certain designs may require a permit or engineering report.
Consider how you want to make your visitors feel when they see or are in the stand and how this can help achieve your goals.
Think about how your brand will be reflected based on the type of stand you are after, for example if your company is eco-friendly, but your booth utilises a variety of plastic finishes how would that subliminally affect how your brand is viewed by others?
There are a variety of possible flooring materials you could use and most of the time it comes down to budget and other times it comes down to whether there is a specific type of aesthetic you want your stand to look and how it makes visitors feel when they are standing in your booth. You could have budget-friendly carpet tiles (you will see the joint lines) or you could have luxury carpet rolls, which make you feel like you’re at a luxury hotel. Below are some commonly used flooring materials for exhibitions that you can consider for your next event.
It is important to note that carpet flooring generally goes directly onto the venue flooring and the down sides of this is that anything that you require power for, then cables will be exposed on top of the carpet.
Typically coming in 1m x 1m tiles which go directly onto the venue flooring with double sided tape and joint lines will be visible.
These come in the form of rolls which have a maximum width of 2m – 3m, takes more time and experience to conceal the joint lines if your booth exceeds 3m in width. It also requires more care when transporting to avoid damage.
If you are after a full integrated booth, this would be a nice upgrade – you can print your logo and match your branding colours directly on the carpet, these are one-off with a high upfront cost.
Melamine flooring generally comes in the form of raised flooring, these are great to for creating a premium look and feel. Sometimes you don’t have a choice if you require a lot of electricity to your booth because raised flooring allows cables to be fully hidden under the floor.
The most popular colour is white, then you also have the option of going black or grey. Other colours are also available but due to the high demand of white, that colour comes out more cost efficient.
Brand Matching Colours
As above, you may also want to choose other unique colours such as blue, yellow, red etc to match your branding – this is limited to availability of colours which means it may not match your branding colour code, but can get close to it.
More premium melamine flooring comes in a timber grain, most popular is Natural Oak – there are also a wide variety finishes to choose from. Suppliers like Polytec have a great selection and it is also useful to note, availability and pricing will vary state to state.
These come in either rolls or planks and usually also go directly onto the venue concrete flooring, this means cables will be visible. If you are on a tight budget, this is a nice alternative to create that premium effect. The texture is typically printed onto the surface to create that illusion of timber or stone patterns.
This is great for booths that want a café or rustic type of feel.
These work well with a minimalistic aesthetic for stands that want that clean and natural finish aesthetic.
These are great for adding a splash of colour to the stand plus it implies a sense of nature and calmness.
The structure will make up most of your booth cost since this the area above the floor that will be the main area for creating spaces, architectural features, product displays and storage etc. If your booth is against another booth, it is regulation to have a wall on side with a minimum height of 2.4m which means the walling will already be the bare minimum.
There are multiple materials to choose from that you can either use as the main structure or as a cladding to create certain effects. Most commonly use are timber materials, that being MDF.
Since this material is widely used, it becomes the most cost efficient because this can be purchased in bulk. MDF is very easy to work with and can achieve almost any form, it is worth nothing that raw MDF is not used as the exposed finished surface, so most of the time it will be roll painted or covered in vinyl graphics.
Plywood is a more hard-wearing material which also has strong structural properties, these are great as a raw finish because of the natural timber finish it already has. This material does work out to be more expensive than MDF but depending on the type of look you are after; it could work out to be the cheaper option (rather than painting or covering it in graphics you can leave it raw).
These are great as exposed structural elements and can also end up being the architectural features of your booth. Rather than making a four-sided box as a beam, you can simply use a solid timber. The downside is that that material itself will cost more, but it does create a great natural timber finish. This is often used in coffee expos for booths that want a natural rustic feel to their café-styled booth.
Pine is another cost-efficient material for structural uses and has a nice natural timber finish so you can use it as an exposed feature element without applying additional finishes to it. Long elements may tend to bend if not properly reinforced, so that is also something to be cautious about.
Suitable for absolute high-end exposed wood finishes, this material comes with a very premium and professional finish but as a result comes with a high price tag. We typically do not see this option selected, but if you want to make a statement and premium finishes are important to you then you could consider this material.
Aluminium is a great lightweight structural material and in certain cases, works out very effective as raw exposed architectural elements such as posts. Because of the structural properties, it is also commonly used for structural reinforcement within timber components. If custom forms are created with aluminium, you would usually finish it off powder coated or spray-painted to match the branding colours of your booth.
