SGM: Rock’n’roll, Architainment and more

For a few years now, some companies specialising in entertainment fixtures have been entering the world of installations with products called Architainment. This is a trend that we have noticed for a few years at ISE Barcelona and which will probably undergo a further technological and cultural evolution with the 2024 edition, given the increase in the number of lighting companies present.
One of the pioneers of this trend is certainly SGM, which has long since chosen to equip its products with an appropriate outdoor protection for ingress, corrosion and UV resistance, to consider aesthetic design for better integration in certain environments, and above all to “export” its know-how regarding the use of colour, DMX protocol, and much more in a market where the concept of dynamism is not yet widespread.

In order to better understand how the evolution of a historical company that was founded in Italy in 1975 and landed in Denmark after many changes in the last 10-15 years, we had the opportunity to visit SGM‘s headquarters in Aarhus, Denmark, meeting the various team leaders from production to R&D and, above all, to experience some important innovations in terms of products.

THE COMPANY

Let’s start with the corporate identity. The environment immediately appears young, collaborative and dynamic, with a well-organised, efficient production department and a focus on quality. During the tour, we were able to appreciate an almost maniacal attention to the testing phase, with a series of rooms dedicated to testing optics, 3D printers for prototypes and various components, stress tests on the degree of protection from atmospheric agents, and much more.

Well-organised research and development, technical support and shipping departments enable the company to produce high-quality, low-maintenance equipment with a high level of sustainability and a very long life cycle, while offering service with fast response times and equally efficient shipping.

The exhibition area with all the fixtures produced by the company and some custom-coloured products and the demo area, which is really well organised and where we could see some new products in action, were unmissable.

Before moving on to product news, we offer an interesting interview with SGM CEO Ulrik Jakobsen on the company’s path, present and future.

LSJ.com: Let’s start by clarifying what SGM is today…

Ulrik Jakobsen: I started many years ago in manufacturing, later moved to R&D, and then with the trust of the partners, became the CEO during the COVID period and the necessary complete restructuring. Today I am surrounded by a top-notch team, with the valuable support of the ownership represented by Massimo Covre and Frank Hoehn, who manages global sales. The R&D, production and distributor teams around the world are now an integral part of SGM, which is effectively no longer a one-man company. This is the essence of change.
Not least the presence of Frederick, a young marketing manager who is really good with social media and Alex, operations manager. Fabiano Visentin, on the other hand, is a fundamental part of Team Italy, dealing with post and pre-sales assistance as well as historical memory.
SGM today is full of passionate professionals who dedicate themselves to every detail, trying to perfect it maniacally. When we start developing a new product, we have an idea of where we want to go, but when we reach the goal, new challenges always arise, and so we keep raising the bar. SGM today is a team that knows how to be a team.

ZioGiorgio.it: How did you get over the covid period?

Ulrik Jakobsen: With COVID everything was more complicated. Our turnover collapsed even though we had a lot of help from the government in Denmark, subsidies and funding to keep the companies alive. For six months, we sent everyone home except for five people who continued to ship some products for the architectural installations that remained active during that time. In September 2020, we recalled some of the employees and downsized the company a bit, keeping the skills within SGM. We stayed put for another six months and then things started to return to normal. 2022 was a prosperous year for us even though the sourcing of electronic components was complicated, which is why we put a lot of resources into finding new solutions from other suppliers or redesigning the inside of some of our equipment in order to maintain a high quality standard.
We learnt a lot from COVID, such as the importance of product differentiation. One example above all is the POI outdoor architectural product range. This is a more stable, long-term business that covers different markets ranging from cruise ships to hotels to infrastructure projects such as bridges and more. These are projects that have kept going while the concerts have stopped.
Unlike many competitors who faced very long lead times at the end of the COVID period, SGM managed to maintain a very high level of availability, which allowed us to end the year on a positive note. All thanks to an organisation where everything is managed by people with a great capacity for problem solving.

