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In-Depth 3-D Sign Special

digital signage

Placement in Harsh Environments

Number 223 | JaNuary 2014


Attractive Signs & Graphics

> Inkjet Trends > Vinyl Wraps > Banners

January 2014

Photo: colorado signs & graPhics.


S4 S1 S4

SuPPLEMENT: DIMENSIoNaLS Sign shops explore 3-D sign work.

Identity Sign on the Menu BY JEFF WOOTEN

A sign shop evolves from 2-D design to 3-D output.


The Log Cabin Sign BY JEFF WOOTEN

Making a posts-&-panel sign to match an on-premise building.


Raising the Letters BY JEFF WOOTEN

3-D letters and signs for Maine’s “Most Unique Store.”



News & Notes Products, projects, and announcements related to dimensional signage.

Sign Builder Illustrated (Print ISSN 895-0555, Digital ISSN 2161-4709) (USPS#0015-805) (Canada Post Cust. #7204564) (Bluechip Int’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 © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2014. All rights reserved. Contents may not be


Everything That’s Fit to Wrap BY LORI SHRIDHARE

A graphics & sign designer covers conventional— and unconventional—objects.

26 35

Pulling in Profits BY ASHLEY BRAY

Learn how magnets can be a profitable avenue for sign shops.

Building Your Print Run BY DAN MARX

Simple strategies for building your wide format business.

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.

January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated



How-To Columnss

18 12


The Next Generation

February 11-13: Digital Signage Expo will be held at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. ( February 27-March 1: Graphics of the Americas Expo & Conference is taking place at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Florida. (

Digital Display: Harsh Environments

MARCH 2014

12 Digital Display: Harsh Environments BY ROBERT HEISE

Meeting the technical challenges of harsh environments for digital signage.

16 A Marketing Makeover BY MARK K. ROBERTS

Creating new marketing from old signage for an auto dealership.

Departments 4




As the 3D printing hype machine continues to rev up, Editor Jeff Wooten wonders if it will be a trend sooner than later.

The latest news from around the industry.

18 The Next Generation? BY ADAM BROWN

Not enough operators to run the machines!


Sign Show


SBI Marketplace

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade. DIMENSIONALS

In-Depth 3-D Sign Special



Placement in Harsh Environments



Attractive Signs & Graphics

> Inkjet Trends > Vinyl Wraps > Banners


Shop Talk

Jeff Wooten covers the “all in the family” aspect of Eppolito Signs in Medina, Ohio.

On the Cover Drive your customers to bright, “attractive” signs and graphics using magnets. Photo: Magnum Magnetics.

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 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. ( 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. (


by jeff wooten

January 2014, Vol. 28, No. 223

Print Trends and Dimensional

Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation executive offices

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

Is 3-D printing the wave of the future?

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

Jeff Wooten

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


here are two dominant themes you’ll find in this month’s issue: (1.) dimensional sign-making and (2.) digital printing. In addition to a special supplement devoted entirely to sign shops using traditional tools or state-of-the-art equipment (or even both!) to succeed with dimensional signage, our regular features cover a range of inkjet-related topics (wrapping conventional and unconventional surfaces, working with vinyl and magnet graphics, analyzing wide format printing trends, etc.). But if there’s one item that could link these two diverse topics together, it’s probably 3D printers, which use resins instead of inks to produce dimensional models from digital images. This technology is currently being employed to create items ranging from toys and action figures to prototypes to machine components to automotive parts to even prosthetic limbs and organs. So could dimensional signage be a possibility on the horizon? Although 3D printing has actually been around since the 1970s(!), its public relations engine appears to have ratcheted up to a neardeafening decibel level over the past year. A lot of this interest probably stems from the general public’s appetite to make tomorrow’s Star Trek gadgets available today (4G smart phones, iPads, Google glass, etc.). In fact, stroll through office supply stores and you might’ve noticed desktop versions already being offered (producing jewelry, dog tags, etc.). And then there’s been media coverage


associate editor

and Op-Eds about Congress recently including 3D-printed guns made entirely out of plastic as part of its renewal of a ten-year federal ban on undetectable firearms. But let’s try to gravitate a little more toward the neutral side of things here, okay? 3D print technology is undoubtedly making some designers and fabricators froth uncontrollably in anticipation. The sci-fi geek in me is already excited by the possibilities of what can be made, but the cynical realist also inside me just sucker punched him and reiterated that there are still limitations: After all, manufacturers are going to have to address “faster build times,” “higher quality output,” “lower cost and better materials,” etc., before true mass acceptance. Recent figures forecast the 3D printing industry to be worth over $8 billion globally by the end of this decade. So how much of that will be sign shop-related? Will sign shops and their customers be willing to pay more and wait longer (right now, production times are three times longer than the norm)? Will sign makers use this technology to produce samples to show to customers or produce components for their signage needs? Will fabrication lines trend more machine than man? It’ll be interesting to watch 3D printing’s PR machine barrel farther along this year. And if you think adopting this technology might end up costing you (or your customers) an arm and a leg, then at least you’ll be able to print up replacements for them. Right?

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 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, Dan Marx, robert heise, Jim hingst, Peter Perszyk, Mark roberts, lori shridhare, 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

For reprint information contact Arthur J. Sutley 55 Broad St, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212/620-7247; fax: 212/633-1863 Circulation Dept. 800/895-4389


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Announcing the

“My Mimaki” Contest Winners! Suwanee, Georgia—With the recent renovation of the Mimaki USA headquarters showroom, the decision was made to create a contest with the goal of uncovering fresh designs from Mimaki end-users to display in their new expansive showroom. So Mimaki challenged print professionals and shops from around the country to submit their most innovative and outstanding print projects produced on their Mimaki printers. Even after decades of innovation in printing, Mimaki print experts were delightfully surprised by the creativity of their customers. The response was overwhelming. According to Mimaki USA Marketing & Promotions Manager Paul McGovern, 6

“The number of entrants and the quality of their work exceeded our expectations. Our winners were chosen for their original design and execution, which exhibited a level of creativity consistent with an industry that is constantly looking for new ways to push the envelope.” A Mimaki panel reviewed all of the entries and recently announced the First Place, Second Place, and Third Place winners—all recipients of great Apple® products for their efforts! Mimaki would like to thank everyone who entered for sharing their inspiring work, which remains on display in the company’s showroom in Suwanee. For more information about Mimaki, visit

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

First Place Nathan Sellers A Better Sign (Snellville, Georgia) Project: One-of-a-kind Arcade Controller tyPe of Media Used: Acrylic MiMaki Printers Used: JV33-160; JFX500-2131

Billboard Wakes Up Controversy

second Place John Sellers A Better Sign (Snellville, Georgia)

Project: Zelda Dog Tags with Treasure Chest tyPe of Media Used: Aluminum, Foam, Vinyl MiMaki Printers Used: JV33-160; JFX500-2131

third Place Ivan Calderon Kaleidoscope New York (New York City, New York)

Los Angeles, California—A billboard placed on a high-traffic section of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles this past November is drawing sharp social media remarks from the public. The ad features a real couple—an enlisted American soldier and Muslim woman in loving embrace—and is part of a larger marketing campaign for the throat spray product SnoreStop: “If we can keep this couple together, we can keep anyone together.” The company plans to place more billboards throughout the country in a national advertising campaign but has recently been denied access into Times Square by Clear Channel because of its “sensitive nature” and “uncomfortable imagery.” Dubbed the #betogether campaign, the billboard has generated some positive and negative social media feedback from members of the military and the Muslim community in the first hours of the campaign. So why is it raising eyebrows in some corners? And what does it have to do with a natural snoring solution? “As a snoring solution company, we’re in the business of keeping people together,” says Melody Devemark, spokesperson and member of the family-owned Camarillo, Californiabased company. “We realize that it’s likely to be controversial, but our family thinks it’s a beautiful story.”

Project: Starbucks Packaging tyPe of Media Used: Clear Film (JetComp) MiMaki Printers Used: CJV30-160

January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Dispatches + Polycarbonate Reduces Heat Load at HS Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—School maintenance managers and officials wanted replacement windows that improved energy performance and classroom comfort yet matched the original building design. Winco Windows’ Versatile Window™ with polycarbonate sheet from Bayer MaterialScience LLC ( offered an ideal solution that met these needs within the financial constraints of a municipal budget. The window system, recently installed at Reno High School in Reno, Nevada, reduced heating load by as much as 25 percent, according to school officials. “In addition to the significant reduction in heating costs, the Versatile Window system with Makrolon® multi UV and 15 polycarbonate sheet provided superior light transmission along with an integral blind attachment, enabling us to remove shading devices such as awnings,” said Tony McMillen, construction and project manager director for

the school district. “Our teachers and students love the ability to fine-tune their learning environments: opening windows for fresh air as needed, closing windows to block outside noise, darkening the classroom by closing the blinds for smart-board technology, and brightening the classroom for testing and group work. "Most importantly, the Versatile Window met these needs in the face of our tight budget.” Additionally the inherent visual quality of the Makrolon multi UV sheet provided a finished look that matched the original glass block architectural aesthetic that was replaced—an important benefit for Washoe County School District officials.

SoftRIP Helps Clemson Univ. Students Salt Lake City, Utah—At Clemson University in South Carolina, students are taking their first step into the printing industry by using Wasatch SoftRIP (www. By incorporating Wasatch SoftRIP into the curriculum, the Department of Graphic Communications at Clemson was able to expand their program, particularly in screen production. With much of the focus being hands-on learning, the students get to experience and learn SoftRIP SP’s intuitive workflow, color tools, and


exclusive Precision Stochastic Screens. Students are finding SoftRIP’s easy-touse controls and innovative tools necessary when creating their first film positive for four-color separations. With a number of halftone methods to choose from, a Separations mode that automatically detects spot and process separations, overprint support, and a multitude of operator controls, SoftRIP SP provides the students with all the controls they need. With these easy-to-use features, the students are able to familiarize themselves with calibrating and the linearizing process. Using the Press Curves controls, the students can linearize film positives or convert negative linearization for the flexography processes. With SoftRIP’s color separation workflow, the students create screenprinted T-shirts with ease.

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

UVP launches digital signage dealer Program

Milwaukee, Wisconsin—Working closely with its existing network of distributors, United Visual Products (UVP) ( has developed an easy-to-understand digital signage dealer program. The dealer program provides sign shops, advertising agencies, graphic designers, and other distributors an opportunity to effectively provide their customers with a complete digital signage solution. It has been designed for any dealer from all backgrounds to easily present and sell digital signage. Even if a business has no experience in “technical” sales or doesn’t have the staff to support content creation services (both animation or static), UVP has you covered. UVP takes the time with every dealer to identify their goals and develops a turnkey solution that best fits a business’ needs and staff’s concerns. A dealer can generate revenue on the front end with the sale of each display and a monthly residual on the back end by providing content creation services. UVP’s digital signage dealer program consists of the following: Complete dealer support network (sales/technical training, full-time IT support), content development and services, commercial-grade digital displays and kiosks, and digital display content management software.

