Page 1

Simple Solutions

for illuminating channel letters

vinyl application The Roles of Squeegees

getting schooled

Redesigning Signs for Campuses


How-To Number 224 | february 2014

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February 2014






Digital Sign Plug-Ins BY VARIOUS

The latest projects of interest related to electronic signs and displays.

32 38

The Heights of Sign Safety BY ASHLEY BRAY

A guide to safely working in a service truck.

Software, Skills, and Client Considerations BY MIKE ANTONIAK

All of these inform compelling sign designs.

Sign Builder Illustrated (Print ISSN 895-0555, Digital ISSN 2161-4709) (USPS#0015-805) (Canada Post Cust. #7204564) (Bluechip Intâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;l, Po Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2, Agreement # 41094515) is published monthly by Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, 55 Broad Street, 26th Floor, New York, NY 10004. Printed in the U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and Additional mailing offices. Pricing, Qualified individual working in the sign industry may request a free subscription. Non-qualified subscriptions printed or digital version: 1 year US $105.00; foreign $197.00; foreign, air mail $297.00. 2 years US $149.00; foreign $267.00; foreign, air mail $497.00. BOTH Print & Digital Versions: 1 year US $158.00; foreign $296.00; foreign, air mail $396.00. 2 years US $224.00; foreign $400.00; foreign, air mail $600.00. Single copies are $36.00 ea. Subscriptions must be paid for in U.S. funds only. Copyright Š Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2014. All rights reserved. Contents may not be


Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014



A sign maker puts on quite the dimensional sign performance.

Installing Wide Area Lighting BY BLAKE S. VINCENT

How LED systems can optimize energy savings and reduce the number of power supplies.


Across the Channel BY PETER PERSZYK

Design ideas for channel letters.

reproduced without permission. For reprint information contact: Arthur Sutley, Publisher (212) 620-7247 or For Subscriptions, & address changes, please call (800) 895-4389, (402) 346-4740, Fax (402) 346-3670, e-mail or write to: Sign Builder Illustrated, Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, PO Box 1172, Skokie, IL 60076-8172. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 1172, Skokie, IL 60076-8172. Instructional information provided in this magazine should only be performed by skilled crafts people with the proper equipment. The publisher and authors of information provided herein advise all readers to exercise care when engaging in any of the how-to activities published in the magazine. Further, the publisher and authors assume no liability for damages or injuries resulting from projects contained herein.



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How-To Columns



Remember When Squeegees Were Plastic?

February 27-March 1: Graphics of the Americas Expo & Conference is taking place at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Florida. (

MARCH 2014


March 6-8: Dscoop9, an independent global community of graphic arts professionals who use HP equipment and related solutions, will be held at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Conference Center in Orlando, Florida. (

The School Sign Gold Mine

Departments 16 Remember When

Squeegees Were Plastic? BY DAVE HARRIS

Navigating the many different types of squeegees for your vinyl applications.

22 The School Sign Gold Mine BY MARK ROBERTS

Getting schooled in creative campus parking lot signage.





Editor Jeff Wooten checks out reasons why digital signage technology may appeal to sign shops.

The latest news from around the industry.


Sign Show


SBI Marketplace

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade. VINYL APPLICATION The Roles of Squeegees

DIGITAL SIGNAGE LANDSCAPE < Sign Lighting < Boom Trucks




Redesigning Signs for Campuses



Shop Talk

Lori Shridhare checks out how a company is making the most out of menu board content.

On the Cover Barco LiveDots C5 LED tiles display seamless imagery at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. Photo: Niles Creative Group.

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

March 7-8: The Mid South Sign Association’s “New Ideas New Possibilities” Conference is headed to Fayetteville/ Bentonville, Arkansas. (

APRIL 2014 april 24-26: The 2014 ISA International Sign Expo returns to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (

JUNE 2014 June 1-5: LIGHTFAIR® International 2014, the world’s largest annual architectural and commercial lighting tradeshow and conference, takes place at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (

©2014 FDC Graphic Films, Inc.

shIppInG FrOM beyOnD.

MysterIOusly FAst DelIvery tO yOur FIelD Whatever your field of operation, it’s a sign that you saw this. Out of this world quality, 3M Graphic Films designed for electronic cutting are now available to ship same day. FDC Graphic Films, Inc. provides the service connection for 3M Authorized Distributors. Our ability to provide quick turnaround improves the availability of 3M Graphic Films beyond what may be available locally. We ship the most popular series in all standard widths and colors. Custom sizes also available. Ask your 3M distributor when you need products quickly and be confident FDC will provide the service they need to get you what you want, when you need it. Contact your 3M Authorized Distributor, or go to the distributor finder at:

FDC, It’s nO Mystery hOW yOu CAn Get the 3M prODuCts yOu neeD, FAst!


by jeff wooten

February 2014, Vol. 28, No. 224 Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

Digital Signage: The “I”s Have It

executive offices

President and Chairman Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr. Publisher Arthur J. sutley

Getting in touch with dynamic digital displays.


editorial editor

Jeff Wooten

323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 212/620-7244; fax: 212/633-1863 managing editor

mmediate. Immersive. Interactive. Innovative. Those are just some of the “I”-ful adjectives that are attributed to digital sign technology these days—a technology that no longer feels like the science fiction pipe dreams of Blade Runner or Minority Report from years ago. Ready or not, tomorrow is now today. Whether left to its own devices or used as a replacement (or complement) for print or wayfinding, digital signs have broadened their appeal to endusers in markets like retail, restaurant, education, healthcare, and corporate (to name just a few of the cited major ones). But how serious are you about getting involved with this technology? This month (February 11-13), the eleventh annual Digital Signage Expo, billed as “the world’s largest and longest running International Tradeshow and Conference dedicated to digital signage, interactive technology, and digital out-of-home networks (DOOH),” convenes at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. It features more than 150 speakers, a variety of education tracks, and an exhibit floor filled with the latest products and innovations in the industry. But will sign shops consider attending? During last year’s Digital Signage Expo keynote address, José Avalos, director of retail & digital signage for Intel Corp.’s Embedded & Communications Group, presented revised figures for digital signage market growth— now predicting 10 million media players and a corresponding 22 million digital signs by 2015 (up from a previous estimate of 8 million and 16 million), with the industry growing at about 40 percent CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate). But even with positive forecasts, it still feels


55 Broad Street, 26th floor New York, NY 10004 212/620-7247; fax: 212/633-1863

like the sign and digital display industries are still trying to figure one other out, as well as their roles in each other’s lives. Whether through distribution, content management, or installation, there are points of interests (and entry) for sign shops. Yet there are also hurdles like ROIs and deciphering technical nuts-and-bolts. For the past couple of years, the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association’s (SGIA) annual Expo has hosted a Digital Signage Innovation Zone as one of its Education Zones. And after adding its Dynamic Digital Signage Park, ISA announced that Almo’s E4 AV Tour will co-locate with its International Sign Expo for a daylong intensive program this April aimed at education and networking in the audio-visual industry. So there is a push for awarness and acceptance. If you want one last “I”-inspired adjective, maybe it’s “impact,” as end-users are definitely pumped to implement these displays. For better or worse, smartphones and tablets are transforming the way people communicate, and now the concept of electronic signage isn’t quite as foreign. Scott Elpers, president of Custom Sign & Engineering, a regional, full-service sign company in Newburgh, Indiana, has been successful at implementing electronic/digital signage in his company’s repertoire (see page 31). He pinpoints the appeal of why endusers have been eagerly embracing this technology, “[Digital signage] enables people to create very effective advertising to customers that are in front of their business or frequent their business often. It gives them the ability to advertise what they need to be advertising at that time—as far as specials and things of that nature.” So just how “in touch” are you willing to get?

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

Ashley Bray

55 Broad Street, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212/620-7220; fax: 212/633-1863 contributing writers

Butch “superfrog” Anton, Mike Antoniak, Dave harris, Jim hingst, Peter Perszyk, Mark roberts, lori shridhare, Blake s. Vincent, randy Wright art

Corporate Art Director Wendy Williams production

Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers circulation

Circulation Director Maureen Cooney advertising sales national sales director

Jeff sutley 212/620-7233; fax: 212/633-1863 west & midwest regional sales manager

Kim noa

212/620-7221; fax: 212/633-1863 Sign Builder Illustrated is published monthly. All rights reserved. Nothing herein may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher. To purchase PDF files of cover and layouts or hard copy reprints, please call Art Sutley at 212/620-7247 or e-mail asutley@ Circulation Dept. 800/895-4389


Digital UpgraDe

Takes Center Stage at MSG

New York, New Yorkâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;Digital signage recently played a role in the $1 billion renovation of the nearly-fifty-year-old Madison Square Garden. Technology brand MetroClick ( worked with Lexus (a Signature Partner of The Madison Square Garden Company) and its advertising agency Team One to install two video walls and a touchscreen 8

kiosk on the Terrace Level of Madison Square Garden. MetroClick provides customized hardware and software for interactive digital displays, and on this project, the company worked closely with Team One to create the hardware and casing of the displays, as well as a custom software and interactive design interface.

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

The largest video wall is a five-by-two, forty-six-inch industrial display in portrait mode. The smaller video wall is a two-bytwo, forty-six-inch industrial display in landscape mode. MetroClick also provided a thirty-two-inch industrial touchscreen kiosk in landscape mode, which has the ability to interact with the larger video wall. All of the displays are encased

USSC Honors Weinel & Moves Sign World

in satin #4 stainless steel. It took about two weeks to install the three displays. “The installation went very smoothly, even in the short timeframe,” said Jesse Cooper, co-CEO of MetroClick. Lexus and Madison Square Garden provided the content for the screens, and there is a mix of branded content, maps, sweepstakes, and live feed integration on the video walls. On the kiosk, users can browse the Lexus Web site, find and contact a Tri-

State dealer through an interactive map, collect specific brand data, and enter into a sweepstakes sponsored by both Madison Square Garden and Lexus. The kiosk also allows guests to watch videos for each Lexus car model and the newest marketing campaigns, along with videos about Madison Square Garden and New York sports teams. “We take pride in offering the newest hardware technologies mixed with some of the most innovative and advanced software platforms,” said Cooper.

