The Frame That Changed the Game

The Tell All Story about Modular Systems

Shifting Acceptance

Custom rental trade show exhibits seem to be to be rage these days at most major trade shows and expositions.

Modular construction systems combined with full color fabric graphics and audio video technology are creating exciting visual impact, product presentation and increased traffic flow. Naturally all of these results are driven by a creative design concept.

Back in the late 80’s this was not the case when it came to modular construction systems.

At that time exhibit builders thought if it was not wood fabricated it was not “Custom”. They were not interested in seeing the aluminum profile and what they thought of as picket fence construction. Promoting and selling these products for many of the system suppliers was like running up the down escalator.

Back then the aluminum exhibit construction systems included Syma, Octanorm and Sodium with Agam, GEM and MIS all decedents of Sodium. There was also a variety of panel display systems, light weight truss systems, geodesic dome systems and a variety of portable displays as well.

During this period, I had the pleasure to attend various industry events and lecture about the design advantages of modular constructions systems. This resulted in establishing the “Systems” Division within the Exhibit Designer & Producers Association.

Over the ensuing years, the reluctance to uses these products slowly changed due to several contributing factors.  Portables and pop-ups replaced many of the 10 and 20-foot exhibits, and recent economic conditions have many larger exhibiting companies looking for one-time custom rental options.

Modular construction systems gained legitimacy as designer/builders profited from successfully integrated these systems into design. Couple that with the development of large format dye sub graphics, modular two-story decks, and inexpensive audio-visual equipment, producing custom exhibits took in a whole new direction.

The Perforated Frame

At the ‘93 EuroShop Exhibition, Edwin Huber, an exhibition contractor and stand builder in Switzerland, was looking for an alternative to post and beam construction systems when he came across Delta Light, a Belgium lighting manufacture.

In Delta Light’s exhibit was a steel perforated beam they used for lighting. When ask if was for other applications, they responded, “no just lighting”. Edwin decided to team up with Delta Light and invest in the development of a perforated modular frame system.

They eventually converted the perforated profile into aluminum and Matrix Architecture was born. Since Edwin Huber did not care who else used it, Delta Light established a division, Delta Matrix, to distribute this modular frame system to others.

At the time, Edwin’s Matrix Architecture in Switzerland, Laarhoven Design International and Laarhoven Design USA, as well as Creaplan were using and re-selling the Delta Matrix perforated frames.

After a year’s absence from buying Delta Matrix, Creaplan became Aluvision in 2003.

With Edwin Huber moving Matrix System GmbH production to Switzerland and Creaplan departure, Delta Matrix was reduced to a 1-million-dollar division within the 80 million dollar Delta Light Company, and sold.

In 2004 when Delta Matrix is sold the word Delta is replaced by “be” representing Belgium.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Laarhoven Design USA decides to become beMatrix USA. They introduce the 62mm frame to the US market and things begin to change.

The Brush Fire Begins

It is amazing to think back to how strong the exhibit building industry’s resistance was to using aluminum constructions systems. It should be recognized that lot of the recent acceptance to custom rental systems has to go to the marketing and promotional efforts of Robert Laarhoven.

It is from his maniac marketing and promotion in elevating the advantages of designing with the perforated frame that we have the over whelming acceptance for these systems today.

Many of our nations exhibit builders are jumping on the bandwagon and learning how to use these systems for custom design exhibit; and especially for custom designed rental exhibits and events. These systems provide a unique flexibility in structural design and can have in-fill panels, color graphic panels, dye-sub fabric graphics, and even mount product or AV equipment over any sub straight.

There is an exhibit design and construction evolution happening in our industry, as it moves away from exclusively wood fabrication, to proving unique design solutions driven by an exhibiting companies trade show marketing objective.

You will see more and more design/build exhibit companies offering one-time unique design solutions per event.  The economical scale in which they can provide them will encourage companies to push for greater visual presentations at their trade shows.

Thanks to Edwin Huber and Robert Laarhoven, this will be good for everyone.

For more information about modular construction design and marketing, contact Don J Lyon at


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