Mounting concerns

Often seen as a commodity rather than a premium item, a wall mount or bracket is none-the-less essential with display installations. InAVate talks to the manufacturers about safety and other issues.

One of the unsung heroes of the AV world is the humble bracket. Used for fixing projectors, plasma screens and other items of AV equipment to walls and ceilings it is an essential, if slightly unglamorous part of almost every AV installation.

Next time that you have a closer look at some digital signage to see whose flat panel it is (yes we all do it), take a moment longer to look behind the screen and see whose bracket is holding it to the wall.

Being, in most cases at least, slightly unsightly pieces of metal work, they are not often at the top anyone’s priority list when budgeting for a project. However, when you consider that in many instances a bracket could be supporting several thousand Euros worth of hardware it makes sense to choose carefully.

We asked several of the leading bracket suppliers what they thought to be the main issues that face both themselves and those purchasing mounting solutions. The usual suspects such as price, margin and ease of supply are all mentioned, but safety and product quality are also at the top of several agendas.

One market in which safety is a particularly hot topic is education. The investment in AV technologies, particularly by the UK government, is well document but the phenomenon of interactive whiteboards is spreading across the rest of Europe. With every whiteboard comes a projector and with every projector comes a mounting solution. The first phase of BECTA installations is now approaching the five-year mark, which means they are ripe for replacement, and to coincide with that the organisation has instituted a review of installation procedures that accompanied the first phase.

It is clear that issues were identified and a BECTA document obtained by InAVate reads: “…through an ongoing contract management process it became apparent that consistent best practice in respect of installation process and practice was not always followed and did not always exist. Becta made an assumption that the AV industry had a known installation process documented to which installers could follow however; it was apparent that with no single regulatory body in place this was not the case. Becta’s original thinking assumed that like the electrical installers there is a regulatory body who oversee work to specified standards.”

What has this to do with brackets? Well, involved in the debate about this development of best practice are the bracket manufacturers. All of them supply guidance with their products as to the proper attachment of their products to appropriate anchors. But how much further should they go to ensure that their products stand up to the rigors of every day use, or not so everyday use?

Robert Seward is marketing manager of Unicol. “We’ve always made our kit very strong. It’s designed and tested to at least five times the intended load, however there is another issue of fixing. There’s no point in engineering a bracket to five times weight if it’s then screwed into a plaster wall,” he said.

There is also a debate around what exactly is everyday use. The UK’s health and safety executive has suggested that the best practice guidelines should include consideration of so-called “miscreant pupils”. Although it doesn’t particularly specify what constitutes miscreancy it’s not hard to envisage where they are going with that phrase – kids hanging on projector mounts. The problem then becomes how many kids, how heavy they are and whatever else you are expecting the bracket to cope with. It’s certainly possible to design a mount that will support the weight of five 15 year olds but apart from being prohibitively expensive to buy, it’s likely the ceiling fixing would give way first.

This isn’t just a problem reserved for the UK. It applies everywhere. Vogels, another bracket manufacturer, is based in The Netherlands, and Business Development Manager Vim Arts remarked: “We have the same issue with kids as everyone else in terms of behaviour in classrooms. I don’t see that there’s much that we can do as manufacturers other than to test our products appropriately and to issue instructions on the correct mounting of the product. If you get six kids pulling on a projector there’s nothing we can reasonably do about it.”

The subjects of quality and safety are also inextricably linked with that of cost. The TUV standard, whilst not being a legally binding one, is commonly held in Europe to be a trusted sign of quality. There are two separate specifications applying to bracketry, as Vogels’ Arts explained: “In TUV there is a difference that’s very important. For consumer use it requires a product to be tested to three times the intended load, but for public use it must be increased to five times load. So if I’m designed a mount for a 10Kg projector it must be tested to 50Kg if I want to have TUV certification for public use.”

One of the pressures on European based manufacturers is, as with all others, cheaper imports manufactured in the east. B-Tech bridges that divide as a UK based company who manufacture abroad. Martin Bennett, MD said: “We test all our products to withstand up to three times the specified weight limit and also have them tested by the TUV testing body.”

Manufacturers based in Europe are seeking other ways to add value to their products or are pinning their colours to the quality mast. Audipack are a case in point. Julian van den burg says: “Combining safety, durability, design and cost as well as maintaining the original identity of Audipack are important to us. That may not result in the cheapest, but will result in a satisfied customer.” Audipack also test their products to withstand 3-5 times load in accordance with the TUV standard.

The other direction manufacturers can take is diversification away from the core business of making steel brackets. Vogels launched a range of products at IFA (the consumer electronics show) which include LED lighting and other electrical features.

Unicol are diversifying in a different direction, entering into partnership with Nexus Media to product a range of interactive kiosks. The first product holds a 40-50” flatscreen with touch interface and room for a pair of media players down below and LED lighting in the top. Seward said: “We’re now working on the next version, which will take up to 71” screens. That’s significant because in the world of print, that’s the same size as a six-sheet poster.”

There’s much more to a bracket than it first appears, be sure to choose the right one for the job, be certain that it’s fit for purpose and make sure you follow the guidelines issued by the supplier for installing it otherwise you could find yourself on the wrong end of a claim from an unhappy customer.

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