Bristol, Pennsylvania—The United States Sign Council (USSC) recently bestowed its first-ever Lifetime Achi evement Award to Ja m es Weinel, founder and owner of Gemini, Inc. (pictured below, with Wendy Kern, president of the USSC Board of Directors). Weinel has been in the forefront of every major movement and change that this industry has seen over the last five decades. He has spearheaded the effort to establish a chair at the University of Cincinnati dedicated to the study and teaching of the importance of signage in marketing, has been instrumental in the overall success of the American Sign Museum, and has led Gemini as one of the strongest supporters of the work of the USSC. The USSC has also announced that, due to request from exhibitors and attendees (and in an effort for everyone to enjoy the boardwalk and ocean air), its annual Sign World International event will be held this year from October 9-11 at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. For additional information, visit

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Dispatches + Signage Company Celebrates Expansion, New Facility Phoenix, Arizona—Allen Industries, a fast-growing manufacturer of signage and architectural elements for retailers and chain restaurants, is expanding its business in Phoenix and plans to add more jobs. Allen Industries hosted an open house for invited guests on November 13 at its new facility at 5502 West Hadley Street in Phoenix. The company, headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, purchased the former Law’s Sign Company three years ago and absorbed that company’s ten employees. Limited by the building’s size, Allen purchased the Hadley Street building (which is three times larger) and doubled its workforce. Since its founding in High Point, North Carolina, in 1931, Allen Industries has benefited from the growth of some of its key customers. In the 1960s, the company partnered with Wilbur Hardee to provide signage for the first Hardee’s® restaurant. Decades later, Allen now serves 3,000 Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.® restaurants nationwide. Another client is Family Dollar®, a partnership that has lasted thirty-three years.

The success of those two businesses during a sluggish economy helped Allen weather the recession, “We have a good spread of accounts, and the fact that some of our clients actually flourish during a tough economy helped,” said company President Tom Allen (pictured below, second from left, with John Allen, Phoenix Vice Mayor Bill Gates, and David Allen). A signage package for a restaurant or retailer can range from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on whether the business needs awnings, fascia, and even highrise signs that can be seen from a highway. The company also has a strong track record of employee retention. About 100 (or 1/3) of Allen Industries’ employees have

been with the company at least twenty years. Tom Allen attributed the company’s long employee tenure to “hiring well” and its policy of continually re-investing in employee training and equipment. “Our employees get very excited about the process. They see things start with a design, then go to manufacturing…and then they can see the fruits of their labor while they’re driving home from work,” said Executive Vice President John Allen. “The signage business is always changing and is never boring.” The Allens, who are brothers and are the third generation of Allens to run Allen Industries, said the company has grown “ten-fold” since they joined in 1989.

taking Viewers Back in time Irvine, California—Spanning more than fifty years and two continents, Disney’s 2013 motion picture Saving Mr. Banks, detailing how the movie Mary Poppins was made, paints a picture of the sharp contrast between 1960s Hollywood and rural, turn-of-the-century Australia. To set the stage for these two distinct eras, Production Designer Michael Corenblith called on Martin T. Charles of Santa Monica-based SagaBoy Productions, an award-winning


Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

graphic designer and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Charles focused on two primary settings: 1960s Los Angeles International Airport and the early twentieth century Allora Fair in Australia. He began the project approximately six weeks before production was scheduled to commence and worked for a total of fourteen weeks. Charles worked primarily from old photographs to design more than 185 advertisements, signs, and décor elements styled for the period. He started with hand-drawn illustrations then digitized them and embellished the designs with Photoshop. Final prints were produced primarily on artist canvas using a pair of Roland DGA large format printers. In total, more than 2,000 square feet of printed graphics were produced and installed to create the film’s vintage backdrops. “Working on this scale can be tricky because you need to be mindful of registration issues as well as color consistency across the largest of prints,” said Charles, noting Disney Studios guidelines were also quite detailed.

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SignSHOW A DA S I G N A G E /M AT E R I A L S Four Leading Manufacturers Awarded NovAcryl® Preferred Fabricator Status for ADA Signage Cadwell Sign, Ability Plastics, Welch Signs, and Cab Signs have joined the ranks as Nova Polymers Preferred Fabricators of NovAcryl® high-quality photopolymer ADA signage. Cadwell Sign is a Women’s Business Enterprise that designs and manufactures signs for customers throughout the world; Ability Plastics is a full-service supplier offering design and custom fabrication of interior and exterior signs; Welch Signage serves greater New England with custom signage solutions; and Cab Signs is a leader of engraved and ADA-compliant signage serving the New York area. Nova Polymers developed their rigorous Preferred Fabricator program to recognize sign fabricators listed as “acceptable manufacturers” in the NovAcryl photopolymer three-part CSI specification (subjecting their manufacturing operations to audits that ensure compliance with material processing guidelines, ADA compliance, quality control, and cycle times). 888/484-6682;

B I R D/AN IM AL DETER R ENTS Bird-Zap Shock Track is the Fix-all Solution to Those Tough Bird Control Issues Flexible, versatile, and discreet, the new Bird-Zap Shock Track from Nixalite of America offers complete coverage for any level of bird pressure. When touched, the Bird-Zap delivers a short burst of electricity—shocking intruding birds with enough power to create a memorable discomfort without harming them in any way. The birds then learn to associate any area with the shock track installed as a “no-land zone.” Made of flexible, UV-resistant PVC, these strips will fit the contour of nearly any infested area. Attaching easily to most surfaces, this lowprofile bird deterrent is perfect for protecting signs, roof peaks, ledges, and many other hard-to-protect areas. 800/624-1189;

D I G I TA L P R I N T I N G E Q U I PM E N T/ S U P P L I E S New SureColor® Printer Dramatically Increases Reliability of Dye-Sub Transfer Printing Process Epson America’s new Epson® SureColor™ F7170 is its latest dye-sublimation printer designed for the roll-to-roll digital textile market. The optimized Epson MicroPiezo® TFP® print head and Epson UltraChrome® DS ink system enables the SureColor F7170 to deliver high-quality printing for a range of dye-sublimation applications with superior dot control, precise and repeatable performance, and excellent longevity. A new, highly accurate take-up reel and substrate system delivers winding accuracy between zero and 0.19-inch on transfer paper rolls for a wide range of digital textile applications (flags, banners, apparel, etc.). The SureColor F7170 also features a high-capacity ink tank system with refillable bags to allow continuous printing through a full roll of media without running cleaning cycles and a new post-platen heater for faster drying times. Wasatch SoftRIP TX is included, enabling users to start printing sellable output immediately out of the box with specialty features for textile printing.

White Paper: “How UV LED Inkjet Technology is Increasing Profits for Flexographic Printers” Roland DGA has published an informative new white paper, “How UV LED Inkjet Technology is Increasing Profits for Flexographic Printers,” a comprehensive twelve-page report detailing the advantages of these advanced, innovative devices and the ways they are revolutionizing the pre-press process. Until recently, creating realistic package prototypes on actual press substrates has been a difficult, time-consuming, and expensive process. The availability of cutting-edge UV LED printers is changing all that, making the production of prototypes that look just like the final product easier, faster, and more cost-effective than ever before. Roland’s white paper presents expert analysis and user case studies to explain the specific benefits UV digital printers offer and is free to download.

ROUTERS/ENGR AVERS Illuminate Laser-etched Acrylic Sheets with LED Technology Acrylic sheets can be laser-etched resulting in frosty white lines, text, and images on the surface of the panel. The ultra-small design of the LED lights allows for them to be placed in long rows and snapped onto the edge of thin plastic sheets. When turned ON, the light will catch in the laser-etched portions of the panel, allowing for large areas to illuminate all at once. The benefits to using LED lighting are vast: For example, LEDs emit more light per watt than your standard incandescent light bulb and do not require a filter to switch between multiple colors. And their small design allows for LEDs to be concealed and used with many products where previous lighting could not. 218/631-2755;


Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

SignSHOW Delcam’s ArtCAM Pro Includes Distortion Modelling for Complex Shapes Delcam’s ArtCAM Pro CADCAM software is aimed at skilled artisans rather than engineers and requires little knowledge of engineering or computing, and with its latest release, it's now much easier to create complex designs with a new approach called interactive distortion modelling. This allows users to distort either vectors or reliefs within ArtCAM models by bending or stretching the design. The addition of interactive distortion modeling now makes ArtCAM’s unique free-relief modeling even more powerful by making it possible to create the most complex shapes quickly and easily and with the ability to see the effects of any changes as they are being made. Once the design of the particular element has been finalized, it can be moved, rotated, rescaled, and copied (either individually or as part of a group). Any part of the design can be isolated or edited and then recombined into a group for duplication or further editing within the group. At any stage in the process, either individual items or a group of items can be saved within ArtCAM Pro’s Clip Art library for use in future projects.

Trotec: Unique Laser System with Two Laser Sources is Now Available as an Entry-level Model The Speedy 100 flexx from Trotec is the perfect laser platform for entry-level laser users. With a working area of 24-by-12 inches, this unique laser engraver is optimally suited for all standard material sheet sizes. The Speedy flexx series (which also includes the Speedy 300 flexx and Speedy 400 flexx) is equipped with both CO2 and fiber laser sources, allowing customers to perform endless applications. The CO 2 laser source is ideally suited for engraving and cutting plastics, wood, rubber, leather, and many other materials. The fiber laser is the right tool for marking metals and plastics. Depending on the material, the two laser sources are activated alternately—in a single job, without needing to manually change the laser source, lens, or focus. With Trotec’s patented flexx function, both laser sources can be activated in one easy step. The laser software JobControl guarantees time savings and flexibility throughout the day. The laser system is “ready for flexx,” which means a CO2 or a fiber laser machine can be upgraded at any time to a Speedy 100 flexx.

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SERVICE TRUCKS/CRANES/EQUIPMENT Elliott to Showcase Its Service Vehicles at ISA 2014 Elliott Equipment Company will be showcasing a comprehensive lineup of HiReach sign cranes (with working heights from 50 feet to 140 feet) in Booth #C5 at ISA International Sign Expo 2014 being held April 24-26 in Orlando, Florida. The HiReach models will include non-CDL and material handling configurations, along with a wide range of industry-specific accessories. A must-see this year will be Elliottâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fifty-foot S50R SkyWalk, featuring a 10-foot steel work platform, a 5,900-pound main winch, and a 500-pound jib on a single-axle truck. To discuss new solutions, Elliott will also have authorized dealers, salespeople, and engineers on site.

TOOLS Monarch Metal Introduces the Perfect Reference Tool for Screw Dimensions Monarch Metal has added a free online screw chart tool to its Web site that was designed to be a single-source reference tool for common screw dimensions. With the tool, you can quickly display the critical dimensions for the most common screws, nuts, and washers. The user simply selects the size they are interested in from the drop down menu. The dimensions are displayed on sketches of the screws for clarity, and the design of the system allows for a one-inch air space, which is required by building code in many areas.

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated



By Dave Harris


Remember When Squeegees Were Plastic?