LSJ.com: What choices have been made in terms of internal components?

Ulrik Jakobsen: We have always wanted our products to last five, eight, ten years, which is why we choose key automotive components because they last the longest.

LSJ.com: SGM is one of the few companies that has been expanding its product portfolio towards architecture for a few years now. Would you like to tell us about this evolution?

Ulrik Jakobsen: I see SGM as something different than other companies, more architainment-oriented, hence architectural, but with entertainment know-how. We want a significant part of SGM’s turnover to come from this business, and for that we need the right people for sales, the right products, the right marketing to show the world what we do and what we can provide for various projects. At the same time, our DNA is about entertainment, rock’n’roll, which we also use to make architectural products more interesting. If we look back to the COVID era the ratio of architectural to entertainment was 90/10, now we are at 60/40 and we hope to get to 50/50.
Frank gives tremendous support to the cause with the implementation of our services in relation to after-sales support, while we have hired Eloise Reed to make the right connections.

LSJ.com: Speaking of products, how do you close 2023?

Ulrik Jakobsen: We spent less time in R&D for new products in 2020, 2021, and did not present substantial new products. However, this year we have already launched the touring version of our VPLs, the Series I – 1 LED bar and the recently launched Series 3 with P-3 Vision. We also have a fourth product that we will present shortly.
We are known for our IP-rated luminaires, but an IP-rated luminaire is not automatically a permanent outdoor product. It only concerns rain, it says nothing about the durability of the product. In the projects we are working on, such as bridges and infrastructure projects, the requirements are as high as possible, and just having an IP rating does not mean that it will last for 15-20 years, let alone sustainability.
We want to stay in that small part of the market where you are protected because of your specialisation and expertise. If we go into battle considering only price, we die and besides, it’s no fun to do cheap things.

PRODUCTS

As mentioned earlier, SGM presented a number of new products this year that are already attracting a fair amount of interest from the industry, as well as some important awards such as the prize won a few days ago at LDI with the P-3 Vision.

With SGM P-3 Vision, the Danish company has succeeded in integrating a >12,700 lumen dynamic wash source and a 42 mm pitch video matrix within the same fixture. A product that can be used as a light grid, used to highlight the edges of LED screens or even as a stage surround. An all-in-one fixture capable of emitting video content and an extremely powerful colour strobe/wash from the same surface. The pixels of the P-3 Vision are identical to those of the SGM Light VPL series and can operate on the same data network. In this way, the P-3 Vision and VPL can be combined to offer multiple options and incredible design flexibility. No less important are the IK09 ratings for impact, 3G for vibration and IP66 for weatherproofing.

Touring VPL is an evolved version of VPL that includes improvements and upgrades that make it more tour-friendly, with the same high performance. It is a pixel direct view product designed to reproduce pixel mapping and multimedia effects. With its powerful intensity and wide-angle visibility, it is one of the most dynamic direct view projectors available. Using industry-standard power and data connectors and a selection of low-profile brackets and accessories, this easily integrated projector is ideal for concerts, stadiums, sets and stages. The Touring VPL is available in 3 different lengths, 5 different lenses and adjustable brackets.

Finally, a linear fixture that surprised us in terms of the quality of the mixing system. We are talking about a pure representative of the architainment concept, the new I -1 series. It is a state-of-the-art LED bar that offers long throw and high power with over 1,500 lumens per linear foot and a maximum output of 28W/ft. Its elegant design has been engineered to provide performance while integrating discreetly into different situations. I -1 Linear comes in different versions with lengths of 1, 2, 4 feet (305 mm, 610 mm, 1220 mm) and is equipped with an RGB4K LED source and dynamic white 2700K-4000K, with dynamic channel transmission thanks to DynaMix technology. Other special features include integrated power supplies for long runs and IP66, IK09, 3G vibration certification with C5 Marine corrosion resistance.

Info: sgmlight.com

Walter Lutzu
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