Brackets and mounts: Easy access
With uncertainty in the AV industry and lack of clarity concerning Brexit, Steve Montgomery finds that the market for display mounts and brackets is looking good.
The enormous growth in the display industry over the past few years has stimulated and created parallel expansion in the market for the mounts and brackets required to hang ever-larger display panels in diverse locations. This sector has developed and evolved in order to meet the wide range of demands from system integrators and installers for flexible mounting solutions that can make their jobs simpler.
It is no longer sufficient to supply simple ‘bang-and-hang’ brackets for single LCD screens. Today’s market calls for mounting mechanisms for large matrices of LCD panels in a single continuous wall, mounts for curved surfaces, movable displays and interactive panels - a wide range indeed. “Requirements tend to vary greatly between installations,” says Keith Dutch, managing director - EMEA, Peerless-AV. “This means that installers need a comprehensive range of mounting options from which to choose; with the highest levels of quality, safety, serviceability and the maximum possible range of adjustment to ease on-site installation issues.”
Display technology is changing; there are increasingly more LED displays and these have their own peculiar requirements. Pixel pitches are decreasing, displays are getting larger and the amount of cabling and power management to be handled behind the screen is increasing – all leading to changes in the design of the supporting devices. As Jannine van den Akker, marcom coordinator at Vogels, points out: “LED technology is increasingly being used on streets, in shopping centres, train stations, stadiums and in other public places. Improved LED resolution, quality and endless opportunities for expanding a videowall without a frame make it far more common for LED panels to be used to build videowalls. There is no standard size for an LED videowall.”
No matter where, or how, the display is installed, safety has to be the primary consideration. Dutch: “Safety should be the number one priority in any application in any sector. Increasing demand for the biggest displays means more consideration is required in the choice of mounting solution to be able to safely support a big heavy screen. Mounts for large displays up to 98-in that are tested to four times the maximum weight capacity ensure safe, reliable usage in the real-world.”
Displays are common across all market sectors and whilst there are common requirements across them all, each has its own specific requirements. “Longevity and reliability are at the forefront of every sector’s requirements,” explains John Whittle of Loxit. “But different environments call for different attributes, including accessibility, durability, versatility and adjustability.”
With such wide range of displays and locations, it is perhaps inevitable that a certain level of customisation and bespoke design is carried out. “We can cover most requirements with our standard product portfolio and make sure we combine components as far as possible to create new designs,” says Eric Backus, sales and marketing director, Wize AV. “However there will be always a certain demand for customised solutions. We can combine a lot of components together to create great customised solutions. We can also produce customised mounts in conjunction with local partners. Designers supply technical drawings and specifications and our local partner can produce according to our quality standards.”
Interactive displays are common in education and are likely to be used by a range of children and adults. “Interactivity is very common, with modern touchscreens everywhere, for both teachers and students to use,” says Mark Walker, business development manager, B-Tech AV Mounts. “Height adjustability is crucial so that screens can be quickly adapted for use with different age groups and there are usually extra safety concerns which must be considered as these solutions may be pushed and pulled around by children of varying ages. Fixed castors ensure mobile displays stay where they are placed, and the ability to hide and secure any potentially hazardous cabling is important for classes of young children.”
Touchscreens are also regularly encountered in the corporate market, and here a different set of needs is evident. “AV should be neatly integrated into the corporate environment so the audience is completely focused on the message rather than the technology behind it,” says Dutch. Displays are not always being used, so mobility plays a part. “When considering videoconferencing and interactive presentation systems for conference rooms, it’s important to consider how you plan to mount, operate and manoeuvre them. Specially designed trolleys, stands and wall mounts are available to support large format screens and interactive displays and provide ideal viewing positions, match the décor of any professional setting and are easily transported from room to room. New solutions are available incorporating innovative lift technology to allow users to raise or lower a display, with just a finger.”
There is great demand for displays in transportation applications: in airports, railway stations and shipping, for a multitude of tasks from departure boards through advertising, digital menu boards and wayfaring. Here the emphasis is on reliability and ease of access for maintenance and replacement of displays which are often in locations that are difficult to access. Transport terminals cannot afford failures in the digital signage systems aimed at moving passengers to the right locations and any failures must be rectified quickly.