Navigating the many different types of squeegees for your vinyl applications.


n the early day of cut lettering, the four-inch plastic squeegee was the most-used tool in the business. However they were just a cheap plastic mold—so cheap that many pressure-sensitive vinyl (PSV) manufacturers went ahead and put them in with the rolls of vinyl they sold you. In our current era (where tools are the most valued assets in your shop), you have a huge array of squeegees to choose from. Yes you’ll still find those cheap, plastic four-inch squeegees today, but there are also six-inch and twelve-inch sizes too. Our industry has cheap plastic to premium plastics to nylon blends to rubberized and even magnetic and aluminum squeegees—all for applying PSV and printed vinyl graphics faster, safer, and easier. Labor is still the biggest cost in a graphics shop today. So having the right tools to do your job faster is invaluable and is typically paid for multiple times (all while lowering your labor

costs per job)! What you may not be aware of is that your squeegees can actually make you more money and that having just one squeegee to use is akin to working in the Stone Age. Today shops have a multitude of squeegees for use. Some are dedicated to indoor use or initial application tapes and finishing, while others are designed for vehicle wraps and still others are dedicated for window applications and/or building applications. In this article, we’ll look at many of the different types of squeegees that are available, rate how difficult they are to use, and point out the applications for which they exist today.

Polyethylene Plastic Squeegee This is the cheap four-inch plastic squeegee our industry has always had, but as mentioned earlier, they’re also now available in six- and twelveinch widths. These squeegees are designed to be

The Big Squeegee comes in different sizes and types so that the installer can choose the tool that’s best for his job. The Big Squeegee tools also replace the need for a powered laminator in most small sign shops.


Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

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The Squeegee Brayer has a blade edge on one side and a roller edge on the other for “no friction” application.

a low-cost, disposable tool and are often times given to buyers with the graphics for those wishing to install themselves or as part of a graphics kit that’s sold to various buyers. They’re ideal for vinyl, film, graphics, tape, silk screen, and pressure-sensitive applications. Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 0 (super simple) Select for this Application Type: Giveaway to clients, any application

edge on one side and a roller edge on the other side. This squeegee is designed to give you both options—typical squeegee use on one side and a completely “no friction” roller applicator on the other side. The brayer side (roller side) eliminates any drag or friction across your graphics. This is one way of eliminating scratches all together. Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 2 (simple to learn) Application Type: No scratches; multiple layers; banner hem tapes

Nylon and Nylon Blend Squeegee Similar in shape and sizes to the cheap polyethylene squeegee, the nylon type squeegees are designed to be much more durable, giving longer life/use. They are also higher in cost (averaging three to four times the cost of a cheap plastic squeegee). This squeegee is ideal for most medium and heavyweight films, graphics, vinyl, tapes, silk screen, and PSA needs. Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 0 (super simple) Application Type: Shop use; heavy use; maximum pressure

Squeegee Brayer This is a unique squeegee with a blade

Magnet Squeegee This squeegee is unique as well, as it’s a rigid plastic squeegee that has very strong magnets embedded in it for use on metal or vehicle applications. Some installers like to have their application tools in front of them at all times during an install. The magnet squeegee will stick to the metal body of a vehicle and not fall off, keeping your squeegee right in front of you at all times during your work. It can also be used to hold up your graphics in the initial stages of graphics application. Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 1 (simple to use) Application Type: Vehicles; metals

Accessory: Felt edge vs. cotton sleeves

Felt slides across the vinyl easier. However the felt can give off a few fibers where the sticky edge of the vinyl comes in contact with the felt. This may leave fibers along the edge of an install. In most cases, this is not a problem, because the edge will get trimmed off anyway. White felt is often chosen for 18

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

laminators because the edges are usually white and any fibers will not be obvious if they are not trimmed away. The cotton edge has been used for several years and is cleaner to work with. However it can collect ink from fresh prints and, if not cleaned off, will dry and possibly scratch the prints.

Teflon Squeegee The Teflon squeegee is extremely rigid, which helps eliminate cupping. The Teflon will not allow cyanoacrylates (super glue) or other industrial adhesives to adhere to its blades. It also gives the best slide across most PSV film surfaces. Less drag gives you an easier application with much less fatigue during use. Teflon increases the price further but is worth every penny for its features and benefits. Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 1 (simple to use) Application Type: Pressure-sensitive vinyls

Felt & Felt Edge Squeegee This type of tool is typically a polyethylene squeegee with a glued-on felt edge or a solid felt block to give a similar smooth easy glide across PSV film surfaces. This is not a scratch-free product when used aggressively, but it does reduce friction similarly to a Teflon squeegee (and with a slightly lower cost in comparison). Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 3 (need to learn, so there are no scratches) Application Type: Minimal scratches Accessory: squeegee Handles

Ergonomical design allows for full blade pressure and contact with less wrist strain.

The WetEdge™ Squeegee is a Teflon squeegee with two layers of ultra-suede microfiber on one edge. Most installers spray the fabric side with water or application fluid for an even smoother glide. WetEdge™ Squeegee This is truly the vehicle wrap squeegee! The WetEdge™ squeegee is a Teflon squeegee with two layers of ultra-suede microfiber on one edge (looks similar to a felt squeegee but far more superior). The WetEdge squeegee offers ten-plus-times the durability of a felt edge squeegee. The ultra-suede is used for its durability (they make leather jackets and furniture out of ultra-suede) and the microfiber because the fibers are so fine it offers absolutely no scratches. It is called the WetEdge because most installers and vehicle wrappers will spray the fabric side with water or application fluid making the fabric edge moist. This gives the most amazing glide across a PSV films surface. It makes vehicle wraps easier than any

other tool in the industry. Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 1 (simple to use) Application Type: Vehicle wraps; boats; motorcycles; no scratches

The Big Squeegee This curved plastic tool also comes in various sizes. These are made in different types for different uses from application to hand lamination. The different sizes and types of tools require you to choose the right tool for the job. The Big Squeegee line of tools can replace the need for a powered laminator in most small shops. (Note: They are a good addition to a shop, even one with a powered laminator.) They make it easier to laminate small graphics and can reduce waste by not having to change the roll in the power laminator to do an odd job. Most small jobs can be done faster and easier with the Big Squeegee than with a roll laminator. Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 5 (requires some learning on how to use) Application Type: Large graphic installs; laminating small graphics

Alumalite® Squeegees The best of the best for a rigid squeegee. Available in several sizes (from eight inches wide up to fifty inches wide), the Accessory: squeegee shapes

Magnet squeegees are rigid, plastic squeegees with very strong magnets embedded in them. They are ideal for vehicle wraps, since they will stick to the metal body of a vehicle and not fall off. This keeps the squeegee in front of the installer at all times during the install.

The newer version of plastic squeegees are shapes. Squeegees with curved edges or curved lips allow you to get around body moldings and door jams. These are more difficult to find but are slowly becoming more in demand.

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


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CHANNEL LETTERS 1-800-538-8377

inches wide up to fifty inches wide), the Alumalite® squeegees are all-aluminum and rigid as can be (regardless of width). The edges are all covered with felt to eliminate scratching and give great slide across PSV films. One of the more unique features is how fast you can work with this line of squeegees. You can apply the graphic while removing the liner all at the same time. You can also take an hours’ worth of window graphics applications down to about ten minutes. (I’ve seen it myself!) While these are considered a more expensive tool than your average squeegee, they pay for themselves relatively quickly and can make your install faster than you imagined. Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 2 (simple to use) Application Type: Large graphic installs; windows; building wraps; vehicles; floor graphics

Conclusion In today’s graphics market, you can work hard or you can work smart. Working with multiple squeegees for multiple applications and installations is working smart, so you can choose how much harder you want to work on other aspects of the job. The bottom line: You’re better off knowing about and utilizing many of the aforementioned squeegee products, so as to get your vinyl job completed faster, safer, and easier! Dave Harris is vice president/ general manager of Image One Impact ( Accessory: squeegee sleeves

Reusable, low-friction felt sleeves in sizes to fit four-, six-, and twelveinch small and large format squeegees. They’re economical, as they provide multiple clean new edge surfaces by simply rotating the sleeve around the squeegee. The soft, smooth, supple felt along with the inner hard card helps maintain the integrity of the graphics. Great for digital prints and specialty vinyl. Cleans in advance of pressuring much like a brush on a printer. Terrific on dry applications.


Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

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Produced by:


By Mark k. roBerts


The School Sign Gold Mine

Getting schooled in creative parking lot signage.


ne of my favorite assignments, when it comes to renovated sign projects, is those for signs found in and on school campuses. Fortunately there are numerous school facilities in my area with an assortment of external signage thar are in various states of disrepair. Most school district maintenance facilities have more pressing issues than changing out old and worn-out parking lot signage. However school administrations would welcome some improvement in the overall appearance of these ubiquitous signs (mainly an increased involvement of the school’s mascot). Recently one local high school approached me to remove all of its existing parking lot signage (over thirty-plus single-post steel signs). They

were about twenty years old and showing a lot of wear and rust. That’s right—rust! When I propose a new campus signage project to these types of clients, I’ve found the quickest path to a purchase order is to create a few sample signs that will ultimately be installed in the parking lots. And that’s what I did here. We always begin the design with the school’s mascot, top center on each sign installed. We’ll use 0.080-inch white aluminum 12-by-16-inch or 12-by-18-inch sign blanks. From there, we’ll use 2-mil high-performance vinyl for all the cut graphics. For multi-color signs, we’ll add layers of vinyl in the applicable colors. For those signs requiring full-color graphics, we’ll print them on our Roland VP-540 printer/cutter and lam-

Before Oftentimes new campus signage for schools will incorporate their mascot. The new signs can even include full-color graphics or multi-colored layers of vinyl.


Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

Before Mark replaced (and redesigned) a local high school’s parking lot signage, which was showing a lot of wear & rust.

inate the prints. From there, we’ll adhere the laminated prints onto the surface of the 0.080-inch white aluminum. Many of the campus parking lot signs on this recent project were designated for the office staff. For instance, the principal, the assistant principal, the counselors, the nurse, and other highlevel positions have their own personalized parking space with their applicable sign mounted to a galvanized pole. For head-in parking spaces against a curb, we’ll use the single-sign aluminum brackets to attach the sign to the galvanized pole. For parking lots that have head-tohead parking spaces, we’ll install our galvanized posts inside a cast aluminum ground post mount, attached to the concrete with 5/8-inch galvanized tap-in bolts. Some school campuses have parking lots situated against grass medians. Grass areas are great for installing pole signs; however to maintain the integrity of the galvanized pole, the parking spaces should have curb stops to protect the poles from the cars. (Note: If the budget allows, we can

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Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

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install spring-mounted parking lot sign pole mounts, which allow a car to actually run into the pole and bend it down in front of the car. When the car backs up, the sign pole will return to its normal upright position, without any damage to the pole itself.) In addition to the upper sign installed on the poles, we can also add a smaller informational sign below the top sign. This smaller sign could be used as a personalization sign (such as a numerical parking lane number, the name of the assigned person for that given parking space, or any other applicable designation). For instance, some parking lots designate “head-in” parking only. Through this designation, there will be one less “oil spot” per parking space—and that oil spot will be under the front of the car. Without this designation, each parking spot could have two oil spots per space, which leads to a lot more mess per parking space (and an increased liability for the parking lot owner). Be creative with your parking lot sign ideas! You can convince clients that they can even increase their revenue for their parking lot simply by allowing you to add six extra inches to the length of the parking signs. Perhaps there is a local restaurant, an automobile service company, an office supply company, or any number of businesses that could advertise on this 6-by-12-inch space. This is an easy sale for any local business in proximity of the parking lot, and many owners will jump at the chance to

pay for this advertising exposure. In addition to advertising, you could sell custom parking space signs with school mascots, sports teams, music, drama, or another school activity or sport. These are easy sales, and those involved in these activities will eagerlyly buy a parking sign related to their passion or interests. (Note: Thanks to the success of these parking lot signs, we were also asked to replace additional exterior and interior signs throughout the campus with similar improved graphics.)

