Technology Behind Exhibition Stands
How do we streamline our processes with the power of technology, check it out!
How do we streamline our processes with the power of technology, check it out!
Technology plays a big part in projects and especially in the exhibition industry, it helps streamline processes such as design, production, and project management – it’s how we stay in control and ensure nothing is missed so that your trade show booth is executed as efficiently as possible while keeping costs down allowing to you achieve maximum ROI. We discuss our key technological tools that we use to make this happen and explain to you what happens behind the scenes, hopefully by the end of this blog you will have a better understanding of how important it is to use the right tools to for the right purpose! Grab a coffee because exhibitions are quite a complex beast.
Getting the design right is critical to ensure you make the most out of your booth. Typically, we have a briefing session first to make sure we understand your priorities then we take this information along with the location of your booth with the number of open sides available and start to sketch out some rough layout ideas. Sometimes, plain sketches are a bit hard for clients to visualise properly – therefore we utilise technology to help us out. Sketchup is used for digital modelling, v-ray is used for visualisations and adobe suite is used to create graphics – all three types of software are used in conjunction to create a design proposal for approval.
There are so many types of software that you could use for 3D modelling, and we have tested most of them, some quite rigorously. It became clear that sketch-up was the winner for us, it is super quick to achieve a realistic outcome by allowing you to quickly apply materials and textures to the model, even before rendering it out. This makes it super-efficient for us make quick updates as required, sometimes we can even do it on the spot through share screen – this saves time for the client as well as us because most of the time decisions can be made on the spot once they can visually see what the outcome is going to look like. Another advantage of Sketch-Up is that we can share our model online, which means we can simply share the link with our client, and they can view the 3D model on their browser – they can rotate and zoom anywhere in the 3D model, and we find that our clients find it very helpful to understand the whole project.
For more information about Sketch-Up: https://www.sketchup.com/
V-Ray is a rendering engine, it is a software which has the capacity to render out realistic imagery which incorporates realistic materials, lighting, and shadows. This is our core software to make our images look real, so clients do not need to do any second guessing and is the best way to get a realistic impression of the final product. The “interactive render” feature in the software allows us to quickly test and make sure the materials, lighting and shadows are correct before putting the image into final render. This saves a lot of time which means we can respond back to our client quicker and with the same consistency of image quality. Another reason why V-Ray is used is because they have a “batch render” function, which means if you have all your scenes set up, it will render all of them automatically, so you do not need to wait for each render to finish before clicking to start the next one.
For more information about V-Ray: https://www.chaosgroup.com/vray/sketchup
There are 3 main types of software that are utilised within the adobe suite: Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop – this is used in conjunction with each other to create graphics and layout artwork. It is also used for setting up quick artwork options for visualisation purposes which allows you to control exactly where and how each artwork is positioned in the 3D Model. Each software has their own advantages, but most of the time we combine the final artwork in Illustrator then output the print file from there – reason being Illustrator is best for vector files which are used most often, and it has the capacity to output the necessary file for printing. There is not other software that can match the capabilities of the adobe suite, it is the most powerful allowing you to achieve any type of effect you desire and is most reliable and accurate.
For more information about Adobe Suite: https://www.adobe.com/au/products/catalog.html
Optimising production is crucial for exhibitions, it controls the number of stands you have the capacity to handle for each event. Production is the process where the project is approved, and it is a matter of creating the necessary drawings so that it can be utilised for fabrication. There is certain software that are used to optimise this process so that less time is spent of manual work and more time is left over for the actual production work. Sketch-Up again is our solution for efficiency for production drawings, Cabinet Vision is a software for programming CNC machines to cut panels, Multicam is specifically used for signage work, and Onyx is the software use for large format printing.
There is a feature in Sketch-Up, called “Layout” and it allows you to quickly set up technical production drawings which displays all dimensions and annotations, and we use this package as a final set of drawings for client approval before we commence fabrication. This package will identify all basic dimensions and highlight any specific details we want the client to be across, so once the booth is fabricated, there are no surprises and that both us and the client are on the same page on what to expect as the final product. There are also plugins that helps optimise workflow, for example, there is a plugin that outputs all the required panel dimensions all in one go – so in the end you have a sheet that gives you all the part number and dimensions it needs to be cut to, another time saving reason for using use Sketch-Up.
For more information about Layout: https://www.sketchup.com/products/layout
Cabinet Vision by Planit
This is another core software commonly used for CNC machines, and it does require the model to also be made in the same software so it does require a higher setup time, but the advantage is that it eliminates any costly mistakes that can be made in the factory by human error – all panels are cut exactly to the size that it is assigned, with all parts are labelled. All that is required then, is to collate all the panels and assemble them. This software is commonly used for the cabinet and joinery industry, which makes it easily adaptable to the exhibition industry also as it is all the same process – just different designs. This software also provides you a helpful material summary, this is done automatically once the modelling is complete and it gives you a list of required materials required to complete the build (no need to manually work it out!).