Similarly, the retail sector often has displays in high-traffic areas that cannot be reached easily, or safely, during opening hours. A unique problem occurs early in the installation phase. “Retailers often operate in buildings that have been altered many times, therefore installing into these buildings can be difficult,” points out David Jopling, marketing director, Unicol. Demand for screens in shops is often driven by the need to differentiate the store and provide a customer experience in order to pull people in, away from online shopping.
Walker expresses his sentiments: “Stores are taking steps to make sure retail shopping is as much about the in-store experience as it is about purchasing goods. Retail interiors are designed to very high specifications and AV systems need to reflect this. Screens usually need to be incorporated into the design rather than look like an afterthought and are increasingly required to be installed in weird and wonderful shapes and configurations. A varied range of pop-out solutions featuring micro-adjustment technology is essential to cater to these requirements, for both single screens and walls. Interactivity is also becoming more common as stores are starting to incorporate those technologies.”
Another issue in shops is the requirement to install screens in windows without disrupting the aesthetic appeal and careful design. Floor-to-ceiling mounts with integral cable management offer a discreet in-window option for retail outlets and draw attention to compelling content.
Large videowalls constructed from multiple LCD or LED panels have their own specific requirements. These are often found in control rooms in which continuous operation is crucial. Top of the list of priorities is access. Should a panel in the middle of a large wall fail, it needs to be replaced quickly and easily, usually without the need to remove surrounding panels. Whittle: “In multi-screen situations features such as easy access and simple alignment prove even more important. If a display in the middle of an array should fail, being able to pop that screen out to access components at the rear saves installers a lot of time and effort.”
Alignment and adjustability are also important. Walls are rarely straight and even minor misalignment in panels can cause significant undesirable visual defects over a large multi-screen surface. “For recessed walls and imperfect surfaces, a mount needs to be highly versatile, allowing fine tune adjustment and precision alignment so there is no tiling affect where the screens join,” he says. Time spent wrestling with misalignment of screens eats into the profitability of installation projects and is one of the main reasons that installers will generally buy high quality mounts rather than shop around for cheaper online bargains – that don’t turn out to be bargains in the long run. “Cheaper products are not as reliable; they often sag forward over time.”
Other considerations that can affect profitability, and influence installers to buy high quality, locally-manufactured products include the ability to pre-assemble before erection on site. “Our mounts are manufactured in the UK which allows us to pre-build products in our factory to reduce the time required for the on-site install,” points out Whittle. This greatly increases efficiency for the installer and customer. It is not possible to offer this kind of service with flat packed, cheap imported products as they are often being transported internationally.”
Jopling mentions another aspect that affects choice: “Cheaper mounts flooded the market when flat screens started to replace consumer CRT TVs back in the early 2000s. Since then there has been more of a differentiation between consumer and professional mounting systems. A factor that affected the industry greatly was the reduction in achievable margins from screen and projector sales and the realisation that profit could obtained by selling mounts. This led to an increase in the number of mount manufacturers in the European market and significantly increased competition. As the AV industry grew market share was not a real issue and the amount of recognised mount manufacturers is now stable.”
The market for digital signage and other display screens is still growing and its knock-on effect for mounts is encouraging to the industry. Even with Brexit looming there is cause for optimism. Jopling is adamant that the outlook is bright. “Commerce is heading towards an uncertain future,” he believes. “One of the markets Unicol has seen as a growth area is retail but it is likely that a soft Brexit will lead to meagre retail growth, while a hard Brexit could cause the retail market to contract. A lack of consumer confidence linked to uncertainty and a rise in inflation fuelled by the fall of the pound is eating into real incomes. Couple this with the increasing popularity of on-line shopping which places more pressure on store-based shopping and retailers predict a tough time ahead. However, it seems large retailers are fighting back by consolidating their positions through mergers or acquisitions and are looking at new ways to reinvent that ever important customer experience in order to compete with rivals. Current trends suggest that AV will play a substantial part in influencing the customer experience both visually and analytically. Therefore, we have been steadily expanding and diversifying custom mounting solutions.”