Firehouse Blog


When is a Bargain NOT a Bargain?


You generally get what you pay for. But, when you want inexpensive, rigid graphics, are they really a bargain? The answer is, “it depends.”

Firehouse’s least expensive rigid material is foamcore. It’s very popular because it’s lightweight and works great for many applications. So, when the job calls for rigid graphics on a budget, foamcore is usually the winner. That’s fine, but there is more to consider. The characteristics that make foamcore an attractive material also make it difficult to ship. Simply put, foamcore is easily damaged in shipping. It flexes, creases and dings. To help foamcore survive the trip to its final destination, we have to really beef up the packaging. We sandwich foamcore sheets inside 6 layers of corrugated cardboard to add rigidity. And, because corners are so easy to ding if the package is dropped, the box and corrugated sheets are several inches larger overall than the foamcore they protect. We often use what we call tube boxes that have a corrugated cushion on each side. All of that leads to a larger, heavier box with more filler.

Foamcore IS an inexpensive material, but consider this example. The packaging for a foamcore sign is roughly 6 times the cost of the sign itself. Unfortunately, corrugated cardboard isn’t free. We have to pass those costs on to our clients.

That doesn’t sound like a bargain any more. The alternative?


An upgrade in your print material can allow us to downgrade the packaging. Switching to gatorboard or PVC sheets gives your graphics a much higher survival rate in shipping, and because they are more rigid and durable, all that extra cardboard isn’t needed. Another factor to consider is where the graphic is to be displayed. If it will be exposed to heat or direct sunlight, foamcore may have difficulty in that environment. Gatorboard and PVC are more stable choices there too.

So, the next time a project calls for foamcore, contact us and we can discuss material cost vs. packaging cost. Then you’ll really know you’re getting what you paid for.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations

How does Packsize Combat FedEx & UPS’s New Dimensional Weight Pricing?

PaulPicA Wall Street Journal article from last May [ ] proclaimed that FedEx was quietly changing their pricing model for ground packages in 2015. Instead of weight as the determining factor, ground shipments will now use the “dimensional weight model.” Simply put, size now matters on all ground shipments. This model is not new and has previously been applied to all air express packages. But now, all ground packages will be charged based on this pricing model. The article predicted that UPS would follow FedEx’s lead in this, and they have.

The dimensional weight model multiplies package length, width and height in inches. That number is then divided by 166 to determine the dimensional weight in pounds.


For example, your package is 12 x 24 x 24. That multiplies out to 6,912. Divide by 166, round up and your package’s dimensional weight is 42 pounds. If your package actually weighs 42 pounds or more, you will be charged by that true weight. But, if you’re shipping a lightweight product with lots of packing filler, you will see a huge price increase with this change.

What can you do?

Use the smallest box possible for each shipment and limit fillers. Firehouse’s shipping department is already doing this for our clients with our Packsize on-demand box maker. Our boxes are made the exact size needed for each product. We already thought Packsize was a great idea, but now it’s even more critical for offering savings to our clients. Here’s a Packsize video illustrating (literally) the new shipping rates.

While we’d love to claim that we are so tuned in to FedEx and UPS’s inner workings that we predicted this change and then installed Packsize, we can’t. Truth is, we installed Packsize in the fall of 2013 in our ongoing quest to cut waste and the number of boxes stored in our warehouse. But in 2015, Packsize is making us look smarter than ever.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations

The Future is Fabrics!

PaulPicFabricsFeaturedRetail graphics throughout Australia and Europe are migrating to printed fabrics in stretch frames. It’s easy to understand why once you see the numerous benefits.

What Is It?

Simply put, the combination of printed fabric and aluminum frame can replace printed, rigid substrates in most applications. It begins with the rich and vibrant colors of the printed fabric. The non-reflective surface offers a refined look that is especially important in environments such as TV news sets and red carpet back walls.

REXframe01Next, a silicon strip, or welt, is sewn to all edges of the fabric. The welt holds the fabric in place in a specially designed frame system. The prints are held taut in the frame and can be free standing, hung or wall mounted.

The Frame System

Rod Peter was frustrated. As General Manager of a large print provider in Australia, Rod was witnessing the explosion of fabrics for exhibition and event signage. But he was also seeing the increasingly confusing offerings in extruded stretch framing systems. Rod was convinced a better system would be embraced by others who shared his frustrations. In 2006, Rod worked with an industrial engineer to design a simple, modular system that made sense. A primary goal was to limit the total number of pieces to keep it simple. The result was the introduction of FabFrame in 2006. The system consists of a FabFrameLogonumber of multi-use extrusions and connectors that can be combined to build anything from simple, single-sided pieces to complex shapes — all with seamless fabric coverage. It didn’t take long before print buyers began asking for FabFrame by name.

Now, Rod Peter is bringing the system to North America with a new name — REXframe.

REXframe POS

The Benefits

AssembledFrameThe framing and fabric are lightweight and ship unassembled in smaller packages compared to printed rigid substrates. That cuts the costs on packaging and shipping. The frames are easily assembled with hex keys. If the framing is wall mounted or hung, there will be additional installation steps and tools needed. Once the frame is installed, the graphics are fitted in minutes. Swapping graphics also takes just a few minutes without tools. Once installed, the frame becomes very unobtrusive. The high-end look presents customers with more graphic and less frame. The fabric surface won’t reflect trade show or studio lights making them ideal backdrops for video and photography.

The Options

REXframe extrusions are available as single sided, double sided, cubes, suspended, curved and lightboxes. Plus, these different extrusions can be combined to build truly unique 3D structures such as cash wraps, entry arches and trade show displays. The modular system allows endless customization.


The Future

RodPeterRetouchRod Peter stopped by Firehouse in December to sit down with our team and present his vision for REXframe in North America. He sees the market moving the same way it did in Australia — and then Europe. The benefits of framed fabrics are just registering on the radar of print buyers and the excitement is building. Rod is convinced that the overwhelming popularity of FabFrame in Australia and Europe will be seen in North America with REXframe. Buyers will quickly recognize the simplicity, quality and versatility of the system and more and more rigid substrates will be replaced.

REXframeD'LiteLogoRod is also introducing the new REXframe D’LiTe line in the spring. It is specifically designed for the U.S. market to meet demand for high-volume retail rollouts. REXframe D’LiTe is lighter weight, lower cost and easy to install. It is ideal for single and double-sided installations.

Firehouse is pleased to partner with REXframe and we are looking forward to introducing this innovative product line to our clients.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations