ST. LOUIS – With 20 years’ experience as a corporate meeting management specialist, Michael Roccaforte, of Roccaforte, LLC, in Carmel, Ind., is confident in his abilities to develop stage and set designs to meet the individual needs of his clients. But he often found himself frustrated when describing his unique ideas for custom designs to fabricators.
“In the past, it was difficult to find substrates that would accurately represent the mock-up illustration I would present,” said Roccaforte. “In some cases, the materials were very exacting for fabrication – which is great – but not very flexible or creative.”
So, Roccaforte – whose background included meeting management and photography when he started his business with his wife Deb in 1993 – taught himself computer-aided design (CAD) in order to start designing his own meeting sets 10 years ago.
“I didn’t want to be bound to someone else’s limitations or be forced to accept sets that were not built to the quality I expected,” he said. “Finding the right material goes a long way toward creating results that meet everyone’s expectations.”
Roccaforte began to experiment with substrates for building custom sets, including Dibond® graphic display board by 3A Composites USA. Dibond is a rigid, durable aluminum composite material consisting of two pre-painted sheets of .012-inch aluminum bonded to a solid polyethylene core – a unique composition that makes it approximately one-half the weight of aluminum. In addition to lighter weight than aluminum or wood, Dibond offered Roccaforte the ability to design large meeting display pieces that could be scored and folded to create multi-dimensional effects.
“When I saw the Dibond at Meyer Plastics (a Dibond distributor) in Indianapolis, I knew this material had the potential to be formed into the unique set pieces that I envisioned creating for our clients,” said Roccaforte.
Roccaforte built his first set pieces from Dibond in 2003, including large stage backdrop panels featuring waterfall effects for corporate meeting client Nalco, which provides water purification solutions for industrial clients. The white Dibond panels, which were painted copper, have proved so durable that Roccaforte has been able to re-use them for other meetings, adding custom touches for each client.
“A wonderfully creative benefit of Dibond is that it soaks up the light and reflects it back,” said Roccaforte. “People look at this material and they can’t tell what it is. When we’re using it with water panels, they’re just mesmerized. They haven’t seen it in a ballroom stage setting before.”
In 2005, the water panels served as stage backdrops for another corporate client’s meeting in Boston, and additional Dibond panels were used to create stylized winged podiums. Later that year, the water panels were installed on either side of a 26-foot tall by 11-foot wide Dibond cross bolted within 2-inch square aluminum framing. This large cross – which was vertically suspended from the ceiling – served as the focal point of the 20-year celebration of College Park Church in Indianapolis held at the Indianapolis Convention Center.
“It was a powerful set,” said Joe Rice, administrative pastor, College Park Church. “We loved the lighting and water effects. It set the mood but wasn’t overbearing or pretentious. They were able to move it in and out of the convention center without any problem.”
Roccaforte described the cross as “structurally sound” and credits much of that strength to the Dibond graphic display board. “The Dibond aluminum composite panel gave this large hanging cross strength that usually isn’t found in materials so light and thin,” said Roccaforte.
The Dibond was scored and bolted to the back of the frame, according to Roccaforte, who scores Dibond to create beveled dimension. In order to conserve shipping space, Roccaforte ships many pieces flat, folding them during installation.
“We can take a substrate that is really flat and make it look like it’s got a lot of dimension,” said Roccaforte. “Dibond holds up great in shipping.”
The Dibond material is either cut on the back with a CNC router using a 45-degree bit or cut by hand then hand-folded, according to Adam Walsh, president, ISF Sign Specialists in Indianapolis, which has fabricated Dibond set pieces for Roccaforte. Dibond set pieces then are spray painted with automotive paint.
“Michael uses a lot of copper tones,” said Walsh. “These pieces are resilient. They may get a scratch here or there, but that’s easily fixed with a paintbrush. Dibond also is lightweight. It wins hands down over aluminum with half the weight.”
Roccaforte sees no end in sight to his ability to reuse these Dibond set pieces.
“We’ll use them until they wear out,” he said. “Dibond is really durable and very flexible in its application. We’ve even been able to cut pieces of Dibond from older display pieces to create new ones. We’ve also started experimenting with adding frosted plexiglass panels to sets to give even more dimension to the Dibond flat panels; plus, this technique adds a two-toned color without actually changing any paint colors. The Dibond panels are absolutely great to light. …
“We’re continually challenged to create new and innovative designs for our clients, and Dibond continues to be an integral part of our design planning.”