SignSHOW 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 Floyd & Associates Takes Accurate, Reliable Color Reproduction to the Next Level All Mesa Vue UV Flatbed Printers from Floyd & Associates will now be equipped with G7 linearization. By developing new ICC color profiles in cooperation with Chromix, far more accurate color reproduction (including Pantone shades) can now be easily achieved on the Mesa Vue Printer, which produces outstanding resolution with either of its two levels of Konica printheads. The separate white printhead yields a very high opacity white, while the included white recirculation pump prevents clogging. The new ICC profiles with G7 linearization come standard with the Mesa Vue’s built-in SeeGet RIP software. Additionally the new profile with G7 linearization can be incorporated into third-party RIP programs as well. 253/874-4582;

New Grand Format Hybrid Uvistar Pro-8 UV Printer Equipped with White Ink FUJIFILM North America Corporation, Graphic Systems Division, offers its Uvistar Pro-8 with White, a grand format hybrid UV printer that includes white ink for the first time. The white ink can be printed as a layer under or over the CMYK content or as a spot color. In addition, the Uvistar includes an auto loader and unloader, which allows operators to print up to ten sheets of rigid media edge-to-edge without having to load or unload the media. Also included are new block-out sensors that allow for two-sided printing of opaque media with virtually no operator intervention and inline slitters that cut media to size.

Mutoh ValueJet 1638 Wins “Product of the Year” Award Again! Mutoh was once again honored this past October with the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association’s (SGIA) Product of the Year award for its high-speed ValueJet 1638-64-inch wide format eco-solvent printer in the "Test Print Shoot Out Poster Size, Solvent, or Latex Ink" category for the second consecutive year. The competition recognizes the latest equipment and supplies currently on the market that are advancing the specialty imaging industry. The 1638’s staggered dual-head print technology enables users to print the jobs of two or three printers. The machine prints up to 720 square feet per hour in Banner Production mode and up to 1,012 square feet per hour in Banner Draft mode. It can handle coated and uncoated substrates up to sixty-four inches wide.

ROUTERS/ENGR AVERS Epilog Laser Releases First-ever Mac-compatible Driver for the Fusion Laser System Epilog Laser has developed a Mac laser system driver for the Fusion Laser Series. When Epilog first entered this business, PCs were the standard with the majority of its customers, but as the company has grown and evolved, they’ve learned that so many of its laser operators utilize the Mac platform—so they are very excited to offer these users seamless access to the Fusion lasers. This is the first-ever driver created for Mac users that allows operators to control the laser and perform applications from the computer. Epilog is the first laser system manufacturer to make this technology available to customers and users. “So many of our users are designers and engineers who are accustomed to the Mac operating system for their day-to-day activities, so we are thrilled to be able to provide this new platform for them to access our systems from the computers they already know and love,” said Mike Dean, vice president of Sales and Marketing for Epilog Laser.

S I G N B L A N K S / PA N E L S / S U B ST R AT E S New Fome-Cor® Canvas Board Lets Designers Create “Artistic” Masterpiece Graphic Displays Fome-Cor® Canvas Board—the newest offering in the 3A Composites USA graphic display board line—is comprised of white extruded polystyrene foam sandwiched between a deeply embossed “canvas-like” white clay-coated paper facer on one side and a standard Bright White clay-coated paper facer on the other. Fome-Cor Canvas Board can be decorated with the same techniques used with original Fome-Cor board (digital printing, screen printing and painting) and can be knife cut, die-cut and embossed to create three-dimensional effects. Now graphic displays can resemble works of art painted on canvas. Fome-Cor Canvas Board is lightweight, rigid, and warp-resistant and is an economical alternative to competitive canvas-like products. Fome-Cor Canvas Board is perfect for creating point-of-purchase displays, signage, and exhibits and kiosks. It may also be used in mounting applications. 800/626-3365;

January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


SignSHOW S O F T WA R E - D E S I G N / P R I N T/ R O U T E R / E ST I M AT I N G shopVOX Offers a Way to Make Your Shop More Productive and Enjoyable shopVOX is a new workflow software from the makers of signVOX. Tailor-made for those in the sign, print, promotional, and award industries, the software allows users to easily manage their shop and collaborate with staff, clients, and vendors. Through the software, a shop can configure and schedule its departments, machines, people, or other resources; capture job costs; and track the status of projects via electronic job boards. Users can also send proofs (including large files) to clients within shopVOX, and changes to proofs can be requested and made within the software. Built-in Cloud Storage with integration to Dropbox and other cloud storage systems is also available. Plus shopVOX will integrate with a shop’s existing pricing software, such as Quickbooks.

VINYL/VINYL FILMS/SUPPLIES Drytac® Expands Printable Window Media Line with Revolutionary New Solution Drytac has added ViziPrint® Impress, an optically clear, printable polyester window film to its line of print media for glass windows and doors. ViziPrint Impress is specifically designed for trouble-free, dry installation of graphics on glass surfaces. Its proprietary suction technology leaves no residue behind, eliminates bubbling, and is unaffected by moisture—making it ideal for window stickers, decals, advertising, signage, and décor. ViziPrint® Impress is especially appealing to retailers because it can be easily installed by both professional installers and store employees, applied where traditional adhesive products are not recommended, and simplifies change-out of graphics. ViziPrint® Impress also boasts high dimensional stability, scratch resistance, excellent print quality, and easy application and removal. The ultra clear PET film is available in three versions: 4-mil clear UV for UV-curable inks; 5-mil clear SEL for solvent, eco solvent, latex, and UV-curable inks; and 5-mil white SEL for solvent, eco solvent, latex, and UV-curable inks.


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014


By RoBeRt Heise


Digital Display: Harsh Environments

Meeting the technical challenges of harsh environments for digital signage.


arsh” is defined as something that is severe, physically uncomfortable, or unpleasant to the senses. When we try to imagine a harsh environment, we may conjure up an image of the Arctic or perhaps the desert—either of which would be hard on an LCD display. However there is a lot more that can make the environment harsh for a digital display and even a lot more technically that needs to be considered in order to successfully operate it in such environments. This article will talk about the various types of harsh environments, as well as some of the operational considerations that affect a digital sign display in such conditions. While vandalism can also be considered as a factor in the display de-

sign (especially one used outdoors), we will consider that secondary, although somewhat complementary, with solutions that are available. So what defines a “harsh environment” for a digital display? We could simply say that it is any environment or condition that exceeds the operating limitations for a “standard” display. Temperature-wise, that may be anything lower than 40°F (5°C) or higher than 90°F (32°C). It would also certainly include exposure to any of the elements (water, snow, ice, dust, etc.). What about the effect of the sun shining on the front of the display (which can occur both indoors and outdoors)? The effect of direct exposure to the sun impacts two main areas: (1.) display readability, and (2.) thermal management of solar radiation.








all Photos: Global DisPlay solutions.


An effect of direct sunlight on an LCD panel.


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

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SolaR load The energy of the radiation that is generated by the sun on a surface—which we call “Solar Loading” and is measured in watts per square meter—can far outweigh the effect that ambient temperature alone would cause. For example, a display that is outdoors in the shade with the ambient temperature at a comfortable 60°F would see an increase in the internal temperatures

University of Nevada – Las Vegas June 28, 2012 1200



36 600 34



400 32




















Pacific Standard Time Global Horiz (w/m2) Direct Normal(w/m2)

Dry Bulb Temp (deg C) Direct Normal (deg C)

Temperature and Solar Irradiance in Las Vegas on June 28, 2012: A combination of high temps (+40°C) and high solar load (900 W/m2) from 2-4pm makes for a very harsh environment if a digital display is facing west towards the setting sun without any cover. of the display by over three times. This temperature increase would impact the life and operation of all the internal display components. Dealing with the temperature and this solar load relies on the thermal management system that the display uses.

SolutionS “Display in a Box.” One solution that can be utilized to deal with extreme

Condensation inside a display enclosure.




A typical display operates with a maximum brightness level around 250 to 350 “nits” or candelas per square meter (cd/ m2). When exposed directly to high ambient light however, such a display can become almost unreadable. The light and especially the reflections cause a decrease in contrast, which becomes worse as the ambient light increases. Most displays designed for high-bright environments typically compensate for this by increasing the output of the LED backlights, which drives more light to the display. However this can end up causing a more washed out image, lacking in contrast. In fact, we find that improving contrast is more important than brightness on an outdoor display. A typical outdoor display might have a maximum brightness of 1000 to 2500 nits. But a display that uses optical bonding with an anti-reflective panel directly to the LCD can reduce internal reflections, driving up the contrast of the image and therefore requiring less “light output” to create a vivid and readable image.

temperatures or conditions would be to simply put the displays in an enclosure that would allow a “standard” digital sign to function within operating specifications. Such an enclosure could be air-conditioned or heated, and it could also be sealed to prevent some amount of water ingress. The biggest advantage of this solution is that such enclosures are “display agnostic.” You could use any display inside these enclosures and could replace those displays independent of the enclosure. However the disadvantages can be significant: (1.) You are relying on an external mechanical system (the air conditioner) to operate, in order to keep the display environment within its specifications so that it can remain functioning. These systems can also be loud and unusable in certain applications (such as in a drive-through). (2.) Such artificial environments create a host of other issues that can decrease the overall performance of the display— the first of which is managing the condensation inside the enclosure when the solar radiation and the ambient temperatures go in opposite directions. Having displays enclosed behind a

January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated




THE RIGHT INNOVATION WILL TAKE YOUR BUSINESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL DSE is coming to The Sands Expo, Las Vegas, February 11-13 and we’re bringing all of the latest innovations and solutions in digital signage and interactive technology. Come witness how this amazing technology can elevate your business and bring in record returns. It will all be on display for you to see, touch and explore.

THE EVENT DSE is the world’s largest international tradeshow dedicated to interactive display technology, digital signage and digital out-ofhome networks. It’s a great way to discover technology that will draw attention to your business, increase sales, profits and ROI.



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pane of glass will increase the amount air into the display for cooling. If outof reflected light that can bounce side air is used, it can bring with it dust Update, Sign Builder Illustrated’sfiltering monthly systems and humidity or require around, thereby reducing the effective SBI e-newsletter, delivers the latest hot topics and news brightness of the displays inside. While that need ongoing maintenance. from around the sign industry right to your The advantages of this email design over the enclosure can attempt to protect “display in a box” are numerous: the display from high temperatures, the Sign up at (1.) Without an air conditioner, the it cannot protect it from UV rays and the problem of solar loading (described risks of system failure and ongoing previoulsy), which can be even more maintenance are greatly reduced. (2.) If the display can be isolated harmful to displays that are not defrom the external environment, you can signed specifically for this condition. (3.) Ongoing maintenance and clean- eliminate issues that dust, humidity, ing is required for the air conditioners and condensation can cause. 1/6 page (3.) And depending on the type of and even dust build-up on the inside of Horizontal thermal management system used, you the display. “The Outdoor Display.” Instead of can even house various components in creating a display enclosure to deal with the display that might otherwise have the harsh environments, some manu- to be kept separate (such as the media facturers are making the display itself player, broadband connections, or sig“outdoor-ready.” There are a few ther- nal extenders). mal management systems employed to protect the display and keep it within its Robert Heise is general manager operating limitations, as well as to design for Global Display Solutions, a IP ratings sufficient to prevent ingress of display technology company that Sign shop owners qualify for a FREE SUBSCRIPTION liquids. has done extensive research on to every issue of Sign Builder Illustrated. The best of these isolate the display using displays in harsh environGo to to request electronics completely from the outside, ments. Heorhas been involved in the a new subscription to update your address. so as to not deal with circulating outside display electronics industry for over

