Not all Wood Displays are Created Equal
By Mike Tilden
Over the years I’ve had so many conversations with customers and sales personnel about the various material options for wood displays. It seems that there are a lot of misunderstandings about what is available and practical for a given budget, expected performance and finished appearance of the wood display. Also logistics, shipping costs and on-site assembly need to be considered when selecting and specifying the best materials to fit all of these considerations.
Cost Effective CNC Milling
In our custom millwork shop and in most manufacturing facilities around the world nowadays, CAD engineering and CNC routers are the most common and cost-effective way of precisely milling hundreds or thousands of parts for any kind of wooden display stand or for wood display cases. The wood-based products best suited for this type of process are engineered panels, veneered plywood, particle board or MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) panels with either melamine or HPL (high pressure laminate) bonded to the surface.
These types of panels are most commonly available in ¾” inch thickness by 4’ X 8’. These panels can be efficiently processed by CNC router equipment, which is commonly referred to as panel processing. The CNC router leaves only the exposed edges to receive a finish which is usually accomplished using matching edge banding applied by another machine. Most wooden store fixtures do not have exposed edges. Cam lock fasteners or screws and inserted nuts are typically used for final assembly, thereby enablng less costly flat knocked-down shipping and easy assembly of the retail display at the store level (Think Ikea furniture).
Finishing & Graphics
The panels and CNC processing enable a wide range of point of purchase wood displays to be built and shipped in relatively small quantities and at a practical cost due to lower manufacturing set-up costs and a more efficient use of forest products. This results in lower total material costs for the POP display. Any wood store fixture or wood display case can look like a stained and finished natural wood unit. In addition, there are many other custom colors and textures available. These finishes also readily accept various available graphic elements, which are typically a key ingredient of any retail display or visual merchandising initiative . The approach I have described is generally the most cost-effective way to engineer and build a wooden display stand; however, not all looks and design elements can always be achieved, and there are a number of aesthetic compromises and tradeoffs to consider.
As a general rule, point of sale displays made of MDF and particle board panels will need to be in a dry indoor environment only. Also, over time fasteners can work loose and edge banding can be damaged. A plywood-based panel will be stronger, hold fasteners better and be lighter weight overall than composite wood materials like MDF or particle board; however, refinishes and pre-laminated panel colors are very limited, and the cost is about 30 - 40% higher in most cases.
In a future custom millwork blog, I will discuss elements involved in manufacturing store displays using natural wood lumber, including advantages and disadvantages.