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of Thumb

sELEcting Your Paint







Nu mbe r 210

Sponsored by Saw Trax

Num ber 210 | d ec em ber 2 0 1 2




Sign Bu i ld er i l luStr ated

Install Dynamic

Channel Letters > Monster Wrap

D e Ce mb e r 2 012

> Architectural > Polycarbonates

Photography by Greg Gorman Š 2012


Solvent printing haS never been faSter Introducing the SureColor® S-Series. With the all-new SureColor S-Series line of printers, Epson is ushering in a new era of performance, quality and reliability. Developed for high-performance printing and a low cost of ownership, this all-new suite of solvent printers delivers print speeds that are the fastest in their class and image quality that’s unmatched in the industry, at an unprecedented price. And, with three unique 64" models to choose from, including the SureColor S50670, there’s an S-Series printer that’s right for your business. Learn more about the way solvent printing should be at

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SureColor S70670


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*MSRP, before rebates. Please check with an EPSON Professional Imaging Authorized Reseller for actual price as dealer prices may vary. EPSON and SureColor are registered trademarks and EPSON Exceed Your Vision is a registered logomark of Seiko Epson Corporation. All other product and brand names are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective companies. Epson disclaims any and all rights in these marks. Copyright 2012 Epson America, Inc.

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December 2012






Channel Letter Counsel BY ASHLEY BRAY

Tips for ensuring a smooth channel letter install.

34 40 44

LED: The (Not-Glass) Illuminated Ceiling BY JEFF WOOTEN

LED lighting transforms a second-floor event space into a color-changing experience.

Forecasting Neon BY ADAM BROWN

Predictions for the future of neon signs.


Structural adhesives increase design flexibility in sign making.

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, 345 Hudson Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10014. Printed in the U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and Additional mailing offices. Pricing, Qualified individual working in the sign industry may request a free subscription. Non-qualified subscriptions printed or digital version: 1 year US $105.00; foreign $197.00; foreign, air mail $297.00. 2 years US $149.00; foreign $267.00; foreign, air mail $497.00. BOTH Print & Digital Versions: 1 year US $158.00; foreign $296.00; foreign, air mail $396.00. 2 years US $224.00; foreign $400.00; foreign, air mail $600.00. Single copies are $36.00 ea. Subscriptions must be paid for in U.S. funds only. Copyright Š Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2012. All rights reserved. Contents may not be


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012


A Monster Wrap Job BY JEFF WOOTEN

A larger-than-life design for a big-time truck.

Sounding the Alarm BY LORI SHRIDHARE

Maximizing emergency vehicle graphics.


Getting Durable with Polycarbonates BY JEFF WOOTEN

Easy answers for this tough material.

reproduced without permission. For reprint information contact: Art 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 10, Omaha, NE 68101-0010. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 10, Omaha, NE 68101-0010. 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.


How-To Columns


Rules of Thumb: LED & Letters


FEBRUARY 2013 February 21-23: Dscoop, an independent global community of graphic arts business owners and technical professionals who use HP equipment and related solutions, will be conducted at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. ( February 21-23: The 2013 Graphics of the Americas event will take place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (

Brush Up on Picking Sign Paints

18 Rules of Thumb: LED & Letters BY PETER PERSZYK

Tips for getting your LED lighting uniform in channel letter applications.

22 Brush Up on Picking Sign Paints BY MIKE ANTONIAK

Paint bigger profit strokes using the right coating solutions.

Departments 6




Editor Jeff Wooten gets cutting-edge advice for using a panel saw in the sign shop.

The latest news from around the industry.


Sign Show


SBI Marketplace


Shop Talk

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade. LED RULES


of Thumb







NU M BE R 21 0 | D ECE M BE R 2 012



Ashley Bray profiles a sign shop that has its business model wrapped up.



Install Dynamic

Channel Letters > Monster Wrap



> Architectural > Polycarbonates

February 26-28: The tenth annual Digital Signage Expo速 2013, co-located with the Interactive Technology Expo and Digital Content Show, is scheduled for the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas. (

MARCH 2013 March 26: The IPAF Summit Conference, combining education and networking opportunities as well as celebrating excellence in the access industry, will be held at the Hilton Miami Downtown Hotel in Miami, Florida. (

On the Cover The Time-Warner Cable logo is transformed into channel letter signage, in this photo provided by Central Graphics of Cuyahoga, Ohio.

