Gas station without pumps

2013 November 11

labhacks — The $25 scrunchable scientific poster

Filed under: Science fair,Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:58
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A friend just sent me link to  labhacks — The $25 scrunchable scientific poster:

Printed on Spoonflower performance knit at 300 dpi. 36”×56”, vivid colors, no unraveling, and minimal wrinkling, even after being stuffed in a backpack. Hangs straight with about 8 pins. Print cost is $22 with $3 shipping.

The idea is to use a service intended for custom printing fabric to print posters instead.  According to the web page for Spoonflower, the fabric printing company, the material is $21.60 per yard for the designer of the pattern:

Performance Knit: $24/yard ($21.60 with designer discount)

100% polyester fabric with moisture management

  • 56″ wide printable area (142 cm)
  • 4.1 oz per square yard
  • Optic white, produced in the US
  • Appropriate for athletic apparel
  • Estimated shrinkage: 1-2%
  • Weft directional stretch is 25% maximum
  • Wash separately in cool or warm water using a gentle machine cycle. Machine dry using a low temperature setting. If required, use an iron with a light touch on a synthetic setting only. Higher iron temperatures may result in color transfer and melting of fabric.

They also warn that

Our fabrics have not been treated with fire retardant chemicals and are for this reason not suitable for use in children’s sleepwear or bedding. They are also not suitable for display purposes in public buildings unless you apply such treatment after purchase.

I don’t believe that paper scientific posters are any more flame retardant than cloth ones, though the fumes may be a little less noxious, and burning paper does not stick to things the way that molten plastics do, so cloth posters may indeed need to be treated with flame retardants for safety if you plan to display them long term. A quart spray bottle of flame retardant (enough for about 6–7 posters) costs about $15 online.

Given the awkwardness of the standard poster tubes when traveling, I can see the attraction of the cloth poster, though I worried that it might a bit bulky to pack. But a 36”×56” poster would only weigh 6.4 oz, about the same as a t-shirt (I just weighed one of my t-shirts at 189g, which is 6.7oz), so it can probably be packed in about the same space as one or two t-shirts.

The biggest downside is that printing the fabric takes 10 days, plus shipping time.  Spoonflower does have a rush-order service with next-day service and 2-day shipping, so the turnaround time could be a small as 3 days, but I did not look up how expensive the rush orders and shipping are.

According to their help page,

Acceptable file formats are JPG, PNG, GIF, TIF, SVG, AI, and EPS, and the file must be less than 40 MB. Vector files (AI, SVG, or EPS) are converted to PNG format during the upload process at a size chosen by you.

Elsewhere they warn against sending vector files (SVG, AI, and some EPS files), because the files have to be converted to raster format before printing, and there are often surprises in the conversion process (they don’t say what conversion program they use, but I know that there are often problems with Corel Draw mis-interpreting SVG files—I’ve run into that problem with both laser cutting and T-shirt stencil design).

If you are careful in your use of images, the 40MB limitation should not be too bad.  I tested converting an old poster of mine from PDF to PNG at 300dpi, and it grew from 0.6MB to 6.4MB—still well within the 40MB limit.  I did not have any photographs on that poster, though, which makes a huge difference—plots and cartoons don’t take up nearly as much memory as photographic images.

Spoonflower also warns that their color gamut is different from most monitors and printers—they use water-based dyes that don’t do large areas of saturated colors or solid black areas very well, but they use more than 4 inks, so they can get a wider color gamut than most printers.  You can get a “color map” of 1500 color swatches printed on the fabric you plan to use for the cost of a yard of fabric (about $25).  They use an RGB color space and have ICC profiles available free for how the colors come out on each of their fabrics, so you can get a decent idea of how colors would come out if you use software that has a color management engine.

The person who sent me the link to labhacks was suggesting the cloth posters for science fairs, but I’m afraid they would not work there.  Most science fairs are based on table-top displays, not wall-mounted or easel-mounted posters, so science fair posters need to be free-standing.  Although one can devise means for hanging a cloth poster in the standard, it seems more complicated to me than a foldable foam-core or cardboard display, and the rig would be just as hard to pack and carry on airplanes as the foldable board. I’ve also not found any information on the Spoonflower site about maximum length restrictions for their printing.  Can they even do the standard 6′ tall science fair poster? (probably, but they only talk about sizes up to a yard).

I don’t think that Spoonflower is going to get inundated by orders for scientific posters, but think that a few people will find the ease of packing “scrunchable” posters attractive.  If I ever decide to start traveling to conferences again, I might try it myself.

Update 2013 Nov 12:

After I posted an announcement of this blog post to researchers at work, one sent me the following ad that they had just received from another company providing fabric posters.  I guess it is a trending fad.

New Solution for Conference Posters!

Take a long flight? Now you can put your fabric crease-resistant
poster in your carry-on and say goodbye to poster tubes.

Same Day Printing and 2-Day Delivery.

check our delivery schedule or visit us now:

($15 Off Coupon Code*: SABCS2013)

The fabric poster offered by is made of 100% high-density polyethylene fibers with UV inhibitor coating. This crease-resistant fabric is light and durable and is specifically designed for high resolution printing. Because of the UV inhibitor coating, the ink of our fabric poster will last much longer than a paper poster. The printing quality of our fabric poster is better than printing on the widely-used matte paper. Your poster printed on our fabric material will resemble the feeling of printing on a glossy paper (which has tighter surface and looks brighter) but generates no glossy paper’s reflective glare. *Coupon code expire 06/30/2014

Note, even with the $15 off, PosterSmith is a lot more expensive than SpoonFlower.


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  3. thanks for the info.
    At (email) we print fabric posters and have printed them for years. We alsoprint paper posters. Our photographic printers use non fading inks and are completely water proof. We will beat any price and offer same day printing and delivery or shipping. We are located in Philadelphia and service the world!
    If you have any questions or need a price just call or email me.
    Thank you
    Dave Hampel
    we will beat any other vendors price.

    Comment by David Hampel — 2014 December 1 @ 12:58 | Reply

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