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vice president & general manager, Global Display 1/12 page Square Solutions, will be presenting “Digital Signage Displays: Meeting the Technical Challenges of Harsh Environments,” in Session 27 at Don’t breakbeing into that piggy bank just yet. Digital Signage Expo 2014 held at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas on Sign shop owners Thurs., February 13 at 4:00-5:00pm. qualify for a FREE For more information about DSE SUBSCRIPTION to any every issue of or to register to join this or Sign Builder other seminar and learn about Illustrated. digital signage, visit Go to


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January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated



By MaRk k. RoBeRts


A Marketing Makeover

Creating new marketing from old signage for an auto dealership.


recently had the urge to make a cold call on a potential prospect—a newly renamed Honda automobile dealership in the area. So I stopped by and introduced myself to the new owner and let him know what I did for a living. Showing him a few photos of other auto dealers that I had served before with great signage, I offered to take his logo and create a “sample” digital print, which I would install a day later on one of his windows. I enhanced my design with Photoshop® bevels and shadows. Fortunately for me, the owner loved the “cool” new version of his logo. He wanted to see more of these logos on each entry door at his dealership, so I created a 22-by-28-inch digitally printed “sales board” that not only showed his logo on every door but also some cool logos inside the show-

room and outside in the service department. In addition to these, there were two large banner frames that had the former dealer’s name cut out, resulting in a “negative” advertising tool. So I suggested adding the new logo to fill this space as well, and he agreed. Needless to say, it was time to get busy! I contracted the large 8-by-24-foot digitally printed sign face to my long-time friend and fellow sign professional, E.J. Rice of The Sign Center. He set up my design files and printed the flexible face material in one day. To install this large banner on the existing aluminum frame, the frame itself had to come down from the wall. So I contracted International Signs here in Houston to handle its removal. When the frame was safely on the ground, we removed the old flex face, cleaned the aluminum

Post-makeover (above): Flexible face banners are not permanent, so there are many opportunities to keep servicing this frame with new and updated faces.


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

frame, and attached the new face with hex screws and washers. To attach the flex face material, the printed banner was centered on the existing aluminum frame. Numerous clamps were used to hold the bottom in place on the frame. Next we moved to the top of the frame, and (beginning top center) we worked toward each end, stretching the material tightly and securing it with hex screws. Then we worked on the two ends of the frame, using the same stretching method. This resulted in a “drum-tight” sign face. The aluminum frame was clamped in two places along the top of the twentyfour-foot length and lifted into place above the supports on the steel wall via a crane. Two helpers on ladders on each end of

Since flexible face

Pre-makeover (above): The former dealer’s name had been cut out, resulting in “negative” advertising space for the new owner.

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many opportunities to service this frame with new, updated faces. the sign frame guided it into place and secured it with hex bolts. After all the bolts were secured and tightened, we removed the straps from the frame and cleaned up the job site. The flex face rigid banner displays the logo and name of the new Honda dealership, and the result is a fresh, clean marketing tool that is seen by thousands of people every day across the parking lot of a local Wal-Mart. And since flexible face banners are not permanent, there are many opportunities to keep servicing this same banner frame with new and updated faces. Stay in touch with your customers and clients and continually show them your new marketing ideas and products. Everyone benefits and everyone wins when you keep your offerings here fresh and new. Mark K. Roberts is a thirty-five-year sign industry veteran, sign seminar instructor, and magazine columnist. Questions or comments? Email Mark at

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January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated



By AdAm Brown

Business Management

The Next Generation?

Not enough operators to run the machines!


any of us can remember from our high school days that the expectation was that university would be the next step in the education process. However many kids don’t know where they want to go with their career because they don’t yet have the life experiences that would help them decide. So my question: Why push college? Every day we hear about the rising cost of higher educa-

tion, and many folks are challenging the return on investment for a college education and the stifling debt from student loans. What I hear from industry leaders in both small businesses as well as Fortune 500 companies is that we need more skilled trades and continuing education in the technical field of manufacturing. This is an area that this country lacks—big time. I believe we have plenty of engineers. We need more qualified workers to operate the machines that build things! This means that tech schools have never played a more important role in our country’s economic output. It takes one person to design something but twenty people to build it. Where are those twenty workers going to come from, and where are they going to get the necessary training? Somebody builds the car, the computer chip, etc., and the quality of those products is directly impacted by the skill level of the tradesmen. There are hundreds of different specialties when it comes to manufacturing: foundry work and casting parts, milling parts, plastic injection molding, tool and mold building, glass forming, etc. Think about how many different components go into building a car. Different specialties in design are followed by many more specialties in manufacturing labor. Just think of the car seat— it takes a structural engineer, a mechanical engineer, and an ergonomist on the design end. However there are exponentially more specialties involved on the labor side to actually build it. Our country isn’t giving enough attention to this issue, and it’s a problem with national implications.

Investing in the continuing education related to the technical field of manufacturing can help you build a rock-solid foundation for your sign business. 18

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

Jim Ryan, CEO of Grainger (a distributor of facilities maintenance products), said more companies Grainger works with are in a position where they can’t fill jobs and train employees themselves. “What our customers are telling us is that they’re having more and more difficulty finding people with these skill sets,” he said. “If we don’t address this problem, it’s going to be difficult for us to have a sustained economic recovery.” Look at welding. I suggest business owners estimate the cost of hiring an employee with welding experience versus the cost to train someone in it. The advantages are in favor of the training: + Employee retention is better as the employee grows within the organization and sees a future for himself in the company. + Training gives them the most current skills and techniques available. + It leads to a safer environment (welding requires a certain lens shade; medical advances show you need a darker shade now compared to ten years ago). Here in my shop, I’ve seen the upside to employee training.

Companies can get more involved when it comes to training their employees. Doing so will help them build up their profits and increase their job opportunities. We sent an employee to school to learn CAD and CNC operations. Since then, our accuracy has gone way up, and our operation runs a lot better than us-

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el; it is essential for growth of the business as a whole. Moving to automated and highly technology-driven operations requires good, solid training. It’s all fed by the accuracy of the data being entered into the machine, hence the importance and quality of the training of the operator. If you’re a manufacturing business owner, what can you do about this challenge? “Companies have to get involved, as well as educational institutions and the government,” said Ryan. “It’s that publicprivate partnership that really starts driving some more awareness to this issue.” If you want to grow your company, then continue the education of your workforce on the latest technologies that are available. Most communities have access to a wide variety of training programs, some very specialized. In our area, we have a number of technical schools. There’s even a technical school that specializes in sign builder training. There’s a school for everything— even if you want to be a Jedi knight! Adam Brown is owner of Sign Effectz, Inc., a custom sign manufacturer that blends creativity with technology to provide customers with visually effective and physically durable signage. For more information, visit

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Moving to automated and highly technology-driven operations requires good, solid training.

Dimensionals A supplement to:

3-D Signs in-depth



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Welcome to Dimensionals Sign shops explore 3-D sign work.


ver the following pages, we’re focusing on dimensional signage with a look at three shops with various levels of experience that are succeeding in this field using traditional or state-of-the-art methods. Here’s the line-up of what to expect:

Page S14: Chris Eppolito is a thirdgeneration sign maker who’s been in the industry for over twenty years now. While he continues to work with paints and vinyls, he has also progressed to routed dimensional signs, sandblasted wood signs, and complete sign restoration services. Our story will focus on a recent posts-and-panel sign that required him to replicate the look of his client’s log cabin-based business. Page S21: Veteran sign maker Tom Stade will show you how he incorporated

From design to build to install, dimensional signage can be quite a product to offer. dimensionally raised prismatic letters and a moose head(!) on signage for a local retailer. Stade has long enjoyed carving dimensional signage—but doing so in ways that bring “craftsmanship” back into the process. Since his father basically ran a sign business out of the glove box in his truck, Stade doesn’t really spend a lot of time over-analyzing production during the planning stages. “The right

technique of how to do something will just ‘pop’ into my head,” he says. Page S26: Our “News & Notes” section features the latest products, projects, and announcements related to dimensional sign making. And throughout this supplement, you’ll find special sidebars presenting tips and trends related to paints, thermoforming, and metal materials for dimensional signage.

January 2014 // SBI Dimensionals


Cover Photo: ShutterStoCk.Com

Page S4: You’ll meet Xpressive graphiX, a shop that has evolved from 2-D designs/ prints to artistic, hand-made 3-D creations. While we’ll be detailing a recent high-density urethane project Xpressive designed and built for a restaurant client (pictured, right), the shop also works with EPS foam. Over the past three years, they’ve learned what they can and cannot do with certain materials. “HDU is awesome for carving,” says Founder and Owner David Mattingly. “It holds detail and is very durable.” Mattingly says they’ll bring out the hot wire knives and use EPS foam for 3-D signs that need a hard coat afterwards. “While you can’t do as much detailing with EPS, you can finish a piece of it quicker than HDU,” he says.

IdentIty IdentIty||By ByJeff JeffWooten Wooten

Identity Sign on the Menu A sign shop evolves from 2-D design to 3-D output.


The Shop David Mattingly is the founder and owner of Xpressive graphiX (www., also located in

Zanesville. Working for several different sign companies ever since graduating college, Mattingly recognized that he wanted to make his sign industry involvement more about the art. So he started Xpressive as a design firm that made sure its customers’ graphics and designs had “pop.” Soon people began to notice their work and

contact them for design ideas. Xpressive graphiX has really evolved— starting as a home-based based business in 2005 and eventually branching out into today’s 5,000-square foot freestanding building. There are five employees at Xpressive and, while they range in skill sets, they all share an artistic background of some sort.

On this prOject, Xpressive graphiX made the characters and letters on the sign out of eighteen-pound hDU since they would be able to work more detail into them, while they used fifteen-pound hDU for the background, since it didn’t need to be as detailed.


SBI Dimensionals // January 2014

all Photos: xPressive graPhix.

hen the owner of a longstanding restaurant & pub was looking to change the model of his business by punching up the menu and cooking up some new dishes, he knew he was also going to need a new outdoor sign to replace his equally long-standing, pole-mounted, “outdated” readerboard sign. The solution for this one-of-a-kind business was a custom, hand-carved 3-D sign that doesn’t look or feel like anything else in the small town of Zanesville, Ohio. The 90-inch-wide-by-11-foot-tall sign also features many new ingredients that allowed the shop that designed and built it to further expand its artistic vision in the field of dimensional signage.

IdentIty | By Jeff Wooten

January 2014 // SBI Dimensionals


IdentIty | By Jeff Wooten

After initially dabbling in vehicle lettering, Xpressive progressed into wraps and earned its reputation as one of the premier wrap companies in the area. Because of its artistic-driven background, it wasn’t just plugging backgrounds or Clip Art snatched from the Internet into a design and putting a logo over top of it. Instead the company’s talents allowed them to create full-blown designs from scratch. “My lead graphic designer, Tony Rose, will freehand draw a lot of designs, creating custom cartoons or Clip Art,” says Mattingly.

Why Dimensional? For the past three years, Mattingly and his team have successfully progressed into dimensional signage, and their results have been sensational! They started out doing shape cutting and smaller scale dimensional work, eventually moving to Styrofoam® props.


SBI Dimensionals // January 2014

“We keep trying to push our skills farther and push the envelope,” says Mattingly. Dimensional works perfectly for them, as Mattingly has always intended Xpressive graphiX to specialize in one-offs. “We don’t do the same thing twice,” he says. “We tell customers that no one is going to see their sign design down the street or on someone else’s sign.”