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

Capture new markets... ...with creative print solutions. Components for growth now lie in the ability to offer creative and customized applications – from indoor/outdoor signage to fashions to vehicle wraps to promotional items. Mimaki’s full range of competitively priced printers, cutters, software and ink options produce vivid, eye-catching images on an ever expanding variety of media. Let Mimaki broaden your service portfolio by giving you a distinctive edge for capturing new print markets.

Capture new markets with:

• Outdoor signage • Event & exhibit graphics • Vehicle wraps • Interior decor • Retail POP

Engineered with Mimaki’s Green Technology, the JV400LX utilizes the latest in latex ink formulation. u Features the industry’s only WHITE latex ink. u Low heat ink curing with no special electrical setup or installation. u Mimaki’s newest RIP – RasterLink6 – for ease of job setup and faster production.

Capture new markets with:

Capture new markets with:

• Retail banners • Soft signage • Interior decor • Banners & flags • Sportswear applications

• Promotionals • Indoor signage • ID badges • Plaques, awards, trophies • Electronics covers

A wide 74” sublimation printer designed specifically for the transfer dye-sublimation market. This high speed printer is engineered to give you a productive edge on the competition.

A versatile tabletop sized, multi-tasking UV LED flatbed printer that is ideal for one-offs, short run production and direct printing on actual items.

u High speed – 345 sqft/hr in 4-color mode. An optional front drying fan attchment shortens drying time for continuous take-up. u Newly developed piezo print heads configured in a dual staggered arrangement for wider printing coverage.

u Prints on heat-sensitive and non-coated materials up to 5.9" thick; 11.8" x 16.5" max. u NEW expanded inks sets with low VOC flexible LF-140 & LF-200 and hard LH-100 UV inks. u White and a new Primer ink underprinting capability along with Clear ink over-printing.

Focused on solutions.

u Mimaki’s Uninterrupted Ink Supply System ensures continuous ink supply. u Optional: Mimaki bulk ink system comprised of 2L ink packs for lower ink costs.

Listen. Connect. Deliver. 888-530-3985 LA 888-530-3987






© 2012 Mimaki USA, Inc.


by jeff wooten

December 2012, Vol. 26, No. 210 Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

A Panel About Panel Saws

executive offices

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

Cutting-edge advice for using a panel saw in your sign shop.


he Sign Builder Illustrated experience extends beyond the printed page. You can visit our Web site ( for additional breaking news items, special interactive surveys, and expanded versions of select features appearing in our magazine. We also upload original articles there as well. For example, I’d like to preview one that just went “live”—a piece that features interviews with several panel saw manufacturers about their advice for setting up and operating their machinery (“A Panel About Panel Saws”). Vertical panel saws allow shops to be able to cut a large variety of sign blanks safely, easily, and accurately. But it takes operational know-how to achieve all three of these adverbs. Here’s just some of the information you’ll find in this online piece: n On the shop floor, it’s important that you have adequate open space around the panel saws to handle material going in and coming out. For example, if you’re going to be ripcutting materials (cutting parallel to the wood grain), Michael Della Polla, president of Saw Trax ( advises, “Whether using a compact or full-size machine, you’re still going to need the same amount of room (eight feet) around the machine.” n Because dust will inevitably be created when using a vertical panel saw, Della Polla stresses to keep the panel saw away from equipment that’s dust-sensitive, like a digital inkjet printer. “Ideally you’d like your machine in a place near the


345 Hudson Street, 12th floor New York, NY 10014 212/620-7247; fax: 212/633-1863 editorial editor

Jeff Wooten

323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 252/355-5806; fax: 252/355-5690 associate editor

