Boyd Wall

Framing the Message

​Ryan N. Fugler is a former editor of WRAPS magazine. 

Let's say John is a business owner who runs a small optical care center in a family-friendly setting, such as a shopping mall. Customers' children sometimes run through his facility at will. His office contains an eyewear retail center where he recently installed a digital signage system to better explain his services. It was a large investment, and he is worried that when children visit the office they will tamper with the screens which are easily within their reach. He does not want to deal with such a problem. What can he do to protect his messaging display while maintaining a professional look?

John should take a look at which digital signage enclosures are available for his needs.

Protecting Displays

“We find that individuals and businesses need help protecting their displays,” says Justin King, CEO of Protective Enclosures Company, explaining that his company's line of enclosures have provided solutions in restaurants, hotels and other interior applications.

This protective benefit is important to someone like John, but digital enclosures provide aesthetic benefits as well.

“Custom enclosures make the digital sign solution look complete and finished,” says Marc Pokorny, project coordinator/design for Boyd Enclosures. “All cabling, monitor ports, rough cuts on the wall and other elements are concealed and hidden. Not only is this more secure in a public setting but it looks like a complete solution.”

Also to be considered is the ability to properly protect digital screens by venting out particles and debris along with providing upgrades in touchscreen functionality. A total signage theme can make enclosures a vital piece in a digital signage solution.

Our friend John was able to achieve his goal of providing more security to his digital signage investment but also realize some additional benefits from employing an enclosure, all at an affordable price.

The Materials

There are obviously other concerns for digital signage displays. What about outdoor displays that are exposed to severe weather? Or public signage that could easily be vandalized? Different applications require different solutions.

“The installation environment will dictate the type or style of enclosure necessary,” says Jennifer Bissell, director of sales and marketing at ITSEnclosures. “We generally recommend the use of aluminum enclosures due to the light weight material.”

There are a few different options when considering enclosures. Aluminum, as Bissell suggests, is popular because of its weight and durability.

Pokorny summarizes the full benefits of aluminum enclosures by saying, “With the majority of our enclosures being fabricated our of sheet aluminum we keep our solutions light weight, rust free, ‘green’ with aluminum having a high recycled content up to 75 percent and having a tight fit and finish per solution/electronics.”

Plastic enclosures are another option for commercial use. Typically they are less expensive but still provide sufficient protection and can fit with the overall signage theme.

“We do find cases where aesthetics play an important role; this may involve enclosing the digital sign in something made entirely from plastic, colored to match or accent the area the digital sign is deployed in,” says Eric Farkas, engineering manager, Black Box.

Adding to that, King suggests that some customers may want displays in hard to reach places when installing these enclosures and that “it is imperative that we give our customers an easy-to-assemble solution and a high-performance product. We have a number of our enclosures in the rafters of the Talladega Speedway. Another one of our light-weight plastic enclosures has been installed approximately 50 feet high in a Times Square restaurant called Playwright Tavern and Grill.”

The Environment

But really, when small-business owners, or decision makers for larger businesses—such as museums, convention centers, retail outlets and stadiums—want a digital signage enclosure solution, they need to think about what fits in best not only with their needs but with the location’s environment.

Is the digital sign indoor or outdoor? Is it part of a larger non-digital display? Will there be interactive functionality? How often will the signage need maintenance? These are just a few questions for customers so consider when adding enclosures.

“We specialize in outdoor, all-weather environments,” Bissell says. “When deploying digital signage outdoors, specifying the correct environmental enclosure is critical. The correct enclosure will protect the electronics (LCD screen and media player) against high and low temperatures and weather concerns. If the electronics are not kept at the required operating temperatures, the electronics will essentially power down and be rendered useless.”

On the flip side, indoor solutions, “often require ventilation only,” says Farkas. “Occasionally, environmental circumstances, usually airborne contaminants, will require active cooling and filtration.”

With outdoor enclosures, there are heating and cooling aspects that need to be added since the digital screens are sealed in the enclosure for protection.

Bissels says that, “as electronics become more robust and can support higher temperatures, we are able to refine our enclosure solutions to utilize fan-cooled systems in 90 percent of the United States.”

King also points to ventilation in enclosures as an important element. This is especially true in situations where water or micro-particles are present. “Our Display Shield enclosure product has a proprietary vent that will allow the use of multiple filters for different environments, as well as a feature to cap off the vents completely if needed for a ‘wash down’ in manufacturing facilities.”