Design The owner of the Olde Falls Inn restaurant & pub approached Xpressive requesting a digital sign after seeing another business near him using one. “However when we showed him what an electronic sign would cost him, he backed off!” chuckles Mattingly. Mattingly is upfront with his customers: If your sign is a landmark, it’s not going to be ignored. Since Mattingly had worked with this client previously on some smaller basic projects for restaurant (such as exit and entrance signs), he was successfully able to sell the owner on using a one-of-a-kind hand-carved sign instead of installing yet another scrolling message center. It was then off to cook up design ideas! For Mattingly, this was a dreamcome-true project: Not only did he get to work on a dimensional sign, but he also had complete freedom on its design. “[The owner] only gave us the name of his business and told us to come up with something,” he beams. Mattingly researched the history of the restaurant and came across an old menu used a number of years ago. It would fit the exact shape of a sign, so he took it back to the shop and told his graphic designer, “Let’s make the sign look like this old menu!’” However Mattingly wanted to give its design a piece of his shop’s style and flair. So instead of using Clip Art figures on the sign, they designed and built their own cartoon guys. Xpressive hand-doodled an idea and imported this hand-drawn design into Photoshop and color-rendered it. They next showed it to the owner…and he loved it! “We always tell customers to ‘

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January 2014 // SBI Dimensionals


IdentIty | By Jeff Wooten

pect the unexpected,” states Mattingly, “but he did not have a clue!”


Using a triangle bit in their Dremel tool, Xpressive trained themselves on the fly and just started carving the wood grain effect into the hDU backer panel. the result ended up looking exactly like they wanted it.

Xpressive graphiX took down the entire old sign and pole and built everything from scratch. Everyone at the shop worked hands-on in some sort—whether painting, molding, carving, sanding, etc. The entire sign is hand-carved out of fifteen-pound and eighteen-pound Precision Board HDU foam. Xpressive placed these pieces over a steel frame. Mattingly insisted on doing everything by hand (his shop’s hallmark) and refused to cut corners. “We just had to keep pushing ourselves: ‘Well that wood grain doesn’t work right, so let’s go deeper,’ or ‘This figure isn’t big enough so let’s go bigger,’” he says. This new sign is actually two duplicate signs sandwiched together. Consider the sign as layers: The background shape is

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SBI Dimensionals // January 2014

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IdentIty | By Jeff Wooten

On this new Olde Falls inn sign, Xpressive graphiX built everything as layers: the background panel, the characters, the letters, the bars, and the changeable copy section.


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SBI Dimensionals // January 2014

one layer, the letters are another layer, the figures another, and the bars yet another. “Even the changeable copy section is a layer,” adds Mattingly. Xpressive enlarged the drawing via its design program and printed it out to measure sizes and closely view features. They made templates and paper patterns for the different pieces, glued them to the HDU blanks, and carved using an air-powered Dremel tool. The wood grain effect on the backer panel was all hand-done freeform. They just used a triangle bit in their Dremel tool and carved into the material. “We had an idea of what we wanted it to end up looking like, but whether or not it was going to end up that way was another story,” chuckles Mattingly. “But once we started carving and having fun with it, we had a ball. It ended up looking very much like what we wanted.” Meanwhile the Dremel tool allowed Xpressive to make the two-inch-thick HDU letters look like stone or handcarved wood. The knob-style finials on the top and bottom of the sign were originally designed as squares, but Xpressive thought they’d look better circular. So they glued two-inch Precision Board HDU together in a box shape and hand-sanded it to the necessary roundness. All the pieces of the sign were painted using outdoor latex paint. “The background was basically a wash,” explains Mattingly. “We put our solid color onto it and washed it in with three other colors— wipe on, wipe off—for our highlights. “So we have three or four different shades of the same color for the background and then added in shades and shadows.” Painting the cartoon figures proved a lot more labor-intensive. “These obviously involved more details,” states Mattingly. “Painting the buttons, hair, moustaches, and other pieces took a lot more time.” Xpressive installed a Come Along pulley system to hang the pieces vertically from the ceiling to just above the floor. “We were on ladders and scaffolds carving and painting,” says Mattingly. The letters were mounted to the background panel using aluminum standoffs.

“We glued the standoffs to the back of the letters and then glued them onto the sign,” explains Mattingly. Because each of the letters stands off the sign two inches, Xpressive opted for a reverse halo effect using white exterior Sylvania LEDs screwed daisy chain-style on their backs. “Each strand of LED protrudes toward the center of the sign,” says Mattingly, noting the LEDs are hooked into one power supply and run up through the entire post and frame and then down the external post. Meanwhile the post is an eight-inchsquare tube. Xpressive painted it and finished it with a hand-carved finial at the top.

instead of using external lamps, Xpressive reverse-lit the letters with white LeDs.

Install During the pre-planning stages, Xpressive graphiX made lots of site surveys. The new sign was going to be located on a state route, so Mattingly had to extensively research all the setbacks and figure

January 2014 // SBI Dimensionals


IdentIty | By Jeff Wooten

installation involved five crewmembers on ladders and booms to lift and position the post and sign into place. since the sign was so heavy, installers also used a crane to lift it. the entire install took about six hours to complete.

out where the sign could be placed. He contacted the ODOT and figured out the right-of way. “Since it’s eleven feet tall, we couldn’t put it right on the road,” he explains. With all this information already in hand, it was time to take down the old readerboard and put up the new custom dimensional sign. Everything but the cartoon figures was mounted via screws onto the backer panel in-shop before being transported out to the install site. “We attached the characters at the site because they protrude off the sign, and we didn’t want them hanging off the edges of our trailer,” says Mattingly. Installation involved five people using ladders and booms to lift and position the post and sign into place. The entire process took six hours to complete. “Since it weighed a ton, we used a crane for lifting as well,” says Mattingly.

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SBI Dimensionals // January 2014

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Construction encompassed 150 total man-hours and took nearly three weeks to complete. Originally Xpressive settled on a six-week deadline to complete the sign, however permitting problems took three weeks out of this schedule. “But we did whatever we had to do to get it done,” says Mattingly. One challenge involved engineering the sign to figure out all wind load variations. “It sits down on the inside of a hill,” describes Mattingly. It was also a little difficult to organize two or three people working on separate sides of the sign to achieve the same exact look as the other. “One side might’ve had deeper grooves than the next,” says Mattingly, “but we were able to correct this.” But the biggest challenge was convincing the customer that Xpressive’s hand-drawn rendering could be turned into a reality. “Nobody around here had seen anything like that, so they had no comparison,” remarks Mattingly, noting the owner was almost daring them to see if they really could do this.

of what his shop likes to do—one-off, three-dimensional artistic-driven signage. “This project was a labor of love,” he says. “We love trying to figure out how to do them. “And it’s even more fun to figure out the challenge of what we can do next.”

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both for the restaurant owner and the sign maker. “My wife and I were recently dining out, and two people came up and told me how much they enjoyed the sign,” he says. “And our waitress told us that she had her picture taken with it.” For Mattingly, this is a prime example

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Xpressive started with a four-by-four concrete pad and rebar-enforced it. “We used j-hooks as our bottom mounting bracket and an eight-inch-square tube post with a half-inch plate at the bottom for molding,” explains Mattingly. The actual sign itself has a two-inchsquare tube frame all the way throughout the inside of it and then protruding off the top of the sides so it could connect to the post. “We cut holes in the post and ran the sign all the way through the post to the other side,” explains Mattingly. “We had double welds on each side and put a plate on it.” When attached to the pole, the eleven-foot-tall sign actually stands sixteenand-a-half feet tall. Its height is necessary because it sits back off the state route a bit around a bend.

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Posts-and-Panel Posts-and-Panel || By By Jeff Jeff Wooten Wooten

The Log Cabin Sign Making a posts-&-panel sign to match an on-premise building.


hen the owner of a log cabinbased business called Preferred Insulation Inc., approached sign maker Chris Eppolito about building a double-sided, posts-and-panel identity sign for his front premises, Eppolito knew this would be an ideal opportunity to do something not only dimensional but also unique. The solution: A sign that would match the look of the log cabin. The customer wanted to use the “maximum” amount of square footage allowed by the city for the sign. The finished 40-inch-tall-by-88inch-wide sign consists of 9-inch-diameter, 10-foot-tall log posts and 3/4-inch plywood sandwiched between “log cabin” siding. “This customer really wanted to keep the log cabin theme throughout his property,” explains Eppolito.

Eppolito Signs created a unique posts-and-panel sign that matched a business’ log cabin theme. The sign was constructed from wood, acrylic, and stainless steel hardware and brackets.


SBI Dimensionals // January 2014

all photos: eppolito signs.

Posts-and-Panel | By Jeff Wooten

January 2014 // SBI Dimensionals


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Posts-and-Panel | By Jeff Wooten

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Eppolito tracked down the construction company that built the business’ log cabin to find out the type of wood that was used. The shop then used that same wood to construct the new posts-and-panel sign.

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Eppolito is a third-generation sign maker and the owner of Eppolito Signs ( in Medina, Ohio. His grandfather Sam started this business some sixty years ago, and Chris decided to reopen it on his own last fall. (Note: See “Shop Talk” on page 40 for more history and details.) Not only is Chris well versed in traditional hand lettering, but he’s also very fluent in modern sign-making equipment. To begin the process of building this log cabin-themed sign, Eppolito turned it into a vector graphic using CorelDRAW® X6. (Note: In addition to CorelDRAW, Eppolito also uses Adobe® Illustrator® and Gerber sign-making software for creating his patterns and cut lines.) For this original sketch, Eppolito strategically implemented actual photographs into the CorelDRAW design.

SBI Dimensionals // January 2014

He photographed the log cabin to view its siding and then trimmed around that siding and imported it into the drawing. Eppolito also took pictures of the acrylic letters inside the customer’s building and the log posts on the large deck, trimmed around them, and superimposed them into the sketch. Then he showed this digital design to the customer, who eagerly approved the go-ahead for production. Eppolito ended up having to do only one sketch for this initial design, since the customer knew exactly what he wanted. “His logo fit very nicely into a rectangular-shaped sign,” he explains. After tracking down the construction company that built the log cabin and finding out the type of wood used, Eppolito employed tongue and groove wood log-cabin panels that are about

three inches thick at the thickest point. “We then attached the panels to 3/4inch plywood on both sides and framed it all in with 2x6 lumber,” he says. (Note: The plywood rests in a dado that Eppolito cut into the 2x6s.) Eppolito already had a head start for the letters, since he had worked on a set of routed acrylic letters and logo for this customer’s interior reception area about a year ago. The owner liked their shiny appearance and wanted the new exterior letters to match them. “Acrylic has a super-gloss finish, almost like glass,” says Eppolito. “If you were going to paint Sintra® instead, then you’ll never really achieve that look.” So Eppolito laser-cut the letters out of 1/4-inch-thick black acrylic and studmounted them to both sides of the sign. The accompanying triangular logo was also cut out of this 1/4-inch-thick black acrylic and covered with vinyl. To keep the sign from tipping over while working on it, Eppolito set the panels up to rest on two Black and Decker™ portable sawhorse clamping tables. He also mounted hooks onto the top of the sign and into the ceiling to be able to attach the sign with orange straps for safety reasons. “I didn’t want to bump into it and accidentally knock it over,” he says. Eppolito used stainless steel for all the hardware and brackets. One issue he faced was attaching a square sign to a large, uneven, round post. “We marked off the area that the sign would attach to—about a 6-inch-wideby-48-inch-tall area of each post,” he explains. “Then we belt-sanded that area as flat as possible for the sign to lay against.” Using a hand-chisel, Eppolito recessed custom-made four-by-eight-inch L-shaped brackets into the posts. “This allowed the sign to mount flush to the post without anyone being able to see the bracket or the bolts,” he explains, “and it wouldn’t interfere with the sign, when it was resting flat against the posts. To achieve the final finish, Eppolito applied three coats of oil-based, commercial-grade house stain to the sign panels and posts.

