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Profile: Fabric Tension Test Rig

Here at Banner Box, we have a long history of producing high-quality graphics of all shapes and sizes, for a multitude of clients and environments. One of our industry-leading products is the Fabric Tension System, which is becoming more and more popular with our clients who are looking for a professional, colour rich printed graphics for their exhibitions or shows. With our long history in producing printed graphics, we have the experience, expertise, and equipment to produce some of the highest quality graphics in the UK.

However, when creating large graphics, we often face a problem. They say size isn’t everything, but when it comes to printing graphics which can be up to 20 metres wide, well… size is pretty important. More accurately, getting the size of the finished banner exactly right is the problem.

If you haven’t already checked out our Print Journey article, you might be interested in doing that at this point! You see, what we didn’t include in that article (between steps 6 and 7), was that the banner needs to be measured to ensure it is exactly the correct size that the client requested. Even when dealing with graphics that are in the double-digits of metres wide, even a few millimetres too large or too small can end up creating a product that our client simply can’t use.

Why? Well, the graphics are destined to fit into specific types of outdoor frames (like our own Fabric Tension Systems product), and these types of frames are not flexible. They are a fixed size, and if the banner is too small (or too large), then at best it doesn’t look right, or at worst it doesn’t fit! Even though a lot of the graphics we were printing were destined to be used in our own Fabric Tension Systems, some of them were going to be fitted into 3rd party frames. So how could we test the graphics to make sure it fits perfectly (i.e. within the margin of error of 3mm) to a 3rd party banner frame – one that we’ve never seen, and likely won’t ever see.

So, one windy afternoon in May our talented Graphics department sat down with our equally-talented manufacturing staff and devised a solution. The answer, after a little head-scratching and a cup of tea, was to build our own adjustable, portable, and accurate testing rig. We call it: the Fabric Tension System Test Rig, or FTSTR for short. Take our word for this, we are better at making graphics than we are coming up with catchy names!

The Test Rig was to be designed to be adaptable so that we could install any graphics we printed, but first we could adjust the height and width of the frame to the exact dimensions provided by our client. By adjusting the various knobs and screws on the Rig, it could be adjusted to any size between 500mm – 3000mm wide, or 500mm – 6000mm high, which covers the vast majority of the graphics we produce. (Any banner larger or smaller than that normally has a generous margin of error.)

The Test Rig lives on the 1st floor of our Chesterfield factory, the heart of the Banner Box and Specialised Canvas operations. Situated next to our cutting area and upper sewing area, the Test Rig is continually suspended 10 feet in the air above the upper work table, and maneuvered into position and onto the table by a sturdy crank handle system (seen below operated by Paul Noble, our Sales & Marketing Director).

The Rig itself can be operated by just one staff member, and despite some upper body strength required to operate the crank handle, printed graphics can be checked in the Rig and deemed ready to be sent to the client within 5 minutes.

This innovative solution means that the Banner Box staff can be 100% positive that any and all graphics which are sent out are guaranteed to fit the frame they are destined to be fitted in. Needless to say, this is a huge comfort to our clients who call up with an 11th-hour order for a very important exhibition they may have on the next day!

The real pay-off for our staff is that the FTSTR has become a real workhorse in our factory, being used on a daily basis (for every individual print, or 1 out of every 10 prints for a large batch order). This method of quality control is used on every print being sent out for 3rd party banner frames (we already know exactly the size of our own banner frames!), and has already proven itself in 2 of our highest-profile jobs lately, namely the Turner Exhibition in the National Maritime Museum, and the Transformers Universe Exhibition at the Gadget Show Live.


We’re really proud of our new Test Rig, and we love showing it off to clients who visit our factory – it really does give some peace of mind on important orders we receive.


Here is a gallery of all the pictures included above, plus a few more. Click on one below to see a larger version!


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