Wednesday, August 18, 2010

From a Nature Trail to an Aisle on the Trade Show Floor

It was in 1948 when George de Mestral took his dog for a hike. On that particular summer day, both master and pet came home coved in burrs. Mestral was an inventor and with the help of a microscope he examined one of the many burrs stuck to his pants. When I was growing up on the farm west of Fort Worth, we called them “cockleburs.” He saw all the small hooks that enabled the seed-bearing burr to cling so viciously to the tiny loops in the fabric of his pants. This thorny product of nature inspired George as he took a closer look, "I will design a unique, two-sided fastener, one side with stiff hooks like the burrs and the other side with soft loops like the fabric of my pants. I will call my invention 'Velcro' a combination of the word velour and crochet.”

Like many visionaries, Mestral's idea met with resistance and even laughter, but the inventor 'stuck' by his invention. By trial and error, he realized that nylon when sewn under infrared light, formed tough hooks for the burr side of the fastener. Together with a weaver from a textile plant in France, Mestral perfected his hook and loop fastener. Through a lot of trial and error, the finished the design was patented in 1955. The inventor formed Velcro Industries to manufacture his invention. Mestral was selling over sixty million yards of Velcro per year, the product would rival the zipper in its ability to fasten. Today it is a multi-million dollar industry.

The generic term for Velcro is “Hook and Loop.” Now produced in many different varieties of strength, sizes, weights and colors, this fastener has woven its way into every major consumer product in one form or another. It has made life easier. Where would the footwear, apparel, athletic gear, stationary, luggage industry be without this remarkable fastener that can bind, loosen and re-fasten with such ease and speed?

Without a doubt Velcro has become the “fastener of choice” for the exhibit industry. Almost like magic, graphics are positioned and mounted to Velcro receptive fabric, quickly removed, stored and replaced with ease. Exhibit hardware, accessories, lighting and other show floor necessities are dependant on this two-part miracle product.

Here’s a reminder, when you’re using Hook and Loop on detachable graphics: Go easy on the amount of Velcro you use! It doesn’t take as much to mount graphics as you would think, why? It’s STRONG STUFF! Our graphics department at ShaBang Exhibits applies only ¼” wide hook tape around the perimeter of each roll-able panel. If too much Velcro is used, many times the graphic is damaged (crinkled or bent) as it is being removed. When graphics have too much Velcro applied, the knap of the fabric is damaged, leaving the exhibit worn and “old before its time.”

From a walk in the field to a walk down the trade show aisle, the product we’ve come to depend on, that has changed the way we mount graphics and tie our shoes has come a long way. Thank you Mr. Mestral!

NEXT: What’s a Lambda Print? Do you know what Lambda is?

Large and small companies are finding the Shabang Exhibits website a good resource for information in planning a successful trade show. Check out the Trade Show Tips at:

ShaBang! Exhibits, Inc Dallas Fort Worth Garland 214-340-2885

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