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January 2014 // SBI Dimensionals


Posts-and-Panel | By Jeff Wooten

Paint is an ever-expanding technology with unique attributes being researched and developed every day. According to Dan Szczepanik, global product manager Fleet & Manufacturing, Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes (, some of the biggest changes/advancements when it comes to paints being formulated for/accepted by the sign industry over the past several years include the color and expansion of color palette. “We used to see only architectural colors and solid colors,” he says. “Now we’re seeing metallics, pearls, and micas. These can appear as different colors from different angles with different amounts of reflectivity, color shift, and sparkle. “Pearls and micas can also convey a sophisticated, threedimensional, complex color that will grab your attention and differentiate your brand among all the solid colors.” Another key attribute is durability. “Sign manufacturers. “Automotive-quality pigments and resins provide many years of gloss and color consistency,” he says. “When you’re having your brand identity expressed as a color on a sign, you want assurance that it will be the correct color.”


Some of the biggest changes to paints formulated for the sign industry have been color and expansion of color palette.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are another factor under consideration. The lower the VOC the better, and no sacrifices are needed when switching to a lower VOC paint. In fact, an ideal low-VOC paint will not behave any differently than a higher VOC paint, if formulated correctly. “Continuing VOC restrictions is the right thing to do for environmental integrity,” he says. “Also the lower total VOC means higher solids paint. Higher solids paints can cover more area and are a better value to the end-user.” Speed is also studied, as fast-cure coatings can reduce bake time and temperatures or eliminate them altogether.

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Painting Trends

For the posts, Eppolito was able to match the look of the deck logs. “They required a lot of clean-up and sanding though before we could apply the stain,” he says. Eppolito and his helpers placed the six-inch-thick sign on the back of his truck and strapped it down for the fivemile drive out to the install site. Once onsite, Eppolito dug the holes for the posts a full thirty-six inches deep and sixteen inches in diameter. He then poured three bags of concrete for each post. Eppolito wrapped the bottom of the posts that rest thirty-six inches underground in ice/water shield that roofers use under shingles. He added this feature because the large log posts weren’t pressure-treated and, without this protective measure, would rot away much quicker. “The guys who sold me the posts told me they used them for upright wood posts on decks,” he says. “They’re selfsticking, with a sticky back like vinyl. But it’s a rubberized, asphalt-type material. “It’s pretty thick. We just wrapped up the bottom of the posts with it and put them in the ground. That was it!” The posts weigh 200 pounds apiece, while the sign panel itself is 250 pounds. Because of this, four guys carried the sign and set it between the posts and onto the lower brackets while Eppolito bolted it into place. Because of city requirements, the finished sign is located forty feet from the edge of the road. “Visibility is good, since the front area is clear of trees and shrubs,” says Eppolito.

Although working on any custom sign is going to bring up issues midstream, Eppolito finds it a pleasure to build a sign that’s unique. In the end, the customer was happy too, as he had a sign that now thematically tied into his property.

Overall Eppolito really enjoys working with dimensional signage (whether sandblasted panels or carved letters) because they give off a more permanent look. “I like the shadows that happen naturally with cut-out letters,” he says, “and so too do my customers!”

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January 2014 // SBI Dimensionals


Posts-and-Panel | By Jeff Wooten

thermoforming printers and inks Thermoforming involves warming up thermoplastic materials into new shapes at a splash transition temperature to make them flexible and then cooling them down to keep

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SBI Dimensionals // January 2014

said shape (whether through vacuum forming, drape forming, blow forming, or tooled forming). There are two methods of decoration. Post-forming can be achieved via airbrush and handpaints (for backlit electrical signage), where colors are airbrushed and then masked off, or (for automotives) as vinyl decal appliqués that must be precisely placed by hand on the surface. In pre-forming, UV inks are adhered to the plastic media and when heated with a UV lamp, they’ll stretch as much as the media. The thermoforming print process can be as easy as any other commercial graphics print process— or more complex. Spencer Craig, director of business development at EFI ( offers these tips: + “Top-surface applications require only one layer of ink and are simple to print.” + “Bottom surface applications (electrical signage) require at least two layers (one process color for the image, the other white as a lightdiffusing layer) and can require as many as four layers, if the backlights are extremely intense.” + “Color matching can be very easy (when printing on white media) or very difficult (when backlit with a light source of unknown color spectrum). So if I wanted to put an image of your face on a formed salad bowl, I could take your photo with my phone, RIP it, print it out, and form it all in about thirty minutes. “On the other hand, custom color matching on a process-color image in a demanding application (using inexpensive mold technology to make a formed part for an application that requires intense backlighting using strong adhesives for outdoor use) could take considerably longer.” To read more details, be sure to visit

On-premise| |By ByJeff JeffWOOten WOOten On-premise

Raising the Letters 3-D letters & signs for Maine’s “Most Unique Store.”


om Stade, owner of one-man-shop Moosehead Signs (, recently created new building-mounted signs for a retailer in Greenville, Maine. Moosehead Traders is an upscale gift shop—offering items and furniture intended to decorate one’s cabin. The owners had moved their store to a new location, and since Stade had worked on a pylon sign for another of their businesses (Note: See “Signing at the Trading Post,” July 2013), they approached him requesting larger signs to replace their previous ten-foot-long one. The first sign measures twenty-five feet in length and incorporates dimensionally raised HDU prismatic letters placed on a latex spray-painted aluminum sign panel and bordered by a floating aluminum frame. The second sign features individual MDO/HDU prismatic letters and a moose head stud-mounted onto a brick wall.

Sign #1

all Photos: moosehead signs.

For the main sign facing the road, Stade chose to use .090 aluminum instead of 1/2-inch MDO plywood for the 4-by-25foot panel because it would give the storeowners something that would last for many years. Because of the limited amount of space in his shop, Stade

Sign #1.

January 2014 // SBI Dimensionals


On-premise | By Jeff WOOten

Mounting the prismatic letters to the backer panel for Sign #1.

built this panel in sections using one-inch aluminum tubing and 1/2-inch VHB tape. When building with aluminum, Stade uses a special adjustable bit in the drill for countersinking the all-aluminum rivets precisely so that they’re flush with the surface. (Note: Once painted, they won’t be seen.) After spray painting the panel background, he scuffed it down using grey ScotchBrite™ pads placed under an orbital sander with 80-grit sandpaper (for gripping and holding the pads). Stade carved the individual letters out of Precision Board HDU on his CNC router and painted them with latex paint. For their outline, Stade hand-brushed a quick size and applied 23.75K gold. Stade then applied silicone to the backs of the letters and bonded them to the aluminum panel.

He found a graphic of a moose and stylized it in his vector artwork program to fit his needs. The gilding of the full moose figure was done via Gerbermask Ultra II pre-mask by applying the fast size and gold and then removing the mask. The “Maine’s Most Unique Store” tag line is high-performance Oracal vinyl.

Sign #2 For the sign installed at the gable end of the store, Stade used his CNC router to carve the letters and moose head out of one-and-a-half-inch-thick Precision Board HDU and MDO for their backers. Then he contour-cut and hand-routed the bull nose edge of the moose and did additional chiseling and sanding for refining. For mounting purposes, Stade used two-inch 8/32 stainless steel countersunk screws with nuts.

Sign #2.

Middle, Top: The angle frame for the .090-inch aluminum pre-baked panel using one-inch tubing. Middle, Bottom: A spacer was used to align the panel correctly onto the frame. Below, Left: Sign #2 is placed on the gable side of the store. S22

SBI Dimensionals // January 2014

Top, Left: Silicone was applied to the back of the HDU letters (Sign #1). Middle, Left: Priming the MDO letters placed on top of milk crates and trash cans (Sign #2).

Pa Cne 4 lS aw

Bottom, Left: Countersunk holes that were drilled for the studs. (Sign #2)

After routing the MDO letters, Stade pen-plotted a template pattern and laid the letters on top of it to mark the location of the holes on the pattern to drill holes for stud-mounting. He screwed all the mounting studs onto the pieces before bonding the HDU letters and their MDO backers with silicone. Next Stade primed and spray-painted the letters and moose the appropriate colors using latex paint. (Note: More on this in the “Challenges” section.)

The “Maine’s Most Unique Store” black lettering featured on the moose was accomplished with Gerbermask Ultra II pre-mask, in order to keep all elements in the latex paint finish. (Note: Stade prefers working entirely with vinyl for surface lettering, but if a certain color isn’t available, he’ll use Gerbermask Ultra II and lightly spray several custom-mixed coats on for the color and remove the masking.)

Challenges There wasn’t enough room to work on both signs at once in his shop, so when it came to painting the components, Stade and his assistant took the panel and letters out to an adjacent room whose entrance was thirty feet behind his shop. For the 4-by-25-foot panel, Stade knew what he should’ve done—but didn’t: Clamp a couple of boards onto the sign during transportation for strength, because it was so long. Indeed the wind ended up kinking the aluminum and part of the oneinch tubing. There aren’t too many mistakes Stade hasn’t learned how to fix pretty quickly though. “If I’d done what my gut told me, I would’ve saved myself an hour’s labor,” he says. “We got it back to the unit and worked the kinks out

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On-premise | By Jeff WOOten

Heavy Metal Mix Mixing materials is a great way to utilize a glossy metallic finish on a sign that facilitates a decorous look with a better read. Here are some examples that combine metals with metals, metals with coatings, and metals with additional processing for a captivating design. Photo A: The rough cut-through black letters are set on a satin metal background. The tones are dictated, controlled. The trees combine satin shapes that are set into the black cut, floating on a reflective upper portion of the sign. It may be unintentional, but the angle of this photo shows the three tree characters on a reflected field of real trees. Photo B: Verde patina is the oxidized finish copper exhibits when weathered or treated. There are controlled meth-


SBI Dimensionals // January 2014



ods to obtain this look in a short time period, as well as some applied coatings. Coatings tend to match the green color and look akin to hammer tone. The real weathering takes on a stained organic look that’s random in nature. The dark green reflective upper background actually works with the flat tone of the “DC” letters. Look closely and you’ll see bleed in this design, an issue with metal materials when installed outdoors.