Everyone loves personalization, so when you offer custom, one-of-a-kind sign products, the sale becomes automatic. And that is the place we want to be! Mark K. Roberts has been designing and producing signs since 1978. He is also a sign and marketing seminar and workshop leader at select sign shows. For more information, visit and

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


D i g i t a l S i g n a g e / B y Va r i o u s / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Digital Sign Plug-Ins lectronic/dynamic digital displays and sign shops would appear to be, borrowing a classic jingle, “two great tastes that go great together.” For intrepid sign makers, there are several different avenues to get involved—sales, distribution, content management, installation, etc. Meanwhile with sign shops, display providers have another resource to be able to get their units up and running. But there’s the perception out there that these two different (yet similar) industries are still feeling one another out.


Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

Over the next several pages, you’ll read about some of the latest projects that digital/electronic sign manufacturers and integrators—along with some sign shops actively involved in pursuing this technology—have recently set up and installed. These state-of-the-art digital marvels range from exterior message centers to interior enhancements. Some of the following stories may even provide sign makers with initiative to take a “byte” out of this field and get more active in figuring out ways of offering these technologies to their clients.



The latest projects of interest related to electronic signs and displays.


Scoring with Interactive

While working with the Philadelphia Eagles organization and one of its corporate sponsors during the off-season, MVP Interactive ( was able to deploy two of its MorphingStation™ displays at Lincoln Financial Field this past October 20 until the end of the NFL regular season on December 22. On one display, fans transformed themselves into virtual Eagles bobblehead dolls, while on the other, they could see themselves adorned with virtual face paint, crazy hair, etc. On both displays, fans were able to have the image sent to them via email or posted directly to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Customized software provider MVP Interactive recognized early on that mascots, bobbleheads, and face painting have been a mainstay in sports for decades, so they thought to bring these concepts to the digital age and create an “even more valuable” experience for fans. “The MorphingStation idea was hatched on the foundation of research in knowing that sports franchises are focusing on enhancing the fan experience,” says James Giglio, founder of MVP Interactive (which also happens to be headquartered in

Philadelphia). “The fan shares a memorable experience through the digital photo and social media, while the team and sponsor benefits from the key data captured of each user to help promote their brand(s).” A series of integrated and custom hardware (including cameras and a touchscreen) allowed users to choose a series of customization for their “GameFace” or Virtual Bobblehead. Fans could choose various hairstyles, jersey colors, and images. Then facial recognition software detected the users’ faces and registered over 100 data points of the user to perfectly apply the augmented reality feature. A photo was taken within seconds, and then the user typed in their email address to the onscreen keyboard; an email with the photo was then immediately sent. All of the content is stored in the Cloud but is managed through MVP Interactive’s customized dashboard. “Each client received a custom log-in to view all of the data after each activaction or game,” explains Giglio. “Fan photos, user emails, key on-screen touch points, and demographic information was clearly charted out in specific tabs, so our clients could track how well the machine and activation

With the Morphing Station, the fan shares a memorable experience through digital photos and social media, while the team and sponsor benefit from key data captured from each user to help promote their brands.

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


was running.”nning.” The MorphingStation itself was a plug-and-play device. “The patented design allowed us to wheel the unit into place, connect it to a power source, Vehicle graphics is a product area frequently served and activate,” says Giglio. “During each by sign and graphics companies. game, the machine was always attended by Brand Ambassadors and staged near the bank’s promotional tent area. “People were immediately drawn to the machine.” Not only can each MorphingStation be custom-wrapped in brand imagery, but each screen, photo, and email can be branded as well. In fact, the display is not just a photo kiosk—it can run all forms of media and customize the software to become a P-O-S device, a Brand ambassadors were stationed at each MorphingStation display to ticketing machine, or a virtual help fans transform themselves virtually into either Philadelphia Eagles wardrobe display to hit the goals of bobbleheads or super-fans with face paint and crazy hair. each client and brand message. When dealing with an outdoor applying protective film to the screens that helped combat activation like this, sun glare and general issues with UV light,” explains Giglio. ambient light can affect a digital display’s on-screen imagery To watch a video of this MorphingStation camand touch-screen responsiveness. “We were able to avoid any paign, visit major pitfalls through staging the machine under a tent and


Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

Hail to the Digital Screen!

A series of high-performance LED tiles featuring a video tribute to Americana welcomes visitors to the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The George W. Bush Presidential Center on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas, Texas, is divvied up into two parts: (1.) an exhibit about George W. Bush and his presidency, and (2.) Freedom Hall, which serves the National Archives and the Presidential Library. At the entrance to Freedom Hall, a new, photo-realistic LED display welcomes visitors with an interactive show, “The People,” a 360-degree exploration celebrating the diversity and beauty of the land, its people, and the connected nature of all Americans. The eight-minute experience was conceived by Artist David Niles and produced by Niles Creative Group (, a “soup-to-nuts” production company in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida. Continuous imagery wraps the foyer’s upper walls on a specialized, high-performance version of Barco LiveDots C5 LED display tiles, comprising four individual 50-by-21 foot surfaces that are mounted with 90-degree corner joints to form a 360-degree, 220-by-21-foot seamless video screen installed twenty-seven feet in the air. Niles Creative Group designed, built, and installed an innovative, automatic media-and-content delivery system that delivers the experience on this display more than thirty-two times daily. Broadcast-style intelligent redundancy ensures “fail proof,” “hands free” operation at all times. Niles became involved in this project back in 2008, after Mark Langdale, president of the George W. Bush Foundation, contacted him after seeing the content work he’d created for The Comcast Experience at the Comcast Center in

Philadelphia. Niles initially developed the idea of creating a “living mural” for this centerpiece. “That developed into a solid concept over several months’ time but had to wait for the construction of the building to be realized,” he says. During initial conversations, there was no display technology that could handle the steep 70- to 75-degree viewing angle without distortion. But last year, Niles partnered with Barco to create a new LED design unique to the library—a daylight-viewable, photo-realistic display that’s completely uniform when viewed from any point in the hall. Niles was allowed access to film inside the Oval Office and at Camp David during 2008. For the more recently filmed “Textures” segment at the beginning of the experience, he set up four DSLR cameras in order to achieve a very challenging, high-resolution, 360-degree-view timelapse presentation. “When you’re time-lapsing four independent cameras at the same time, every single frame on each camera has to be slightly different than the other ones,” he explained. “So each frame had to be specially treated to make it smooth and seamless.” “The People” then evolves into a tapestry of the land, its people, and the capital, set to an original composition performed by a sixty-five-piece orchestra. The finale incorporates a surprise that makes viewers part of the experience. “There are thousands of people inspired and moved by this experience every day,” says Niles, “and that’s something we take special pride in.”

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


New Video/Audio Systems :

Rutgers Athletic Center Scarlet Knights basketball fans of Rutgers University are enjoying a whole new game-day experience inside the 8,000-seat Rutgers Athletic Center (The RAC) in Piscataway, New Jersey, thanks to the updated center-hung video display and custom audio systems installed by Daktronics ( Inside The RAC, the center-hung features a four-sided video display with two ring displays (one on top and one on bottom). The four main video displays each measure approximately 7 feet high-by-12 feet wide and feature 6 millimeter line spacing. They are capable of showing one large image to highlight live video and instant replays. They can also be divided into separate windows to show a variety of vivid graphics, colorful animations, up-to-the-minute statistics, scoring information, and sponsor advertisements. Installed above the court, these displays incorporate excellent image clarity and contrast with wide-angle visibility providing optimal viewing for all fans. The top ring display measures approximately 2 feet high-by-62 feet in circumference and has 15 millimeter line spacing. The lower ring display measures approximately 2 feet high-by-43 feet in circumference and also features 15 millimeter line spacing. The RAC center-hung is raised and lowered using two

remote Daktronics hoists. The 6,000-pound-capacity dualhoist system can lift a total of 12,000 pounds and features 6 feet per minute lifting speed. This system, which incorporates the latest in hoisting technology and safety, is being used to support the display at varying elevations (depending on the arena’s needs). Daktronics also installed two auxiliary displays providing the opportunity to highlight sponsor advertisments and show real-time statistics located in two of the four corners of The RAC. Each measure approximately 29 feet high-by-6 feet wide and feature 15 millimeter line spacing. A new sound system is comprised of nearly sixty new speakers. Clever design engineers from the audio division utilized the Electro-Voice EVA 2082 series of speakers to build line arrays precisely matched to the needs of the arena. Subwoofers add “feel” to the sound experience. The custom speaker system is powered by twelve amplifiers from Electro-Voice “Tour Grade” series. “Our new video boards and sound system have greatly enhanced the game-day experience for our fans and corporate sponsors, as well as the teams. The RAC has a great new energy,” said Senior Associate AD/Chief Marketing Officer Geoff Brown. —Press Release

Daktronics recently installed an updated center-hung video display and custom audio systems at Rutgers Athletic Center. The new display provides image clarity and contrast with wide-angle visibility for an optimal viewing experience for all fans. 30

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

The (Gas) Price is Right Custom Sign & Engineering, Inc., of Newburgh, Indiana, is a regional, fullservice sign company with about thirtyfive employees that does just about anything sign-related for anyone— ranging from design to fabrication to offering maintenance contracts. However the company credits the quality and reliability of digital/ electronic signage (particularly Watchfire’s Price Watcher™ gas price signs) with helping it increase customer satisfaction and boost business. Custom Sign & Engineering (www. had been selling traditional-type, readerboard gas price signs from different manufacturers for years; however they noticed they were making frequent return trips to sites for repairs. Company President Scott Elpers explains, “Customers don’t want to see downtime in a unit they’ve spent a considerable amount of money on. “And obviously with gas price signs, it’s important that the sign accurately reflect the gas price at the moment.” Not only were these follow-up service calls proving frustrating to their customers, but they were also eating away at Custom Sign’s bottom line. For example, one problem Elpers encountered when working with traditional, internally illuminated manual price change signs is that they just didn’t appear to be built to last. Even if they were guaranteed for a five- to seven-year life, many frames weren’t making it that long. “We also experienced driver and ballast issues,” he says. “The biggest issue was eventual corrosion that would lead to failure and cause outages or an inability to change the right display.” In contrast, they’ve not had to make return trips for service calls or repairs on the digital/electronic Price Watcher units. “Since they’re are a fully potted unit, you have less corrosion,” says Elpers, “and it’s corrosion that

contributes to many costly repairs for our customers.” When switching out to electronic price units, Elpers and his shop employees always start with a field survey, in order to determine the face size of the old price sign that’s being replaced. “At that time, we’ll generate renderings for our customers to approve as far as the size of the display and the

number of displays,” he explains. One thing Elpers always talks over with his customers when it comes to convincing them to transition from traditional to digital is the liability associated with having to change price signs manually. “We’ve had one particular filling station that had a catwalk, but one of its employees fell off it and got hurt,” he says. “So it’s not necessarily about the initial investment. Rather it’s the risk factor that you remove by having the ability to change these signs remotely.” Experiences like this have helped not only Custom Sign’s customers but also improved this sign company’s bottom line, due to fewer repairs and service calls. Going digital like this has also improved the sign company’s ability to make future sales.