Any environment that would be at risk of rain or other water—a golf course for example—would want to think about being able to include a venting system in their enclosures so they don’t have to worry about the digital screens being damaged by water intrusion.

Another consideration is what types of other displays are being used along with the digital signage and enclosure display. According to Farkas, the enclosure is just as vital as the digital display.

“It is often important for amusement parks and sporting venues to display their branding on the actual enclosure,” says Farkas. “Visibility, or more specifically not impacting visibility to the event or attraction, is also extremely important to many of these deployments.”

With some digital signage deployments, screen interactivity is a big attraction. Customers question whether enclosures will still enable the interactive experience. The answer is yes.

“Our demonstration was wildly popular at the recent IAPPA trade show we attended, as we showed how we can incorporate touch screen functionality into our enclosure by simply adding a device and plugging into the display,” King says.

The application also directs whether an enclosure needs interactive properties.

“Functional kiosks are typically designed to purpose,” Farkas says. “The biggest impact here is generally from interactivity in a way that provides the captive audience a choice in content. The kiosk needs to accommodate this but doesn’t really have impact here.”

And, of course, end users will always want to know how much time and effort they need to put into the solution.

The Changes

As time has progressed, technology has changed. Customers have had to consider if these solutions are worth implementing or if they are not. Manufacturers are also adjusting to those changes.

“Our process and solutions are constantly evolving. When we got started in this industry about eight years ago we couldn’t spell enclosure,” Pokorny says. “We quickly evaluated our partner’s needs and started to flesh out a variety of solutions for specific screen sizes and applications.”

Changes to the size of screens have had an impact on the enclosures.

“Eight years ago screens were commonly about five inches in depth,” Pokorny continues. “Now many of the models are one to one-and-a-half-inches in depth. That alone is the biggest evolution that affects our solution.”

At Protective Enclosures Company, an 80-inch screen enclosure has been developed to fit the larger scale projects.

“We now offer our enclosures for screens up to an industry first 80 inches in size, with larger sizes available by custom order,” King says. “And our brand new ‘hybrid’ TV Shield Pro line is a great solution because it is made of powder coated aluminum with a powder coated steel back plate, which makes it light-weight, but still extremely strong and durable in almost any environment.”

Other changing factors that relate to size and the function of the screen should not be ignored when implementing an enclosure. Take, for example, ADA requirements.

“We are always trying to meet ADA compliance with a max four-inch protrusion off the wall,” Pokorny says. “At that time to meet ADA compliance our solutions had to be mounted at 27-inch above the finished floor and looked very chunky with a heavy bottom border. It was not ideal, but at the same time we saw small form factor PCs that were about 10-inch square and two to three inches deep. That was the other major hurdle we had to work with.”

It is a common practice now to try and position the screen as close to the enclosure face as possible. According to King, “It is recommended to place the display screen as close to the front of the enclosure as possible to cut back on reflection and any distortion of the images.”

Protective Enclosures Company provides an anti-glare coating for optimal visibility of the screen. This is just one other thing to consider when installing an enclosure. Other enclosure changes through the years have included “some type of locking mechanism, and use shatter-proof or shatter-resistant glass or polymer for the viewable area,” Farkas says.

Peace of Mind

These improvements in technology have given digital signage owners peace of mind and more security for their systems. Citing one example, King recalls a golf course that required a sign enclosure for its needs.

“We worked with a customer that needed a screen on a golf course. The 12th hole had a blind spot leading up to the 13th hole,” he recalls. “So they put in a camera on the 13th hole that fed the video to a screen on the 12th hole for golfers to see.”

The result was the ability to show what activity was going on at the hole ahead of the golfers so that safety and proper rules were being followed. The enclosures not only provided protection but also fit in with the overall theme of the course.

“They protected the screen with one of our The TV Shields and built a small ‘hut’ with a roof around it to match the surrounding buildings and architecture. Now it is protected from the weather and any golf-related damage,” says King.

What about our friend John? Well, he is content with his new enclosure. He knows that he has the right security now and may even install another system in the waiting room of his office. For others with larger areas and more concerns about how to protect their digital signage systems, they should feel secure in knowing that there are many solutions on the market that will likely fit their needs.