For more information about Cabinet Vision: https://www.au.planit.com/products/cabinetvision/intro
Multicam EZI Panel Pro
Multicam EZI Panel Pro is also another software for CNC machines, but this is geared more towards the signage industry because of the high precision and capacity to be able to cut a larger variety of materials. It comes with variety of different drill bits which also allows it to cut very complex and detailed work and being able to have it finished to a professional quality. This software is again used for efficiency and accuracy, once you have the cut file the software will be able to tell you how long the job will take to cut, which drill but to use and nest any repetitive cuts as efficiently as possible onto your specified panel.
For more information about Multicam EZI Panel Pro: https://multicam.com.au/accessories-and-services/software
Onyx Printing Software
Onyx is a very powerful software for print-and-cut, colour management and job preparation – this is often used for vinyl roll printing. When printing in large format, it is critical that all colours come out as expected and when this software is very powerful for managing this so that you can avoid reprinting which costs money and takes more of your time. Another useful tool which is used often for large format vinyl printing is the setting up the cut files, rather than setting up each file and check each file manually to make sure they line up – there is a feature that can do this automatically, just put in the number of overlaps required and it will set this up for you. For complex artwork, this saves a lot of time and ensures no mistakes happen on site when installing the vinyl graphics.
For more information about Onyx: https://www.onyxgfx.com/products/rip-products/
A large part of making sure your event is run smoothly is project management, it is a key role which controls the speed of the project. With exhibitions, there are so many factors that can come into affect which can cause delays and the way to avoid this is to make sure at each step there is nothing holding you back. It could be as simple as not getting an official approval on the project by a certain date, it will simply create unnecessary stress and delays on the project. How do we manage this? We utilise software such as Outlook, Todoist, WhatsApp and Teams to our advantage.
Outlook is an industry standard used for emails – it is super simple to use and powerful for helping you keep track of email communication and on top of any meetings you have schedule through the calendar. We like to keep things simple – for example, for emails that have been actioned they are moved into the archive folder (which never gets deleted and lets you go back to it when required). The aim is to keep the inbox empty; this means no further pending actions is required and for anything that requires urgency we place a red flag to indicate this should be prioritised when possible. Why do we keep it simple? If you have too many folders, you may start to lose track and it creates a visual mess because you may then spend too much time figuring out if this email should go in there or not, when your time can be more efficient spent elsewhere.
For more information about Outlook: https://outlook.live.com/owa/
To organise team tasks, we use Todoist – it is a simple task list that is shared amongst our team members so we can all keep track of the production progress once projects have been approved. For example, we create a project folder for each project and within it, we have subcategories such as production drawings, fabrication items, hired items, transport and onsite details etc – each will have a team member assigned to, so everyone knows who is doing what. There are also multiple things that can be added to find more details about each task such as what is the progress with it, when is it expected to be completed, any deadlines we need to know about etc. To make this work as efficiently as possible, we usually have a team meeting to run through all the tasks so that everyone is on the same page, then from there we can execute accordingly. Todoist has also recently added a function where you can view your tasks as boards which goes horizontally rather than vertically, use this to our advantage by laying it out as project pipeline – this gives us an overview of how many leads have come in, are in the design stage, have won and in production etc.
For more information about Todoist: https://todoist.com/
WhatsApp tends to be more for urgent matters, it does not require you or the client to be at a desk to formally respond to which makes it less formal but does the job. It is also great for communication within the team (you can create a group chat), it makes it very convenient for sending progress photos and because of this it can speed up response rates so you more time to work on other tasks. WhatsApp also is helpful with international clients as international calls are free and just requires Wi-Fi – there is a very high chance that the person you are trying to reach will have WhatsApp, which means it is also convenient for them and won’t require setting up a call using another platform.
For more information about WhatsApp: https://www.whatsapp.com/
Due to covid, it has forced people to stay at home and because of this we have started to utilise Microsoft Teams much more. It also seems like a lot of our clients are doing the same thing – having a common communication software with clients makes it much more convenient to schedule a quick call. The advantage of Microsoft Teams is that it also has a “share screen” function, this makes it super useful for explaining things on screen and you can use your mouse to point at what you are referring to. We also utilise share screen for 3D modelling, this allows the client to view the live 3D model on our screen and for any quick adjustments they’d like to make we can generally action that on the spot. This is great for clarifying any questions and can efficiently make sure us and the client are on the same page.
For more information about Microsoft Teams: https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software
The whole process of trade shows can seem very complicated, but once you understand the whole process it becomes relatively simple – each stage has their own deadlines, and it is a matter of understanding what is required when to avoid any delays to the next stage. Technology has played a vital role in helping manage the three major stages in exhibitions: design, production, and project management. It is not just about knowing which software to use; it is about how to use it as efficiently as possible so time can be spent on the more important things. UCON Exhibitions has been in the industry for over 5 years and we know how to get things done – reach out and let’s have a chat.
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