C Photo C: A variety of metal material is available pre-stressed. When metal is flat, any reflective look tends to disappear (polished or not). Brushed aluminum letters may look like they’re coated with white paint as you quickly drive by. With shape and curvature, the specular highlights glisten in the light and give the eye that (real or perceived) visual cue you’re looking at metal. —Peter Perszyk

of the aluminum and replaced small sections of the frame.” There he sprayed the panel with Sherwin Williams Bonding Primer and quickly feather-brushed an area ruled out in a light green color. He then placed 3/8-inch Gerbermask for an inline stripe (which was taken off after spraying the background colors, leaving a light green stripe). Stade also had to mix the latex paints to arrive at the right color blend for the sign. He output these two sign designs on his laser printer to be able to test and mix colors. At the paint station, Stade mounted his mixer to an 18v DeWalt® screw gun. He stresses that it’s important to get a color blend just right, because you really want it to look the way you’ve designed it for the customer. “With latex, you really have to do this ‘wet;’ otherwise you get a poor-looking blend and a blemish on the finish,” says Stade. For the actual spray painting, Stade placed the sign panel and the letters on milk crates above the floor. Next he attached four pieces of 1/8-inch-by-3-inch-by-3-inch angle for the frame using 3/8-inch spacers between the face of the sign and the frame; this gave the frame a slight shadow box effect.


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Installation Installation took place while the store was open for business, so Stade and a carpenter friend started early in the morning to try and avoid much customer traffic. They worked on a twenty-foot-long aluminum scaffold drilling holes and inserting brackets into the brick wall for the stud-mounted letters and moose head. The 4-by-25-foot sign was installed using a floating blind mount with four-inch angle cut into three-inch-wide sections placed in eight positions along the top and bottom of the sign. These wouldn’t be seen once the sign was installed. For Stade, the artistry behind making these types of signs is one reason he loves the sign business so much. “I enjoy seeing people appreciate a quality sign and what I do,” he says. “I also hope it makes them money, because this is the whole purpose—to draw attention, which should equate to dollars.”

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January 2014 // SBI Dimensionals



Laser-cut Commercial Signage from Kern Laser Systems Kern Laser Systems, a leading manufacturer of high-performance laser cutting and engraving machines, is offering laser equipment for the creation of commercial signage. Laser-cut signs are present in schools, museums, commercial buildings, and storefronts. Two common ways to create a professionallooking sign are to cut acrylic letters to shape and to etch back-painted acrylic to allow for a contrasting color fill to show through the front side. (218/631-2755;

Gemini Announces New Automated Cast Process Thanks to a new fully automated robotic pattern-making process, Gemini Incorporated is reducing pricing and lead times for all custom cast letters and logos. According to Gemini, the new manufacturing techniques not only reduce production times by two days but will help the company lower custom cast metal pricing 20 to 40 percent from current prices. The new manufacturing process is compatible with halolit backlighting by machining mounting locations for LEDs into the back of letters and logos. In addition, the process leaves a lip on the inside back of each letter to insert a clear Plexiglas back. The finished product also meets UL specifications. According to Gemini, price reductions are the same whether the letters or logos are 3/8-inch deep up to 1-1/2-inch deep. Additional discounts are available for six or more sets. (800/538-8377; S26

The Next Generation in ADA-Compliant/Braille Sign Printing The versatile Direct Jet 1024UVHS UV LED printer from Direct Color Systems® can now be used to create ADA-compliant Braille signage more efficiently and economically than ever before. Combine this compact printer with DCS’s Color Byte RIP 9 software, add-on ADA Module, and matte-finish InkMark™ UV Acrylic and Metal coated substrates to quickly create signage that complies with federal ADA guidelines via a patent-pending UV LED inkjet printing process. DCS also gives users the unprecedented option of either first-surface or second-surface graphics when creating raised-texture signage on acrylic substrates. Standard six-by-eightinch signs can be output in less than five

minutes, with a full digitally printed background, raised letters, and Braille. The 1024UVHS also prints flat and raised TEXTUR3D™ photos, logos and text on wood, metals, plastics, glass, and much more. ( ada-printing)

Flatbed Cutter System for Finishing Complex Displays Colex introduces the newest model: the Sharpcut Flatbed Cutter System. The Sharpcut is Colex’s most productive and value solution for finishing complex digital display graphics’ jobs. The Sharpcut’s multi-functional mechanized capabilities allows finishing technicians to perform intricate cuts. The machine offers a Triple Interchangeable Tool Head station that selects the proper tool for the job and an energy-efficient 6-Zone Vacuum System. The Sharpcut package includes a Fixed Knife, an Oscillating Knife, and a Router (1hp or 3hp available). The new and improved oscillating knife cuts 50 percent faster at 14,000 strokes per minute. There are also a variety of new tools to customize the Sharpcut, which include the Universal Drawing Tool, V-cut Knife, Coroplast Knife, Creasing

SBI Dimensionals // January 2014

Wheel, and more. The Optiscout Vision Registration System features a highresolution color camera; the ability to import over thirty file formats; the ability to plug-in export data from CorelDRAW, Illustrator, and AutoCAD desktop to the Optiscout desktop; the ability to read any diameter registration mark, crop mark, or square; and much more. (


Sign Effectz, Inc. Wins WSA Design Award Custom sign manufacturer Sign Effectz, Inc., of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, won a First Place award in Individual Letter Signs in the Wisconsin Sign Association’s 2013 Sign Design Contest for the new, unique-looking neon sign that the company designed, built, and

installed for Divino’s Restaurant, also located in Milwaukee. When the owners of Palermo Villa revamped the appearance of their restaurant and re-launched it under the Divino’s name, they turned to Sign Effectz, Inc., to update the building’s outdoor signage. Chief among the requirements was neon lighting to give it a retro look. The sign, featuring a wine bottle and two glasses, is airy and bright. It is made of fully fabricated aluminum with exposed neon to highlight the bottle and glasses. The restaurant name features LED channel letters that are backlit for a warm halo effect at night. “The end-result is new [outdoor] building signage with a unique look and featuring the latest lighting technology,” says Don Nummerdor, a designer at Sign Effectz. “We’re very excited to have received First Place recognition.” (

Medical Wayfinding Solution Minahan Signs of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, recently partnered with SignPro Systems, a division of Orbus Exhibit & Display Group, to manufacture and develop an interior wayfinding signage solution that met the needs of Windber Medical Center in Windber, Pennsylvania. To help clients feel welcome and comfortable navigating through the medical center, a custom

signage system was designed that provided directions and instructions, and most importantly, made a positive impression while reinforcing Windber’s brand. Wall-mounted frames, freestanding pylons, and projecting frames are just a few of the signage styles that provided the best results in this coordinated system of wayfinding signage. (

LaserBits: Alder Wood Sheets The new six-inch Alder Wood Sheets from LaserBits are specially chosen for laser engraving and cutting. A versatile addition to your product line, these sheets can be used for a wide variety of items—from name plates to ornamental pieces. In fact, engraving reveals a superb brown tone producing a rich contrast. Sample tags (pictured) were engraved using 70 percent speed at 100 percent power on a 35-Watt system. (

Monarch Metal’s Stainless Steel Panel Hanging System Monarch Metal’s new MFSS-CHAN stainless steel hanging system offers a one-inch air space to comply with most building codes. It is manufactured from high-strength, 1/16-inch-thick stainless steel that is corrosion-resistant and has a 70,000-psi strength. The system is shipped with both continuous lengths of the MFSSCHAN and matching clips to attach to a panel. Users simply mount the four-foot continuous length to the mounting surface and install the smaller clips to the rear side of the panel. Next they engage the clips on the backside of the panel with the continuous length along the wall, and then the panel is mounted one inch from the wall with no visible fasteners into the face of the panel. (

January 2014 // SBI Dimensionals


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A CNC router is brought in for the finer details.

all phoTos: MhC sIgn & desIgn.

The story of Caron’s success lies within his creative talents and his salesmanship.

according to Caron, a wrap represents you and your company: “so be proud of what you do and go the extra mile for your clients.”


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014


EvErything that’s fit To wrap a graphics and sign designer covers conventional—and unconventional—objects. Although Mark Caron, the one-man sign shop behind Payson, Utah-based MHC Sign & Design (, enjoys traditional sign making, his passion is creating vehicle graphics and wraps. And for Caron, there are few objects that can’t be wrapped. Under his belt already is a portfolio that includes hard hats, helmets, doors, dressers, nightstands, and even a clock. “I learned early on that not only do you need to have excellent customer service skills, but you also need to be willing to be that one-stop shop for your customers,” says Caron, explaining one of the reasons behind his taking on wrapping items not normally considered “wrappable.” Caron opened his business in 2003 when he was twenty-three-years-old. Relying solely on himself (with occasional help from family and friends on large or high-volume jobs), he recently moved his facility to a 1,000-square foot building that now allows him to pull vehicles into the building garage bay and wrap inside. Now with more space to print, cut, and wrap, he’s also added another weeding table and upgraded his computers with the latest software and technologies. Caron has set his equipment up to work together seamlessly: The Roland VersaCAMM SP-300V thirty-inch printer/cutter prints the vinyl using Eco-

Sol MAX inks, and the GX-640 vinyl cutter finalizes the job while he starts a new print on the printer. His shop employs many different kinds of vinyls. For labels and stickers, he uses a soft, calendered vinyl with either a gloss or matte finish. For flat signs and short-term projects, he typically works with ORAJET® 3651 with a lam. And for wraps, he uses ORAJET® 3951RA, Avery Supreme wrap film, or Avery MPI 1005EZ with matching lam. One trick of the trade he utilizes to demonstrate the effectiveness of a wrap is showcasing his shop truck. “I explain to potential clients that wrapping this vehicle has gotten us more attention and business than from any other form of advertisement,” he says. “This has helped push our wrap sales forward into the direction I’ve been hoping to achieve.” After flipping through a Fellers catalog and noticing a wrapped grand piano, Caron decided to take on wrapping unique items. He did this in order to gain practice and get better so he could move on to bigger projects. “The process can be a bit timeconsuming, and I wanted to be ready,” he says. Caron first tried wrapping a nightstand, which he says turned out well. He continued to wrap additional nightstands and dressers, then an end table, and next a foot and headboard for a bed. Soon people started to take notice.

January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Caron likes his wrap projects challenging, and because of this, he has expanded his work surfaces to include glass— ranging from shower doors to windows.

Since these items are often unique shapes and sizes, the preparation can be the most difficult aspect of the work. “On a vehicle, I use templates, so the design is often quicker and the square footage larger,” he says,” then adding text and logos can be thrown into the equation. “But there are no templates for dressers and nightstands. I have to measure and carefully design them to flow around the entire piece. But the end-result is worth it.” Caron notes that while the paint on vehicles makes applying vinyl easier, the different types of lacquers and stains on fur-

niture can create problems; because of this, experimentation with different vinyls or primer glue is often necessary. His work also extends to glass, ranging from printing on etched window glass to shower doors. A few years ago, a glass company approached him about their client, who was looking to create a bread pantry. The goal was to incorporate a full-color graphic on it that looked like etched glass. “I printed on etched glass vinyl, laminated it, and applied it to the pantry door. “The client loved it!” says Caron, noting that he was also asked to create beach scenes on vinyl for a shower door. Caron likes his projects challenging. He recently wrapped a fiftythree-foot-long bus when the wintry weather outside fell to a frigid 30°F. To solve this, he and a friend built a lean-in addition to his shop and brought in propane heaters while they applied the vinyl so it wouldn’t become brittle. The corrugated design that’s typical on older model busses presented a “fun” challenge. “These channels were 3/4-inch-deep and about one-inch apart,” he says. Caron recalled seeing magnets applied over the deep channels on the sides of sprinter vans, so after several experiments, he applied a thick laminated vinyl over the magnet. He left a two-inch reveal of vinyl on all edges of the magnets, attaching it like a decal to the corrugated edge. This system kept the magnets on the corrugated part of the bus and didn’t allow the wrap to fail along the edges of the magnet with hot and cold contraction and expansion of magnets.