LEDs look much better in uniform. Makrolon® LD polycarbonate sheets deliver uniform light diffusion for today’s LED signage. They feature an advanced light diffusion technology that provides excellent light uniformity. LED hot spots and shadowing are eliminated in flat or formed applications. Makrolon LD is available in a range of standard sign colors and can be custom matched to industry colors. Don’t limit your design flexibility with LEDs. Makrolon LD delivers now. Call 800-254-1707 for samples or visit to locate your local, authorized distributor.

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


S e r v i c e Ve h i c l e s / B y A s h l e y B r Ay / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

The Heights of


Safety A guidE to SAfEly woRking in A SERvicE tRuck.


s a sign shop grows and expands, it often becomes necessary to purchase a service truck to complete instal-

lation and service jobs. But before a sign shop employee’s feet leave the ground in a bucket or on an aerial platform, there are requirements and precautions that must be followed to ensure that they stay safe both in the air and on the ground. “Any time a person is in a man lift, he is at risk,” says Randy Robertson, director, Sales & Marketing at Manitex. “Even though it’s the safest way to do the job, personnel need to understand the risks and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, as well as local regulations, when working elevated above ground.”


Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014


photo: Elliott EquipMEnt coMpAny.

“personnel need to understand the risks and follow manufacturer’s recommendations, as well as local regulations, when working elevated above ground.” — Randy Robertson, Manitex

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


says Wilkerson. “The operator will also need to be trained in fall protection and prevention. “Also the operator will need the proper safety equipment, which will include safety harness and fall arrest system, hard hat, and other miscellaneous items.” These training courses typically make sure that operators are also familiar with their truck’s lifting charts. Manufacturers stress that operators

must know how much weight they’re lifting to ensure compliance with these charts and to avoid damaging the boom. Boom trucks typically have load detection systems, but most cranes do not, so shops can buy a load cell. The small device attaches to the tip of the rope and tells the operator how much weight is being lifted. Another safety feature on new trucks is the anti-two-block system. A sensor

Before getting into or operating the lift, workers need to make sure they are trained in the proper use of the equipment and in fall protection and prevention. they should also be familiar with the truck’s lifting charts.


Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

photo: elliott equipment company.

Routine inspections— as well as regular maintenance and lubrication—is important for ensuring that the service vehicle runs safely and properly.

photo: (left) elliott equipment company; (right): dave forrest.

Aside from the pending OSHA mandate on crane certification (recently exteneded to 2017)—which says all operators of cranes with winches rated above 2,000 pounds must have crane operator certification—training requirements necessary to work in an aerial lift or to operate one differ from state to state and even job site to job site. “They can range from simple inhouse traning to specific training courses depending on local, state, and federal laws, as well as requirements of customers (certain job sites may require additional training),” says Bryan Wilkerson, vice president of Wilkie Manufacturing. However all manufacturers recommend that sign shop employees working with a truck receive some training on the vehicle. In fact, service equipment manufacturers and dealers typically offer training programs or can point shops in the direction of where to find a program. “They need to make sure that the operator is familiar and trained in the proper use of the equipment and has read the operator instructions/manual of the particular piece of equipment,”


A site survey before installation day is essential in determining overhead hazards and the best place to park the truck for proper reach. manufacturer’s recommendation is also important in keeping the vehicle running.) Performing a site survey before instal-

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

lation day is also necessary. “Planning your work will save you a lot of time in getting that work done,” says Robertson. “It’s a lot easier to go in there ahead of time with a passenger vehicle and do a site survey as opposed to showing up the same day the work has to happen and finding out you don’t have enough equipment, you don’t have enough reach, [or] there’s not enough room to set the truck up where you need to be able to reach.” On the site survey, shops should pay attention to overhead hazards like power lines. “Contact with power lines is the number one killer of people involved with cranes and aerial work platforms,” says Robertson. For this reason, on install day, shops must set up their truck in a place that provides the aerial lift with safe clearance from power lines. “Maintain a clearance of at least ten feet between any part of the aerial lift and its load and any electrical line carrying up to 50,000 volts,” explains Phillips. “One foot of additional clearance is required for every additional 30,000 volts or less. “Set up in such a manner as to allow for the boom to sway, rock, or sag and for movement of the electrical lines due to wind.” Robertson notes that in cases where power lines will be difficult to avoid, it may even be beneficial to call in the

photo: elliott equipment company.

warns the operator when the crane’s “headache ball” or hook assembly is in danger of hitting the sheave and breaking the line, which could cause the lift to tip and fail. Proper training and knowledge of the service vehicle can go a long way in preventing accidents, but there are other precautions a shop must take even before a job starts. “For one, daily, monthly, and annual inspections of the vehicle are a must. “Inspections really help prevent accidents and help ensure that the crane will last as long as possible,” says David Phillips, International Sales and Communications manager, Elliott Equipment Company. In between inspections, Phillips tells shops to pay attention to their trucks and how they’re running. “If something doesn’t sound right and doesn’t feel right, stop and figure out what’s going on,” he says. “Respect the equipment.” (Note: Routine maintenance and lubrication on the truck according to the

power company and have them place insulators over the lines or, in rare cases, disconnect power while work is being performed. (Note: Weather conditions on the job site should also be monitored, as unstable ground conditions or wind speeds over 30 mph can put workers on aerial lifts at risk.) When deciding on where to park the truck, overhead hazards are not the only things shops should look out for. “Check the clearances above, to the sides, and the bottom of the platform when raising, lowering, and swinging the boom,” says Phillips. “The operator is responsible to avoid operating over ground personnel and to warn them not to work, walk, or stand under a raised platform.” Checking below the lift also includes the ground the truck is parked on. The vehicle should only be parked on firm, level surfaces and never over a manhole or other underground opening. “Don’t operate the unit near ditches or on muddy or unsolid ground,” explains Phillips. “If operating the machine on grades and side slopes exceeding five degrees, the outriggers must be cribbed with suitable material to allow for leveling. “The unit must always be positioned to allow the unit to be re-leveled so that the level bubble is within the center marks. At no time can the unit be operated with the turret box more than two degrees out of level in any direction.” The use of cribbing or outrigger pads is especially helpful in leveling the truck, and Robertson advises using pads that surpass the manufacturer’s recommendations. “You want to put an outrigger pad that exceeds the diameter of the manufacturer’s supplied outrigger pad by two, three times so that it spreads the load of the equipment out over a larger surface,” he explains. The outriggers must be properly spread out before the boom or lift is raised. “The aerial lift is designed to operate with a certain stability profile, so if the legs aren’t all the way out or if one side is only partway in, and you work over that side with the partway in, you could flip it,” explains Phillips. Most trucks now come equipped with an outrigger boom interlock system, which prevents the boom from

lifting out of stow without the outriggers fully deployed. Once a worker enters the bucket, he should once again be sure to check his surroundings. “Any time an operator enters the basket, bucket, or platform, they should immediately attach their fall protection and also take a look around at what is above them to make sure that they are clear of any hazards,” says Wilkerson.

Overall manufacturers emphasize that the operator of the service vehicle should practice caution and discretion on the job site. “Ultimately the man operating the equipment is responsible for his own safety as well as the people working around him,” says Robertson.

for more on aerial lifts and bucket trucks, visit

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February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


all Photos: diaz sign art.

S o f t wa r e D e s i g n / By M i k e A nto n i A k / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Diazâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s design, Our Volition, won second place in the General Illustrations and Fine Art category of the 2013 CorelDRAW International Design Contest. 38

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014


Software, Skills, and Client Considerations All of these inform compelling sign designs.


hat defines an effective design? “You want a sign that will stand out from the rest of the businesses in the area,” says Joe Diaz, award-winning graphic designer with Diaz Sign Art ( of Pontiac, Illinois. “You have to think about the people driving by: What do they have time to see? What will they be able to see from twenty yards out? “The message you put there and how it’s presented has to be clear and easy to read.” Diaz speaks with authority and experience. He grew up in the sign business, literally, and started designing in the late 1990s as a high school student. “It was some pretty simple stuff, working on signs and lettering for printing on a plotter,” recalls Diaz. “It gave me the

Diaz’s fictitious logo, Steampunk Stella’s, won the grand prize in the 2011 CorelDRAW Design Contest—and has even won him new customers.

opportunity to start playing with CorelDRAW®, and see what it can do.” He’s been an enthusiastic user of the design program ever since. “I use it CorelDRAW to do vector illustrations, layout, and design for print and all types of graphics,” says Diaz. “It’s intuitive and extremely user-friendly. “I’m still finding new things it can do, even today.” In fact, Diaz believes one key to successful design is making opportunities to fully explore whatever software you use as a way of unleashing creativity. “I’ve always tried to create projects outside of work that allowed me to experiment a little more, beyond the scope of routine designs for signs and vehicle graphics,” he says. Those after-hours endeavors helped Diaz hone his design

Diaz Sign Art has used its talents for design to transform itself more into a full-service provider of marketing solutions—both on and offline. February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


skills to “expert” level. Corel has recognized Diaz as one of its CorelDRAW Masters. This distinction makes him one of a select group of designers and artists from around the world who have demonstrated “outstanding technical proficiency and passion for CorelDRAW,” according to the company. His portfolio includes many examples of how he adapts his design tools and skills to his client’s needs. Diaz’s work has been featured on logos, T-shirts, packaging, vehicle wraps, and signs announcing all types of businesses, services, groups, and locations. Diaz also won top honors as Grand Prize winner of the 2011 CorelDRAW International Design Contest for his submission of a fictitious logo, Steampunk Stella’s. Last year, his Our Volition entry captured Second Place in the contest’s General Illustrations and Fine Art category. “Already knowing design, the software is only part of it,” he admits. “I also learned a lot from my parents. My father has a really good grasp of color theory, and my mother earned her degree in art.”

