by Lisa Sinicki
While the rest of the tradeshow industry talked about change, beMatrix made change happen. Known affectionately as “the frame with the big holes,” beMatrix has fulfilled the exhibit and event industry’s wish to create designs that are 100 percent custom, use frames that are 100 percent lightweight and are modular. beMatrix reduces exhibitors’ operating costs—while increasing exhibit and event house operating margins.
beMatrix products are now used by more than 500 North American partners—and beMatrtix is available in 63 countries around the world. The company’s innovations were recognized industry-wide in December of 2019 when beMatrix USA president Robert Laarhoven received the 43rd annual Hazel Hayes Award, the highest honor bestowed by EDPA in recognition for his contributions to the industry.
The beMatrix system is a collection of aluminum frames. Each frame can be used interchangeably to create walls, floors, or ceilings—in virtually any rectilinear or curved shape. The company supplies frames to companies who are general contractors, event companies, exhibit designer/builders, graphic printers and audiovisual companies. These companies then create the design and custom components—including graphics, cabinets and the finish/infill panels that cover the beMatrix frames. With innovations including the ability to accept silicon-edge fabric graphics; LEDskin, which enables the use of beMatrix frames to create seamless LED walls; and the 100 percent sustainable ECO Frame—exhibit and event designers can build pretty much everything with beMatrix.
beMatrix creates the frames and structure, but leaves the creativity, custom fabrication and customer service to the exhibit and event houses.
beMatrix differs from aluminum extrusion systems in that frames arrive pre-assembled—which means fewer parts and faster setup. Frames are connected together effortlessly with toolless connectors. The system is three-times faster to install than an extrusion system—which means reduced labor costs.
beMatrix frames are also lighter weight than traditional wood panel construction (lower drayage costs) and more durable than traditional wood panel fabrication. And when there is damage, or when an exhibitor wants to change-up the appearance of his exhibit or graphics, the infills can be swapped out.
beMatrix’s roots go back to 1993, but the company’s pivotal year was 2013—the invention of the current beMatrix frame. Prior to 2013, the company’s standard frame was 55mm wide with holes that were 62mm on center. But in 2013, the frames were completely redesigned. “Someone said, ‘Let’s make the frames 62mm, the same dimension as the holes,’—and just like that we truly had a disruption, a perfect matrix,” Laarhoven says. At the same time, the frames were re-tooled with a groove that enabled seamless infills in any material, texture or finish that clients’ designers can imagine. Another important factor was that the re-designed frames also accepted silicon edge graphics—which, together with beMatrix’s lightweight aluminum frames, satisfied the industry’s need for lightweight exhibitry.
Laarhoven received two protype samples of the new frames—which he took with him to EXHIBITORLIVE! in March. “We knew the companies who invested in our product would make a profit, we just had to show them all of the things they could accomplish with beMatrix,” Laarhoven says.
Immediately, Laarhoven found himself in the middle of a “Perfect Storm” situation. “Exhibit and event builders were ready to invest in lighter weight, more flexible solutions—and we had the best-of-class solution,” Laaarhoven says. By the end of the year, the sizes of the orders beMatrix received had grown exponentially. The company invested in establishing manufacturing in the U.S., and in sourcing its raw materials from the U.S. as well, to ensure it would always be able to fill orders quickly. (Today the company stocks more than 60,000 square feet of inventory in Atlanta, Ga., plus has additional manufacturing facilities in Belgium and China.)
Those 2013 innovations set the stage for beMatrix to truly became a 360-degree solution—with the same frames being able to serve as walls, ceilings and floors. “We make sure that everything continues to fit with—and on top of—everything else,” Laarhoven says.
In 2017, the big innovation was LEDskin, which enables the use of beMatrix frames to create seamless LED walls. With LEDskin, companies can wrap the corners and ceiling of their exhibits with LED—or even display video content on curved walls.
beMatrix also offers a sustainable version of its product—The ECO Frame. The ECO Frame has welded corners and an environmentally friendly brushed finish. The result is a 10 percent lighter weight, lower cost, 100 percent non-toxic, fully recyclable frame system. Both the ECO frame and standard anodized frame are exactly the same size and completely interchangeable.
The other thing that makes beMatrix an ideal solution for exhibit designers and event producers is that beMatrix’s customers belong to a network of collaborators. When one company prefers not to ship frames from city to city, they can rent frames from each other. Or, in the case of printed tension fabric infills and LEDskin, beMatrix connects customers to a large network of printer and AV partners that are experienced in working with its product.
beMatrix holds multiple training sessions each year—both at its U.S. headquarters in Atlanta and at other locations convenient to its customers—to ensure that everyone in the network stays up to date on the company’s innovations. beMatrix’s proprietary beCAD sales and service platform enables designers to create exhibit and event solutions by dragging and dropping images into place. The software generates renderings, validates connections, automatically generates an inventory list (frame sizes and quantities plus connectors), and generates a cost to purchase the components. beCAD users enjoy 24-7 quoting and CAD drawings.
Ever since its introduction of the 62mm frame, the company has experienced impressive growth, with beMatrix earning a place on the Inc. 5000 for the past three years. At CES 2018, 150,000 square feet of exhibits—nearly 10 percent of the show floor—used beMatrix components. But what excites Laarhoven more is that his team is in love with their own product. “We like to call ourselves beManiacs,” Laarhoven says.
So what will this industry innovator introduce next? Look for two new beMatrix line extensions in 2020. “We will continue to create new solutions that make beMatrix more effective, versatile and profitable for our clients,” Laarhoven says.
beMatrix designs and manufactures the renowned aluminum frame system beMatrix b62. Affectionately known as “the system with the holes,” beMatrix is a Tooless, continuously-reusable frame system for the exhibit builder, general contractor, and event producer. beMatrix is recognized for its quick and easy construction and for its versatility—each frame can be used as a floor, wall or ceiling. The system is a full, 360-degree solution that includes straight and curved frames, doors, counters, lighting and wall mounting accessories. Panel infill options include hard panel, fabric, LEDskin integrated video screens, and infinite custom solutions. Frames are produced and delivered throughout North America from a state-of-the-art production facility in Atlanta, Ga,.—with global manufacturing facilities located in Belgium and around the world. beMatrix is currently used by more than 500 North American partners and is available in 63 countries around the world. For more info, visit www.beMatrix.us.
This story originally appeared in the Special 25th Anniversary issue of Exhibit City News, p. 130. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_25th_anniversary