Instead of trying wraps out on vehicles, Caron chose to practice on other items, figuring this might sharpen his application skills.

Caron has plans to continue to wrap items (furniture, doors, clocks, etc.) that one doesn’t normally consider “wrappable.” 24

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

It’s been three years since the wrap was put on, and it has held up “exceptionally well.” Another fascinating project included the “Who’s Your Daddy?” vehicle graphic requested by a client who loves clowns. While waiting for this client to finish a metallic raspberry paint job, Caron redesigned the image of the clown from the client’s T-shirt and added a flame design. He waited almost two weeks for the paint to cure and then did the installation. The decals are reflective vinyl with a lam and the silver flames are ORACAL® 751C silver metallic with a digitally printed and laminated black fade. It took him about five hours to apply all the vinyls for the project. “Using the right vinyl for the job is critical,” he stresses. “I wouldn’t recommend buying cheap vinyls to pocket fifty more bucks. “If you buy the good stuff, you’ll save yourself heartache and frustration. Plus your install will go quicker, and the wrap or vehicle graphics will look better and last longer.”

Wrap Tips Caron has some valuable tips to share with sign makers looking to refine their wrapping skills:

+ “first do your research and make sure you spend the extra money and get the right vinyl.”

+ “Do clean. this is critical when applying vehicle wraps!”

+ “take your time and install using correct methods and applications.”

+ “Contact your supplier or sales representative and get tips and tricks from others in your industry; they’re here to help and guide.”

+ “Don’t be afraid to try.” + “Don’t cut too deep—practice, practice, practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t sell yourself short, you can do this!”

And his final tip, which may be golden:

+ “Don’t give up. take a break, walk away for a few hours, come back, and accomplish.”




11:20 AM









January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


M a g n e t s / B y A s h l e y B r Ay / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Pulling in


Learn how magnets can be a profitable avenue for sign shops.

Magnets are an applications-based product with certain magnetic materials that should be used for certain projects.


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014


Magnetic fasteners are one type of product that sign shops can offer as a solution to installation challenges.


or many sign shops, magnets have been relegated to a product that can only be marketed as an upsell beside pricier items like vehicle wraps. Some of these shops still consider magnets difficult to work with and produce, and they have trouble seeing the profit to be made from this particular product. But these are all common misconceptions that have stuck around for too long. We spoke to a number of manufacturers to learn how shops can best profit from magnets.

to turn that around and tell the people,” says DeLeon. And what shops can do with magnets is offer clients a unique sign or display solution. “Magnets can be a valuable component of a sign shop’s solutions for their clients’ projects because of their simplicity and functionality,” says Mike Gertz, marketing manager at Master Magnetics. “So rather than being an upsell or an add-on to projects, magnets might be the most efficient and cost-effective solution for their clients’ project challenge.”

photos (above and left): Master Magnetics; (right) visual Magnetics.

Rethinking Magnets Sign shops should first change the way that they think about magnets. “As a sign shop, I don’t think they probably feel like they have enough of a range of products to work with to make that profitability,” says John DeLeon, director of Sales and Marketing for Flexmag Industries, a division of Arnold Magnetic Technologies. “As soon as they hear magnet, they think, ‘It’s going to cost me a lot, it’s going to be hard to get, and I don’t even know if I can run it on my equipment.’ “We’re trying to get the message across to sign shops that [magnets] are easy to work with. We’ve got products for almost any printer, however you want to print it, and there are certain magnets for certain applications that allow you to make a good profit from it.” There are certain magnetic materials for certain applications because this is a reflection of how magnets should be sold—as a solution and as an applications-based product. Magnets are not a production-driven product. It’s about the quality of the solution they offer rather than how many a shop can output. And simply by offering magnets as a solution rather than just an add-on may help shops sell more of them. “Here’s the thing: People aren’t going to come into the sign shop and say, ‘I want this in magnetic form.’ The sign shop has

a magnetic-receptive graphics system in a retail store, which offers easy-to-change-out graphics.

January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


photo: magnum magnetics.

Magnets should be considered more than just an upsell to pricier items like vehicle wraps. depending on the project, magnets can be an efficient and cost-effective solution to a client’s needs.

Making Magnets


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

Education is the key to making a profit with magnets. come by covering the platen with styrene, chipboard, vinyl, duct tape, or almost anything to create an air gap between the metal platen and the magnet, which then allows the magnetic sheeting to feed smoothly through their printer.” Print quality on magnetic material shouldn’t be a concern for shops either. “Whether it’s vinyl, paper, or other topcoats, today’s flexible magnetic sheeting topcoats allow for high-quality, high-resolution printing,” says Gertz. “There are a number of different manufacturers of magnetic sheeting, with different formulas for their printable surfaces. The best way to determine what to use is to test different sample rolls.” (Note: See sidebar on page 30 for more printing-on-magnet tips.) Choosing a Material. There are different magnetic materials for different applications. “Understand which magnetic products are best for the end application. I think there might be a little bit of a misconception now that there’s basically a magnet for one-size-fits-all type applications,” says DeLeon. “But if you really want to be profitable, there are magnet types

photo: master magnetics.

Producing magnets is a process that has become more efficient, as well. Shops can now print directly to the material using the printers they already have. “For flexible magnets, printing direct-to-magnet saves time and money by eliminating the more labor-intensive two-step process of printing on a substrate and laminating to the magnet,” says Gertz. In fact, most manufacturers recommend entirely throwing out the old process. “We do only recommend printing directly on magnet,” says Ryan Newhart, national account manager at Magnum Magnetics. Despite these recommendations, some shops still carry misconceptions about the production process. Let’s dispel a few of these. Magnetic Charge. Magnets will not harm wide format printers, as the magnetic charge is weak and stays on the surface. “The magnetic flux is barely an 1/8-inch off of the surface of the magnet so it’s not going to go anywhere,” says DeLeon. Printing. Another common concern is that magnetic sheeting can’t be run through printers with metal parts, but there are fixes for this problem. “A common obstacle is if the platen is made of metal, which would restrict the smooth and even flow of the magnet being fed into the printer,” says Gertz. “This is easily over-

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Tips for Printing on Magnets There are a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to

banding,” says Maffeo. “There’s a calibration that’s called

print on magnets, so Sign Builder Illustrated spoke with Jim

media compensation, and it compensates for the weight

Maffeo, sales at Mimaki USA, to clarify the process. Maffeo

of the media.

offered a number of tips to ensure the perfect print: “The magnet is so heavy that it’s pulling too much down our PRINT MAGAZINE Browse our monthly + Printing on magnets requires more time onRead the front- and that media compensation changes. And that’s where to learn about projects, e-newsletter, SIGN BUILDER end for set-up. Shops should be sure to raise thenews, printheads you start getting some linesUPDATE, in your prints andindustry overprint and innovations for more information to avoid head strikes and to cover any metal parts on the lines.” Access our DIGITAL front and backs of their printers to keep the magnet from Printing on a single sheet eliminates problems. EDITION anywhere View SIGNthese BUILDER ESSENTIALS for the latest is + Do not forget the finishing side of things. A cutter sticking. Mimaki sells an optional mesh static cling prevenproduct announcements In Print, In Person tion kit, which covers the metal parts in the front and back. needed for cutting decals, shapes, and more out of magVisit SIGNSHOP.COM daily andhowOnline + Any ink type can be used to print on magnets, netic sheets. for additional content and ever shops should choose an ink based on the applicaWhen it’s done correctly, printing on magnets can up-to-the-minute news tion—especially if a magnet will be outdoors. bring in new opportunities and additional profit lines

+ When printing, run sheets rather than a roll through the printer. “The rolls can get very heavy, and that will affect the print quality as it’s going forward and you get into

With Sign Builder Illustrated, it’s easy to stay connected to the industry. “People are starting to get educated on what these now! maCome join the how-to network

for sign shops.

chines can do,” says Maffeo. “The market is endless.”

five to ten feet of the roll. You might startLog seeing some on to

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—Ashley Bray

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Get the Full Experience: Read our PRINT MAGAZINE to learn about projects, news, and innovations Access our DIGITAL EDITION anywhere

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Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

that work for certain applications.” For example, for indoor applications like refrigerator magnets, there is no need for vinyl or special coatings. Shops can save a bit of money and opt for a magnet with just a paper topcoat. But for outdoor applications, shops will need a magnet with a topcoat that can withstand the elements. A shop’s supplier or magnet manufacturer will have more information on choosing the right media.

So just what type of magnetic products and solutions can sign shops offer? Magnetic-receptive Systems. These systems are one of the most popular options right now. Most magnet manufacturers offer them in some capacity, with the base being a magnet that attracts magnetic-receptive materials or a ferrous material that attracts magnets. Manufacturer Visual Magnetics even offers ActiveWall®, a Micro-iron® latex primer that “activates” an entire wall to accept both magnets and magneticreceptive graphics.

photo: mimaki usa.


covering the metal platen on a printer allows magnetic sheeting to feed through the printer smoothly. for more printing tips, see the sidebar on p 30. There are many benefits to using a magnetic-receptive system: there is no need for a metal surface; installing and changing out graphics is easy; and systems that use magnets as a base allow for

Better Together . . .

printing on magnetic-receptive sheets rather than magnets, which eliminates many printing problems. “[Magnetic-receptive media] doesn’t Continued on page 34

Pair DigiMag® Vinyl and RubberSteel® to create interchangeable signs! Create signs for… Tradeshow booths • Walls • Wood Surfaces • Menu Boards • POP Displays RubberSteel® makes non-magnetic flat or curved surfaces instantly magnetic receptive! Magnum brand RubberSteel® is: • Flexible and lightweight • Easy to use and apply • Durable and rustproof DigiMag® Vinyl is high-quality printable, flexible magnetic product that’s perfect for creating POP displays and car signs. • Save time & money by printing directly on magnet, eliminating the need to overlaminate • Works with a variety of Solvent, Eco-Solvent, UV and Latex inkjet printers • Easy to use—die-cut, shear or punch • Available in matte and gloss finishes Download Printer Profiles From Our Website


January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Your Direct Source for Sign Information 3 Easy Steps

Receive vital product and service information from manufacturers and distributors by completing the adjacent card or visiting

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 #

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 32



Ability Plastics, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Allwood Signblanks . . . . . . . . . . . S7 Allwood Signblanks . . . . . . . . . . S17 Alpina Manufacturing. . . . . . . . . . 38 Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . 38 Anthony Warren Corp.. . . . . . . . . . 38 A.R.K. Ramos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S10 A.R.K. Ramos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 AXYZ International . . . . . . . . . . . S18 Biesse America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S20 Brooklyn Hardware . . . . . . . . . . . S16 CAO Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C2 DSE (Digital Signage Expo) . . . . . . 14 Duxbury Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Epilog Laser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S8 Fastenation, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Flexmag Industries, Inc. . . . . . . . . 29 Floyd & Associates, LLC . . . . . . . . 15 Gemini, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 GH Imaging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Gravo Tech/Gravograph. . . . . . . . S17 International Sign Association . . . . . 21 International Sign Association . . . . . C3 Magnum Magnetics . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Master Magnetics . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Matthews Paint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S9 MBS-Standoffs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 MT Displays LLC . . . . . . . . . . . 12A-B MultiCam, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S24 Orbus Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Orbus Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Ornamental Post Panel & Traffic . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Outwater Plastics . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Principal LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Roland DGA Corp. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Rowmark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S25 Safety Speed Cut . . . . . . . . . . . . . S23 ShopBot Tools, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . S12