A Family Business By the time he started helping in the family business, Diaz Sign Art was a wellestablished sign specialist in Pontiac. Joe’s father, Bill, launched the business in 1979 as Diaz Painting and Wallpapering, specializing in interiors. Skilled with a brush and palette, he did some handpainted lettering and signs, too.

Diaz designed Our Volition to discuss technology and what we do with it. He also used it to show how slight changes in color, text, or graphics in the same basic design can result in an entirely different message. When a local sign shop closed, area businesses turned to him for handcrafted signs and murals, and the company was re-commissioned as Diaz Sign Art. Today it’s entirely family-owned and operated, staffed by the elder Diaz, his wife Jane, and their two sons, Ben and Joe. Family members are also active members of the Walldogs artist group (, specialists in hand-painted wall murals (many incorporating Diaz’s designs). “For a long time, the biggest part of our business was in fleet graphics, one of my father’s specialties,” adds Diaz.

When the recession hit and demand slowed, they strived to become more of a full-service provider of marketing solutions—on and offline. “We still do most of the signs around [Pontiac],” notes Diaz, estimating they account for 15 percent of business. The balance runs 40 percent vehicle graphics; 35 percent in design for the Web, logos, illustrations, and print; and 10 percent in other services.

Consulting & Advising Whatever the projet, his design process starts with a discussion about client goals and budgets. Prior to meeting, Diaz even

Diaz Sign Art is also a member of the Walldogs artist group, which designs and creates highly creative hand-painted murals. 40

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

suggests new clients even visit his shop’s Web site and review already-completed projects for an idea of the range of options available. Some clients look to him for the answers, others arrive with a firm concept already in mind. “Sometimes that can be very helpful, and other times, it can make the project very difficult,” admits Diaz. “They may be asking for something you know may not work for them or their type of business. “As a designer, you have to take what you know and make sure you can direct their project down the right path.” As an example, Diaz says an attorney may come in, initially requesting a sign that looks like the one he’s seen for a local garage. “The design, the colors, and the lettering may not be appropriate for a law office, so you have to ask questions and find out what it is the client likes about that sign to inform the design,” he says, noting that color, font, graphics, and even size and shape of the sign are all considered. Diaz presents such clients with a list of design services and samples of past

Another area that Diaz Sign Art has really excelled in, thanks to their art and software skills, has been in logo design.

jobs he considers appropriate. Budget enters into initial conversations too, as design work and production services are priced separately. The company’s


pricing guide outlines design services at different tiers (based on such variables as design time, the number of sample designs, and revisions).

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February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Once minds meet, clients are asked to pay as much as 50 percent of the project fee up front. “We do that to protect us,’ he points out. “We’re very careful about only releasing the final version of a design on final payment. Anything submitted to the client before final release is protected with a watermark.” Until final approval, Diaz sets his ego aside and strives to remain flexible and open to client suggestions. “You can’t take it personally if they don’t like what you come up with,” he advises. “Design is somewhat subjective and will always be subjective to some extent. “As the designer, you have to use your skills and experience to help the client achieve the look they want.”

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Designs for Print & Paint Large-scale projects like wall murals allow more room for creativity. Some of these are printed on adhesive-backed vinyl, while the more ambitious designs may be handpainted by the Diaz family or members of the Walldogs collective at their events. Whether modern or traditional methods are used, the location, budget, size, and desired longevity again guide his approach to design. “When costs are a primary concern, we might choose to go with a two- or threecolor hand-painted wall advertisement,” he says. The amount of illustrations featured in the design are considered too. “If it’s within their budget, we can hand-paint

some pretty realistic art, but the more realistic we need to make something, the more labor is factored into the cost,” he explains. But Diaz points out that printed graphics are not necessarily more cost-effective, especially for long-term installations. “Material costs for large, hand-painted murals can be less than printed graphics,” he says. “They’re also more durable, serving for many years. “The client is left with something that has the hand-made character that is difficult to reproduce with a print.” Such eye-catching designs continue to draw praise and help get clients thinking about new ways to present themselves, their products, or their services. “The illustration work isn’t something most clients come in looking for, but when we show them something like Steampunk Stella’s as an example of what we can do, it kind of builds,” he says. “When people saw that, we started to get requests for more of that kind of work.” With last year’s award-winning entry, Our Volition, Diaz tried to push graphic design further into fine art. “I also wanted to show how you can say entirely different things using the same basic design with slight changes in color, text, or graphics,” he says. “It’s that message—and how these elements all work together—that is the really important thing.”

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Diaz has also used his knowledge of color, font, graphics, and size and shape to be able to successfully print logo designs onto apparel.

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

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Lounge act For the past ten years, the owner of the West Cove Lounge, a gathering spot along Moosehead Lake in Greenville, Maine, had been using a flat 1/2-inch MDO sign on the gable side of his building, as well as a plain changeable message board sign placed near the highway. So he contacted Tom Stade, owner of nearby Moosehead Signs (, requesting more visually exciting, artfully crafted replacements. 44

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

aLL photos: Moosehead signs.

A sign maker puts on quite the dimensional sign performance.



tade designed the new roadside sign from scratch: A double-sided, 96-inch-wide-by-60-inch-tall sign panel with cut-out letters attached to them. The panels are mounted between a set of posts, meaning the finished piece stands thirteen feet tall! Because the lounge is located across from Moosehead Lake’s old wharf that had been a main gateway for supplies sent up the lake by steamship, Stade employed a nautical theme for the new sign design. The main sign panel features different shades of blue throughout and is bordered by ornate, swashbuckler-style flourishes. The posts resemble something you’d find at a pier and rope and anchors add to the look. Stade used his CNC router to cut the panels out of fifteen-pound high-density urethane (HDU) materials. Since the finished panel would be wider than what he

could place on his router table, he carved two separate pieces of HDU blank for each. Placing the two pieces of each panel together on his worktable, Stade then ran a hand-held skill saw to create a matching edge seam between them. He bonded the two panels together with Gorilla Glue™ and clamped and placed spring poles using 1x6s against the ceiling. He then router-cut four-inch-deep (width of the aluminum suspension beam) HDU pieces for the border enclosure out of HDU, along with scrap pieces of 1-1/2-inch HDU cut into four-inch lengths by various widths to act as fillers. Knowing that his CNC router could only cut so deep, Stade used his hand router with a special long roller edge bit on it to cut through the middle of the pieces the CNC could not reach (the filler pieces that had curved contours).

Above (top row, l-r): PHOTO 1: The modified flourishes bordering the sign panels were cut out of fifteen-pound HDU on a CNC router. PHOTO 2: Flourishes were attached to the panels with a urethane adhesive. PHOTO 3: HDU

With the first panel lying face down, he dry fit, marked, and glued the fillers to the panel using urethane adhesives. (Note: Since everything needed to be flat and tight—and urethane adhesives will expand—Stade placed the second panel temporarily on top with the face up and used clamps, along with everything in the shop, to keep the blocking from lifting upward. He also again used spring poles positioned to the ceiling along with blocking to hold everything in place.)

the sign features a nautical theme with various shades of blue, anchors, and “swashbuckler” flourishes.

filler pieces help bond the two panels to each other. (bottom row, l-r): PHOTO 4: Flourishes were painted after initial paint spray. PHOTO 5: Hand-stressed letter. PHOTO 6: Different styles of letters CNC-cut for the sign.

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


stade also used clear transfer tape to create a prismatic set of brand-new letters installed onto the gable side of the building. Once everything had thoroughly dried, Stade used a straight edge to check across the blocking at various directions and sanded any high spots on the blocking. He then applied Gorilla Glue to these filler pieces. Positioning the other panel over top of the first assembly, he placed clamps and nearly every heavy tool in his shop on top of the panels to bond them. (Note: Stade later sanded off any excess glue that had expanded out around the edges.) For the border, Stade added another layer of HDU in specific areas for extra dimension. He attached these finished pieces to the panel with a minimum amount of urethane adhesive, clamped them, and, once set up, whittled them down with a knife and chisels. He then sanded to give these areas a radius edge. Next Stade mounted the completed sign panel up on a customized, temporary stanchion support frame. Stade sprayed Behr latex paints using a four-stage HVLP Sherwin-Williams® spray unit onto both sides of the sign panel. He made sure to mix the latex paints to arrive at the right color blends—dark blue to light blue for a “misty” lake sur46

The HDU anchors were later spray-painted black and attached to the posts by using stud-mounts and pressing them firmly into pre-drilled holes that had been filled with siliconeadhesive.

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

face effect. Stade applied the darker blues first and then went back over in spots with lighter shades. After letting the entire sign panel dry (“fortunately latex paint is quick drying,” he says), Stade also used latex paint to hand-paint the border outlines and flourishes their intended colors. Stade carved the basic shapes of all three sets of letters (“West Cove,” “Lounge,” and “Food • Spirits • Lodging”) out of fifteen-pound HDU on his CNC router. He applied contact cement to the HDU and bonded them to the Alupanel. However Stade used a chisel and knife to hand-modify the bigger “West Cove” letters and give them a stressed appearance. He then primed and painted the basic colors in two shades of blue. As soon as he applied the dark blue paint, he took a wet paper towel and wiped this paint across the letters. For the “Lounge” letters, Stade applied 23k gold leaf size to their surfaces, gilded, and later hand-brushed their outlines with latex paint. (Note: This outline work was done on all of the sign’s lettering.) After painting, Stade cut out and placed Gerbermask onto the face of the sign to

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provide a guide as to where the contact cement would be applied for the letters. “So once I had the contact cement on the panel and on the letter, I simply pushed it right in place,” he explains. “Then I pulled the Gerbermask off.” For the gable signage on the building, Stade used flat Alupanel letters. He flushmounted the studs through the letters and epoxied the face of the screw flush with the face of the letter. He then applied a Sherwin-Williams Bonding Primer and top coating with black latex gloss. Using clear transfer tape, he laid this over the Gerbermask cut-out outlines of the letters. He squeegeed it, pulled the letters out leaving the outline, cut each letter separately, taped it to the table upside down (so he could place the Alupanel cutout letter onto it), flipped it over, squeegeed some more, and then took an sharp X-Acto® knife and lightly followed the masked outline in the middle (cutting through only the clear transfer tape). Stade then pulled off the inner transfer tape, exposing the inside area of the letter to be sprayed light blue. After spraying, he hand-lettered the darker

after the letters had been placed onto the panel, stade cut the gerbermask using an X-acto® knife. blue to achieve a prismatic look. The posts holding the sign panels are two sections comprised of three separate pieces each of 8x8 pressure-treated wood. Although the finished sign stands thirteen feet tall, the posts are actually even taller (as four feet of them are buried underground).