Steel is super strong and durable and because of that, they tend to also be rather heavy. This material is typically used for heavy duty construction and if left outdoors it needs to be treated – either galvanised or powder coated. An application where steel performs well are thin heavy bases for hand sanitiser stands.
Glass would be considered the best material if you are after a transparent looking surface, but because of its delicate properties, special measures must be taken for transport and movement as they can break and shatter if not handled appropriately. Glass can be commonly used for windows, doors, and shelves.
A great alternative to glass, much easier to work with and typically more cost-effective. Not quite as crystal clear as glass, but if you are on a budget this could be the right choice for you.
Mirrors are great for cladding surfaces, for both interior or exteriors spaces as its reflective properties makes a space look more spacious and eye catching. Similar to glass, this material also needs to be handled appropriately (therefore additional costs could be associated with using this material).
Finishes is the actual surface that everyone sees. For example, you could have the main structure of your booth made from MDF, but the finish could range from roll painted, laminates, roll painted, or vinyl wrapped (or just raw if you really wanted to).
Raw can be regarded as cheap and stylish if implemented correctly, you won’t need to apply any special finishes to your structure. For example, with plywood, some simple sanding would be enough to make it a presentable finish – choosing a type of ply with minimal knots will also create a more premium look.
Roll painting is the most popular, cost-efficient, and versatile solution as a finish for the structure and architectural components of your booth. It is a great option if you plan to reuse your booth because paint can easily be sanded and repainted again to look like new.
If you are not a fan of plain colours, you can have artwork digitally printed on vinyl rolls then these simply get installed onto the walls. This option provides maximum impact as you can have the artwork however you like and also cost efficient in the long run as you can simply reuse the walls and no paint or paint work is required. It is the best method to get the most out of walls.
Laminates are much more durable surfaces when comparing to a roll painted surface, as it’s a thin layer of hard wearing material which is a nice smooth finish. These provide a high-quality finish and are useful for cabinets and desks as those have surfaces where people touch and scratch. Do note that laminate surfaces are much more difficult to repair, if the edges got chipped, you would need to cut the exact same shape to repair it and it still would not be a perfect repair.
This is the king of finishes for that ultimate premium effect, it can come seamless and finished super glossy for maximum impact. The process for this type of finish takes much longer as it needs to have several coatings for that car-like quality finish and for this option, you’d also be paying a premium due to additional time and effort it takes to get it to its final finish.
Signage is one of the most critical components of your exhibition booth as this is how your visitors can identify you and the goal is to set yourselves apart from others. There are a wide range of possible materials you can use to display signage, some more effective than others and for different purposes. Below are some common examples you could consider.
If you have large wall areas, this is the go-to type of signage you could use – you have full control of the artwork and these get printed onto rolls of vinyl then installed professionally onto your walls, you can think of it like wallpaper, but branded to your requirements. A tip to give it that premium finish is to add matte lamination, this will remove the reflections from the vast array of lighting in the venue, so your artwork is not compromised.
Vinyl Cut Lettering are typically used for logos and text. To save costs, you could have the wall roll painted and then apply VCL on top – this is a very cost-effective method to show signage in your booth and just does the job with no special effects.
PVC Boards are great if you plan to replace artwork often, these can simply be attached with double sided velcro which makes its easy to install and remove. No requirement to hire third party installers which saves you costs.
Acrylic signage can come illuminated and non-illuminated, if you do not want your signage to be left behind then illuminated signage will be your best bet. Illuminated acrylic signage can be face-lit, back-lit and side-lit – it’s a great method to get that additional visual impact to catch your visitors attention.
There is a whole heap of other materials that can be utilised to create signage such as timber, metal, alucobond, printed fabric, styrofoam etc each with their own advantages to create different effects. This is what you should explain the type of effect you want to your stand builder, and they can recommend options for you to consider.
A custom exhibition booth is a complex product made up of many different components from different industries and it takes professionals with experience to know what works with what to make sure your vision comes to life. Remember, it is critical to let your stand builder know even before the design begins if you have any specific materials or type of outcome you are trying to achieve with your booth. Get a head start and speak with the team at UCON Exhibitions about your options, the more prepared you are, the better the results.
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