InfoDirect #



InfoDirect #

39 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C4 40 Sign Bracket Store . . . . . . . . . . . S11


Companies in Sign Show

41 Sign-Mart, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 42 Sign-Mart, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 43 SloanLED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11


44 Small Balls, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 45 Southern Stud Weld . . . . . . . . . . . S7


46 Stamm Manufacturing. . . . . . . . . . 17 47 Techno CNC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S13


48 Trotec . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S19 49 Universal Laser Systems Inc. . . . . S6


50 US LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S2 51 VKF Renzel USA Corp. . . . . . . . . . . 38


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014


53 54 56 58 60 62 63 64 65 66 67

3A Composites. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Colex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S26 Direct Color Systems . . . . . . . . . S26 Drytac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Epilog Laser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Floyd & Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 FUJIFILM North America . . . . . . . . . 9 Gemini, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S26 Kern Laser Systems . . . . . . . . . . S26 LaserBits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S27 Monarch Metal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S27 Mutoh . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Orbus Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . S27 shopVOX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Sign Effectz, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . S27 Sign Pro Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . S27

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Continued from page 31 stick to any of their printers,” says Joe Deetz, CEO of Visual Magnetics. “It prints just like standard papers so it really takes the mystery, the confusion, and the hard execution factor out of it.” End-users are just starting to see the many benefits of the systems, as well. “They see the savings, and they see the way it brings quality of image, ease of installation, cost savings, and the ease of staying current with the campaigns very quickly,” says Deetz. “It will open doors that have been closed for people.” Retail stores are using the systems for menus and promotional signage, but wall displays are becoming a big market, as well. Magnetic Fasteners. There are fasteners that will affix a sign to metal surfaces, and two-piece magnetic fasteners that affix to opposite-pole magnets so that signs can be mounted anywhere. “Magnets come in all sizes and strengths to handle most sign fastening situations,” says Gertz. “There are magnetic strips for fastening graphics, and there’s also an extensive selection of


magnets and magnetic assemblies that are ideal for sign building. “There are magnetic hooks, rings, and carabiners to hold up large, grommeted banners or hang signs from the ceiling; channel magnets to attach retail signs to store fixtures and gondolas; and super-strong neodymium magnets with foam adhesive to adhere signs or displays to metal.” Flexible Magnetic Sheeting. This product can help shops break into a number of different markets with a number of different offerings. “There are so many industries and opportunities for sign shops to consider such as vehicle signs, magnetic business cards, menus, and calendars for all types of businesses,” says Gertz.

After the Sale The relationship with the client doesn’t have to end when a shop hands over the product. In fact, many magnet manufacturers recommend sign shops at the very least put in a follow-up call. “I think it’s important for our customers to follow-up with their customers on

Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

the end usage part to make sure everything goes smooth,” says Newhart. Shops can also offer to print the next round of graphics for a client. This proves especially profitable with magnetic-receptive systems, which encourage the frequent change-out of graphic elements. Still many sign shops may view being cut out of the installation as lost profits. But if the shop continues to produce graphics for a customer, it just means that the customers’ money has shifted from install to graphics. “The power of being able to change parts of an image really brings value to the end-user and also you tend to have people print more often,” says Deetz. “What happens is that their budgets start to find 30 to 40 percent more money in them, so they end up utilizing more imagery in the store, boosting the brand, and keeping the store fresher. And they tend to change out more often.” Education is the key to profiting with magnets. Shops should learn all they can about magnetic products and applications by speaking with magnet manufacturers and their printer manufacturers.

Digital Pr inting / By Dan Marx////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Print Run

Building Your

Simple strategies for building your wide format business.

PhoTos (This Page): sgia.


he strength of the 2013 SGIA Expo in Orlando was an indicator of what has become a sign and graphics industry certainty: Wide format inkjet technology has fundamentally changed the way we run our businesses, the way we structure our product offerings, and the expectations our customers have of the services we provide. Whether your company came to wide format graphics from any of the many industries that have adopted this ascendant technology (sign producers, graphics providers, commercial printers, photo labs, repro graphic shops, and more),

January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated


the goal is the same—to tap into the energy, profitability, and growth potential the technology provides. This article will guide you through several recent trends in the wide format graphics industry.

It’s important to remember that the printer makes only the print. Expanding your finishing and media options is what leads to new markets.

chase fulfills your current needs in suitability for the end product, speed, and quality—with room to grow in all of these areas. And don’t buy a Ferrari when all your business needs is probably a Ford. Save that money for other

purchases (like media and finishing capabilities). While there is much focus on inkjet printing technology among industry analysts, it’s important to not get so tied up in imaging equipment that you lose

Vehicle graphics is a product area frequently served by sign and graphics companies.


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

Photo: agfa graPhics.

With more than 250 different wide format inkjet devices on the market today, there is truly a machine for everyone—ranging from sub-$15,000 models that offer sign shops and others a cost-effective way to produce durable one-off and short-run graphics to $3,000,000+ super-flatbeds that possess the speed and capabilities needed to compete head-to-head with analog printing processes. So what should you pick? Virtually all of the machines that are available on the market today are capable of producing saleable, even beautiful prints. What the differences in cost get you are increased throughput, wider (or larger) print sizes, and more robust build quality. So do your research before you buy and make sure any machine you pur-

Photo: sgia.

Technology for Production

touch with a simple, but critically important concept: The printer makes only the print. It’s the finishing steps, materials, and technologies used that truly make that print into the intended end product. So whether you’re producing banners, stand-up displays, or vehicle wraps, you need to keep in mind that the print itself is the only commonality. In the spirit of this reality, one of the best ways to expand your wide format business is to expand your finishing capabilities, as finishing is a “multiplier” for potential end products. Media products have exploded over the past several years, leading to numerous choices both for those specifying the printing and those doing the production work. While media products can be seen as a multiplier of opportunity for sign and graphics producers, one particular challenge is inventory control. If you’re dealing with too few products, you may find yourself incapable of producing certain jobs because your material choices don’t allow you to “go there.” Conversely having too many products can lead to the chaos of a facility full of media that your employees have little experience with or to the expense of spoilage of products that were purchased for a singular job, then left on a shelf until thrown away. Again it’s important to do your research. Find your materials “sweet spot” and stick to it.

Photo: roland dga.

Where the Money is Made Here’s another simple truth: While it’s easy to understand our companies are in the graphics business or the sign business or the printing business, it’s often overlooked that we’re all really in the “making money” business. So it’s essential to understand where money is being made. According to one of SGIA’s recent survey reports, sign and graphics companies serve, on average, 7.9 market areas. Retail stores continue to be the top market area served by sign and graphics companies, followed by corporate branding, food services, and ad agencies. Interior decorators/designers/architects is the market seen as growing the most, and print for the trade is the market seen

Indoor graphics is a product area that is experiencing significant growth, and retail stores continue to be the top market here.

as declining the most. Beyond the surface of this data, I see that some companies are looking to supplement traditional graphics (images to convey a message) with decoration (embellishment to increase aesthetic appeal) as a way to move into producing mass customized products. We also found that sign and graphics companies serve, on average, 12.8 product areas. Banners, indoor wall graphics, and window displays are the product areas most served by sign and graphics companies, followed by point-of-sale and vehicle graphics. The product area seen as growing the most is indoor wall graphics, while the product seen as declining the most is billboards. What we learn from this data is that the variety of end products is vast. What separates them is usually the materials and finishing processes used. Truly those companies that master process/ material choices possess an advantage over the competition. While it’s tempting for any company to venture into new markets or product areas, it’s important to do your research first (I assume you’re noticing a theme in this article), then make your moves carefully. Any move you make must match the long-term goals of your sign or graphicsbusiness, and if it isn’t right or you

can’t do it well, then think twice before jumping in.

Looking Forward If there’s one strategy that I cannot stress enough, it’s to stay informed. You’re reading this article and this magazine, and that’s great. Consume as much industry knowledge as you can. If you’re interested in growing the wide format component of your business, then I recommend marking your calendar today to attend the SGIA Expo this fall (October 22-24, Las Vegas). This event is the place where you can see, learn about, and buy from the widest variety of choices and network with thousands of others who are doing the same. Dan Marx is vice president, Markets & Technologies, of the Specialty Graphics Imaging Association (SGIA). With SGIA, he works to raise awareness of the specialty graphics industry and helps printers and their customers identify and adopt new technologies and access lucrative market areas. In his more than twenty years at SGIA, Dan has presented at a variety of industry events and has served as an enthusiastic ambassador for innovative imaging technologies. If you’d like to contact Dan, he can be reached at

January 2014 // Sign Builder Illustrated



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Eppolito Signs of Medina, OH

All in the Family


s you read in this month’s feature, “The Log Cabin Sign” (page S14), Chris Eppolito is a third-generation sign maker with twenty years of industry experience. He relished the opportunity last year to reopen Eppolito Signs, the business that his late grandfather, Sam Eppolito, Sr., had started back around 1950. (Note: Chris’s father ran a sign shop in the ’90s as well.) Chris is experiencing the best of both worlds actually, as he has embraced the traditional sign tools that his grandfather and father had used during their days and modern sign-making equipment. In addition to hand-lettered signs and vehicles for his racecar and vintage automobile clients, Chris has expanded to routed dimensional signs, sandblasted wood signs, and sign restoration services. “We also offer full-color digital printing up to fifty-four inches wide,” he says, “as well as thermally printed die-cut decals and vehicle wraps.” The present-day incarnation of Eppolito Signs is located in a finished oversized garage/small barn. Chris has set up the shop in two parts: (1.) a “clean” room where all the designing, printing, and vinyl cutting takes place, and (2.) a large workshop area with woodworking equipment (table saw, chisel, drills, hand-held router, etc.) and several old-school sign benches. “We use a gaming computer for our graphics and printing, due to the fast processing and tons of RAM that let us have several design pro-

grams open all at once,” he says. Back when Sam Eppolito, Sr., started the business, it was a completely different sign-making landscape, as all signs were hand-painted. He had a painting kit (filled with brushes, rulers, charcoal pencils, snap lines, grease pencils, razor blades, etc.) that Chris still uses today. “Although I’ve added many new brushes to it in recent months,” he says, “I still use the lettering brushes my grandfather used back in the ’50s on many jobs.” Although his grandfather wasn’t around when plotters and digital printers started taking over the industry, according to Chris, he still knew that computers would someday replace old-time sign painters. “Back then, to be a sign-painter, you had to have talent,” he says. “But today, almost anyone create signs or lettering with a computer. “So I’ve found an advantage being a ‘sign painter’ who designs on the computer and produces signs with today’s technologies.” Chris is constantly looking for new ways to tell others about his shop. In addition to word of mouth and customer referrals, he uses Web advertising and local newspaper ads for marketing exposure. He also advertises on local community buses and posts his business cards in local diners and shops. And Chris is looking forward to continuing the Eppolito name into a fourth-generation, as his sons and daughter help out around his shop as well.

all Photos: ePPolito signs.

A blend of “today” and “yesterday.” Eppolito Signs was founded in 1950 by Sam Eppolito, Sr. (pictured, right).


Sign Builder Illustrated // January 2014

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Sign Builder Illustrated January 2014