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Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

Because of the limited amount of space in his shop, Stade worked on these pieces outside on his truck-hitched trailer. He also used two fourteen-foot 6x6 pressure-treated crosspieces to support the post cantilevering out past the width of the trailer. Stade and his brother carried the two main posts back into his shop and carved the mortises for the placement of the aluminum supporting crosspiece. Once mortised, the posts were placed back onto the trailer alongside the other posts, drilled through, and bolted together. Next the sign was carefully laid down between the posts. The posts were then slid onto the 4x8 aluminum cross piece. Once bolted together, the posts were so heavy, a Come Along system was used to pull them together onto the crosspiece. Stade cut the set of anchors for the posts with the CNC router and spraypainted them black. He then mounted them to a white Alupanel outline for the backing. With studs pre-mounted, the HDU anchors were siliconed to the Alupanel. Once the sign was installed, he drilled holes in the posts, applied silicone in them, and pressed the stud mounts on the back of the anchors into the holes. Stade added 1-1/2-inch-thick rope around the posts by hammering specially ordered copper u-shaped staples over them. The copper looks good against the rope and will prevent later corrosion. One of Stade’s friends owns a logging truck, so he hired him to lift up the heavy sign and drop it into place in a brandnew thirty-inch-tall slab-and-stonework planter the owner had installed.

L i g ht i n g / By Blake S. Vincent/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

lighting Wide AreA signAge W

ith the channel letter market saturated with lowcost modules, LED manufacturers are looking towards new applications to grow sales. While visiting a wholesale sign shop about two years ago, I saw a four-by-twelve-foot, single-sided sign cabinet illuminated by someone sticking literally hundreds (432 to be exact) of channel letter LEDs onto the back of the sign. I remember thinking two things: (1.) There is an appetite by end-users and sign fabricators to use LEDs in larger wide format signs and sign cabinets; and (2.) LED manufacturers need to develop systems that are easier to install. 50

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

Today there are some excellent LED solutions designed specifically for larger single- and double-sided cabinets (both new construction and retrofit). Basically LED innovations for wide area signage can be broken down into three product categories: backlit modules with lateral light spread, return mount or side-illuminated systems, and cabinet products. Each manufacturer has their own twist on these systemsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; each with different features, benefits, and cost points. Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s take a look: Backlit modules with lateral light spread are particularly good for larger, lower profile signs. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re either designed

all Photos (unless mentioned): bitro grouP.

how led systems can optimize energy savings and reduce the number of power supplies.

Cabinet products are the biggest growth area for LEDs in the sign industry.

table 1

ule with a 120o lambertian optic on wide centers and get adequate coverage. However wide beam angle LEDs with lateral optics are the best bet for shallower, multi-stroke channel letters and cabinets. Side-mount and edge-lit modules are less utilized, but they work really well in specific applications. For larger cabinets, some manufacturers offer systems that have a focusing optic. These systems work in the opposite way of a batwing optic. They actually focus the light emitted from the LED in such a way that the light is narrow, and the module is designed to mount on the side or return of the sign. GE Tetra EdgeStrip product contains a special OptiLens with a 10x80o viewing angle that puts out up to 410 LM per module. EdgeStrip can evenly light signs up to five feet in width and can work in sign depths as thin as three inches. table 2 ACRYLITE® LED for edge lighting Grade selection by panel size L E D do ubl e s i de d

L E D s i ng l e s i de d

Recommended grade and thickness

Up to 12 inches

Up to 6 inches*

0E010 SM 4 mm

12 to 24 inches

6 to 12 inches*

0E011 L 4, 6, 8 mm

24 to 48 inches

12 to 24 inches*

0E012 XL 4, 6, 8, 10 mm

48 to 78 inches

24 to 39 inches*

0E013 XXL 8, 10 mm

*Reflective edge tape opposite LEDs recommended.

Cost and energy comparison of standard versus batwing modules in a wide format sign cabinet. 52

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

Acrylite® LED (Endlighten) material engineered for LED side illumination.

table 1: PrinciPal leD; table 2: evonik cyro llc.

with a special “batwing”-type optic that forces more light away from the face and towards the sides or return of the sign, or the LEDs are mounted in a way to force light laterally versus traditional lambertian 120o SMD LEDs. While some manufacturers offer lower output modules for ultra-thin channel letters, as a general rule, these systems offer no real benefit for single-stroke, standard-depth channel letters (since the light is just wasted and never gets to the sign face). The real benefit for these systems is in thin multi-stroke sign applications. Referring back to my initial four-by-twelve-foot, four-inch deep single-sided sign example, no one wants to peel and stick hundreds of modules down a sign back. With a standard channel letter module, you’d have to use a three-module-per-foot system and place them on four-inch centers. With a lateral spread/batwing module, you can use two modules per foot and, depending on the manufacturer, place the modules on nine- to twelve-inch centers. (Note: Table 1 shows an actual comparison.) My point is that even though one module costs four-times as much, the actual cost of the LED system to build the sign is 25 percent less. (And that doesn’t include the labor savings of having to install 75 percent less product and power supplies!) If the sign is deeper (>8 inches), just like the channel letters, the benefits begin to go away, since you can now place a standard mod-

Cabinets with more “busy” graphics are more forgiving of variances in illumination across the sign face.

SloanLED has similar products: Sloan PosterBox and PosterBox Slim are 550 LM and 120 LM per module, respectively. PosterBox utilizes a unique FlareShield technology to eliminate hot spots near the edge of the sign. It should be noted that, since all of these products utilize specific optics, they work better in certain sign depths and sizes than others and should be test-

ed in the shop prior to installation. I’ve found that they’re great in doublesided cloud- and blade-type signs. Most of these products work best when there are more “busy” graphics on the face, as these signs are more forgiving of variances in illumination across the sign face. For wide format, edge-lit indoor signs, some manufacturers have developed thin high-output LED modules that are de-

The Smart Choice in LED Displays

signed specifically to work with edge lit acrylics, such as Acrylite® LED (Endlighten) from Evonik Cyro, LLC. These plastic sheets utilize embedded particles that spread the light laterally. This removes the need for patterning or laser-etching the material and allows the sign manufacturer to cut them down to any size. The Acrylite LED (Endlighten) material comes in several grades and thick-


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Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

ness options depending upon the size of the panel to be illuminated (Table 2). Principal LED’s Spec. Edge is a plugand-play LED strip that’s designed specifically to work with these types of plastics and can evenly light up to a fourby-eight-inch sheet of Acrylite LED (Endlighten) from each edge. SignComp and other aluminum extruders also sell frame kits that work well with these edge-lit systems. These components allow a sign manufacturer to custom-build their own edge-lit light boxes without buying specialized equipment or having to order from a third party. Cabinet products are the biggest growth area for LEDs in the sign industry. There are a number of systems now available that meet or exceed the brightness of traditional HO-T12 lamps at prices. “Just as LEDs have virtually replaced neon in new sign construction, they will ultimately do the same with fluorescent lamps. Accessories have made both retrofits and new sign construction with LEDs easier and faster to install than fluorescent lamps systems. Any financial advantage an inexpensive fluorescent lamp has over LEDs is erased in one or two lamp changes,” says Bob Magnus, vice president of Sales & Marketing at Ventex. Each manufacturer has its own system with slightly different features. Ventex sells a Snap Stick that’s a custom extrusion designed to be assembled with their existing Venbrite LED modules. This allows the sign maker to repurpose the same modules in a cabinet as in wide format channel letters. USLED’s Tandem2 system for singleand double-sided cabinets has a special interlocking rail system that contains specifically designed LED modules, which can be easily adjusted up and down the rail. Principal LED (Qwik Stik) and Permlight (Linearray) have systems that come pre-assembled in specific lamp sizes and can fit directly into a T-12 socket or with separate mounting hardware for new signs. Just like LED modules with lateral optics, these systems reduce the need to peel-and-stick hundreds of LED modules. They have also have been designed to work in double-sided cabinets without the need to add a separate baffle during fabrication. There’s no question that LEDs will

continue to expand their market reach beyond the traditional channel letter over the next few years. “We’re transitioning 100 percent of our single and double-sided cabinet signs to LEDs, because they’re the fastest-growing segment of our business,” says Ben Ziglin, president & CEO of Ziglin Signs in Washington, Missouri. Innovation has come in the way of specialized materials and optics to put light where it needs to be on the sign


face in order to reduce fabrication times and maximize energy savings. Looking into these options can help sign makers save time and money and expand their product offerings to end-users. Blake S.Vincent has been selling LEDs specifically to the sign industry for over ten years. Blake has a B.S. in Business Administration from Angelo State University and is a managing partner at Principal LED ( of San Angelo, Texas.

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1. Choose up to 10 categories of interest and check off on card. 2. Select up to 28 suppliers and record InfoDirect # on card. 3. Mail card to start getting info! InfoDirect #

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3A Composites USA . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 3M Commercial Graphics . . . . . . . 62 Ability Plastics, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Allanson International . . . . . . . . . 55 Allwood Signblanks . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . 62 Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . 62 Anthony Warren Corp . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Aries Graphics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 A .R .K . Ramos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Bayer Material Science LLC . . . . . 31 Bitro Group, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Brinks Mfg . (Van Ladder) . . . . . . . 36 Brooklyn Hardware . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 CAO Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Chemical Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 DSA Phototech . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Duxbury Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Elliott Equipment Company . . . . . . . 3 Epson America, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . C2 Epson America, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 FDC Graphics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Gemini, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 GH Imaging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Hartlauer Bits, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Innovision LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 International Sign Association . . . . . 21 Lancaster Sign Co . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Manitex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Matthews Paint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 MBS-Standoffs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 MultiCam, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Orafol Americas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Orbus Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Orbus Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Ornamental Post Panel & Traffic . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Outwater Plastics . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Principal LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13


InfoDirect #

39 SAi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 40 ShopBot Tools, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48


InfoDirect #




Companies in Sign Show

41 Sign America, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 42 Signs365 .com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C4


43 SloanLED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 44 Small Balls, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63


45 Southern Stud Weld . . . . . . . . . . . 20 46 Stamm Mfg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37


47 TRC Electronics, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 48 US LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58


49 VKF Renzel USA Corp . . . . . . . . . . . 62 50 Wilkie Mfg ., LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C3


53 55 57 59 61 62 63 64

Ability Plastics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Cab Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Cadwell Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Delcam International . . . . . . . . . . 14 Elliott Equipment Company . . . . . . 15 Epson America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Kern Lasers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Monarch Metal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Nixalite of America . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Nova Polymers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Roland DGA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Trotec . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Wasatch Computer Technology . . 12 Welch Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated




Quasar3 is the best and brightest LED lighting system offering greater versitility in more signage applications beyond standard channel letter signs. Quasar3 produces the brightest white light in your sign cabinets, fascia and large, deep channel letters while providing more lumens per foot per dollar. Combined with its quality, durability, cutting edge LED technology and industry-leading 5-year warranty, Quasar3 is the ideal product for high-brightness applications.











* Data gathered from currently available information and datasheets on companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s website.







T 866 972 9191



/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / C h a n n e l L e t t e r s / B y P e t e r P e r s z y k

Across the ChanneL

Design ideas for channel letters.

all Photos: Peter Perszyk.

top row: L: Stacking layers of plastic across blue faces creates an interesting effect. R: Graphics added across the face of the channel letter. Bottom row: L: Using an opaque face creates a bright, illuminated line along the perimeter. R: Little lamps on the channel letter face.


ome fabrication staples in the sign industry have shifted thanks to advances in technology, however fundamentals (like the channel in channel letters) remain a basic constant. So what does one have to add to this sign piece, in order to give it a different, standout design? The answers rest in looking at whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s actually â&#x20AC;&#x153;across the channel.â&#x20AC;? February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Tradition Let’s talk about tradition. Channel letters were long metal-fabricated, so as to house the electrical components, the power connections, and the lighting—all the while being able to do so in the form of a recognizable font or shape. Based on its simplicity, sheet metal has acted as the foundation of the letter for quite some time now. Because of this, any-size sign shop is able to cut-to-fit and/or paint-to-match with good results.

When contemplating what to place across the face of your next set of channel letters, just go crazy!

Meanwhile neon has been the traditional lighting component used for channel letters. Reasons for its popularity include flexibility and longevity (the latter of which should be sufficient cause alone). But another advantage is the rainbow of colors that are available with neon. (Note: The key to creating successful electric letters is being able to capture the actual look of the desired illuminated color.) Confined within the perimeter of the channel, neon glows with defined visibility beyond mere front-lit signage lettering. In the “classic” mode, you’ll find neon exposed (no face) in its channel letter presentation. This makes it excel as a visual part of the sign—and not just merely an illumination method. However the open-face neon tube look can lead to worries of birds, pests, rain, and/or dirt getting into the channels. If you (or your customers) feel the same way, clear faces have become a common fix.

Opaque Cover In recent years, some face materials have evolved beyond just a choice for color; instead they’ve become an integral electrical component in a Listed channel letter (for example, using the required plastic material in an easy-to-stock white with a film-first surface). Does your client have a specific, preferred acrylic color in mind for the face? If so, the key is what goes across the channel—and this can involve CNC cutting, trim cap, adhesive, screws, etc. While acrylic has a long life in the elements, the need for color may trump its usage, which means taking a serious look at plastics. The uniqueness of the plastic face (or combination of different materials) creates an otherworldly glow that exposes the neon tube outline and ensures a nice design. You can even consider possibly using opaque plastic to hide the illumination— but not completely. This effect in a large set of letters will create a bright, illuminated line along the perimeter. (Note: And with clean lines, the light source specifics you employ may be irrelevant.) If you’re a shop with no in-house tube bender but with access to computer cutting, then CNC routers can make short work of creating the perimeter line (compared to having to create the neon). 60

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

But if you think there’s a limit to where “squirt gun” plastic colors work, then consider that covering an illuminated channel letter turns the choice of stock plastic into a working palette of colors. If this is a limitation, use white or clear faces (with transparent film applied first surface). This may create a very different look, as well as provide a wider variety of color combinations. (Note: Be aware that close viewing distance is a plus for this style of channel letter.)

found on the original Great White Way. So look for the newer RGB LED strings that are available. It’s a combination of interesting illumination technology with an updated, controllable look. Lastly full acrylic letters (a staple in some European cities) have a 3D shape in the daytime, as well as when illuminated. Besides this, they come with a vibrant transparent color. (Hey, look, another use for those “squirt gun”-colored plastics!)

Today’s vinyl films allow one to use custom colors on letter faces.

New Age Today’s range of vinyl films has really opened up a host of design possibilities to those sign companies making channel letters. Several years back, long-life, uniform color vinyls were introduced to the market. This availability provided a means for anyone to be able to create repetitious quality at a known cost. The possibilities are still very new for using these vinyl materials to differentiate one’s channel letters. Mixing plastic with vinyl colors (especially transparent films) produces a unique rainbow of colors and evolving patterns. And the advent of lower cost digital printers into the signage mix opens the door to allow one to replace stock colors with custom colors. In fact, these hardware vendors that make their own printed vinyl colors to ensure a perfect color match opens up the ability for you to create a look and feel for the channel letter face beyond the solid-color acrylic traditionally used in channel letters (and far beyond overlaid cut-vinyl). Sure it’s not a new feat, but it is another case of technology bringing talent to the masses. Past lives would’ve found the graphics shop cutting shapes and/or layers of a stylized design to be able to create such a varied image. Now there’s no need to make it—only fake it.

Just Go Crazy One piece of advice: When contemplating what goes across the face of your next set of channel letters, go crazy. One simple, interesting trick to use with a blue acrylic face is “stacking” layers of plastic over it. This will add dimension, as well as an edge-lit glow. Then consider little lights. These are much less complicated to produce with modern CNC technology than the signs

LED Potting Adhesives

LEARN A NEW WAY TO PRODUCE “LED LIGHTING” The innovators of a new way to produce Channel Lettering have done it again with

LED Potting and Encapsulants All Compounds are UV Resistant, Non-corrosive and have No Odor Chem-set™412 LED Compound

Applications: • Coating • Encapsulating • Potting Color: Transparent • UV resistant • Moisture protection • Operating temperature -55°C to 204°C (-67°F to 400°F) • Room temperature cure • Can be accelerated by mild heat • Easy 1:1 ratio • Offered in side x side cartridges 50MLs to1500MLs

Chem-set™ 033 GEL

Applications: • Coating • Encapsulating • Potting • High Strength Color: Transparent • UV resistant • Moisture protection • Excellent dielectric strength • Self healing and repairable • Provides protection from vibration and thermal/mechanical shock • Room temperature cure • Can be accelerated by mild heat • Operating temperature -55°C to 204°C (-67°F to 400°F) • Self leveling • Offered in side x side cartridges 50MLs to1500MLs • Easy 1:1 ratio

Chem-set™355 Applications: • Ruggedize LED/PCB Components • Surface mounted LED assembly • Environmental protection of PCB/Brand components Color: Black • UV resistant • Moisture protection • UL rated 94V-0, 94V-1 • Flame retardant • Thermally conductive • Room temperature cure • Can be accelerated by mild heat • Operating temperature -55°C to 204°C (-67°F to 491°F) • Easy 1:1 ratio • Self leveling • Offered in side x side cartridges 50MLs to 1500MLs

Chem-set™04 Applications: • Ruggedize LED/PCB Components • Surface mounted LED assembly • Environmental protection of PCB/Brand components Color: White • Self leveling • UV resistant • Moisture protection • Cure can be accelerated by adjusting catalyst • Easy 10:1 ratio • Operating temperature -55°C to 204°C (-67°F to 400°F)

February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Ple for

EW View Nolors Bold Cline! On

3M is a trademark of 3M Company. © 3M 2014. All rights reserved.

3M™ Wrap Film Series 1080 Create head-turning looks easily with 3M dual cast films: carbon fiber, brushed metal, gloss and matte finishes. • Easy installation Air release channels for bubble-free application. Fewer seams with 60" wide rolls. • Easy handling Slideable, repositionable, removable. • Easy use out of the box No overlaminate needed. 1-800-328-3908


More creative ideas and photos.

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Aluminum Snap Frames Profile Options: 1”, 1 ¼”, or 1 ¾” Corner: Mitered or Rounded Color: Silver or Black Includes: • Polystyrene Back Panel • PVC Front Cover • Wall-mounting hardware Material: Anodized Aluminum Available in Standard & Custom sizes Check our website for more information

Discount Code SBI2


VKF Renzel USA Corp.

1400 E. Devon Ave. Elk Grove Village, IL 60007 P: 847-228-9800

Sign Builder Illustrated // February 2014

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February 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated



B y Lo r i S h r i d h a r e

QA Graphics of Ankeny, Iowa

Digital Fries


ounded in 2006 by Dan McCarty, QA Graphics of Ankeny, Iowa offers digital menu boards, nutritional kiosks, mobile applications, interactive display solutions, and a range of other products for the quick service restaurant (QSR) food industry and beyond. Their business model is part of a trend in the market to offer affordable solutions that don’t require contracts and monthly fees. “Previously it was mainly software as a service,” says Marketing Director Sarah Erdman. “With that type of solution, menus are more costly and require contracts and monthly fees. The solutions typically follow a standard layout, so restaurants don’t have a lot of room to customize it to their liking, and they don’t retain control over the solution. “As technology advances, this type of expensive solution isn’t necessary. Now restaurants can easily access a solution that they fully own and control.” QA Graphics builds one application using desktop software, which allows the restaurant to use it across multiple locations and with multiple devices. This allows for a traditional wall menu board, and additionally, an application on the web and mobile devices. The company gives customers the means to own and control their solution, creating a content management system

(CMS) that can be edited as needed. In addition to making edits to pricing and menu items, end-users can add videos, slideshows, and images to the menu. Unique effects like adding movement to “frost” on shakes, or animated water drops on the lettuce of a menu’s chicken sandwich, are also available. One of the initial steps in a menu board project is to determine how much content will be displayed, along with the layout format and the number of screens required. “With the right font choices, it’s surprising how much content can be included and still be very legible,” says Erdman. “A great way to maximize that space available is to show a.m. and p.m. menus since the display hardware can automatically change the menus out at specific times.” Erdman adds that multiple display screens should be considered when there’s abundant content. As a supplement, a kiosk or touchscreen for customer interaction can also be set up—and it would link to the Web and to mobile devices. QA Graphics recently replaced five static signs in a Maid-Rite store in West Des Moines, Iowa with an NEC Display Solutions fifty-five-inch commercial LCD displayed above the register. The display features menu items, pricing, and calorie information. With locations in eleven states, the company is offering additional franchises the opportunity to incorporate QA Graphics’ digital menu board.

all Photos: qa graPhics.

Making the most of menu board content.


Sign Builder Illustrated

// February 2014

The Road Ahead   

Times have changed, so has  the Sign industry and the way  we do business. With new  government regulations  Wilkie helps you keep ahead  of the curve with the new  Wilkie innovative products  with the sign professional in  mind.  The Wilkie Model 52XLR is a  prime example of this  52’  two man rotating platform  with a storable jib winch in  the basket and a mainline  winch that stores when not in  use mounted on a non CDL  truck, Wilkie helps you keep  ahead of the curves in life  that come your way.   Wilkie Mfg., L.L.C.  405‐235‐0920 Phone  405‐236‐3324 Fax 

Sign Builder Illustrated February 2014  
Sign Builder Illustrated February 2014  

This issue contains stories on digital signage, working in boom trucks, design software, squeegees, LED lighting, channel letters, and much...