Ashley Bray

stored full sheets,” he suggests. “This will make getting material on the machine much easier.” n Dan Wiggin, owner and president of Hendrick Manufacturing (, adds that the panel saw needs to be in a space with adequate lighting. “Also keep it in an area that’s near the power outlet, so no one will trip over or run over cords,” he says. “Avoid high traffic areas to prevent any problems with people or forklift trucks bumping into the machine.” n Lots of sign substrates can be cut with a vertical panel saw. “The limitation is that the material has to be rigid enough to stand up on the frame, so a really thin material can be difficult to cut,” says Steve Sheetz, sales representative at Safety Speed Manufacturing (www.safetyspeed. com). “So if it’s under 3-mil, it’ll want to buckle a little bit as you pull the saw down.” In this month’s issue, we have an article about polycarbonate (p. 58), and yes, this durable, impact-resistant substrate can be cut with a panel saw. Use the proper tooling, and you can avoid chipping the edges when cutting it. Tom Houska, marketing director at Safety Speed Manufacturing, shares, “An eight-inchdiameter 200-tooth hollow ground steel blade works very well for cutting polycarbonate sheets. Blades with a smaller tooth count (4060) will tend to grab the material and leave an undesirable cutting edge.” These are just a few of the tips presented. If you’re interested in vertical panel saws, hopefully this article will “cut” into any questions you might have.

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

345 Hudson Street, 12th Floor New York, NY 10014 401/722-5919; fax: 212/633-1863 contributing writers

Butch “superfrog” Anton, Mike Antoniak, Adam Brown, Jim hingst, Anita laFond, Peter Perszyk, Mark roberts, lori shridhare, randy Wright art

Corporate Art Director Wendy Williams Associate Art Director Phil Desiere production

Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers circulation

Circulation Director Maureen Cooney advertising sales east coast regional 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 Art Sutley 345 Hudson St 12 Floor New York, NY 10014 212/620-7247; fax: 212/633-1863 Circulation Dept. 800/895-4389


a mouth-watering

Denver, Colorado—Colorado Signs & Graphics ( recently completed a pretty sweet wrap. The full wrap was installed on a food truck for Reetz Treats, a company that sells pre-baked goodies out of its mobile food truck. The owner was looking to transform his green food truck with a wrap that resembled his company’s product box. “They were not having much luck trying to sell food out of a ‘hospital green’ colored van,” says Adam Rego, owner of Colorado Signs. Lead Designer Steve Green used Adobe Illustrator to create a design that matched Reetz Treats’ packaging box and bow (pictured, left). But there was a catch. Reetz Treats wanted its wrap to stick out from the other food trucks that parked downtown. “While parked, Reetz Treats saw wraps that other companies did. They were less than impressed because of the amount of seams in them,” says Rego. “We were ordered to do a seamless wrap; that in itself was a big pain for a vehicle this size.” Before undertaking the install, Colorado Signs printed out the wrap onto 3M™ Controltac™ Graphic Film with Comply™ Adhesive IJ180Cv3 and 3M™ Scotchcal™ Gloss Overlaminate 8518 using its HP Latex printer. (Note: The company also works with Oracal films for lots of projects, as well.)


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

all photos courtesy of colorado signs & graphics.



With the wrap printed, lead installer Ken Wilkerson and Rego worked on the install for a day and a half. Some of the most challenging parts were the caulked seams of the truck (which didn’t readily accept vinyl) and the large bar running around the middle of the truck. “We’ve found that bridging, then heating, and ‘stretching in’ doesn't work very well,” says Rego. “When we wrap, we wrap into the channel; this results in less popping. That’s how we dealt with the bar.” The two installers completed the entire wrap and then went back to trim and tuck. “It causes you to take your time in trimming, which results in a cleaner and much faster wrap,” says Rego. Reetz Treats has received a boost in sales since taking to the streets in its newly wrapped truck. —Ashley Bray

photo courtesy of dave forrest.

before the wrap.

Bristol, Pennsylvania—The United States Sign Council Foundation has announced commencement of a brand-new $160,000 lighting level study for on-premise LED electronic message centers (EMC). The research will be conducted at the Larson Transportation Institute of Pennsylvania State University. The goal of this research is to determine the maximum lighting level (luminance) for LED EMC signs, in order to ensure adequate sign and letter legibility from the perspective of the motorist. A single luminance value for nighttime and daytime will be established as the very outside maximum level for LED EMC signs, beyond which it will be recommended that LED EMC signs should not operate. The research will be approached from the viewpoint of traffic safety, and it coordinates with previous on-premise sign research that the Foundation has conducted. The final recommendations (based on the research) will be simple to understand and will apply to real world applications. The expected date of completion for this United States Sign Council Foundation study is late spring of 2013.

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Dispatches +

photo courtesy of acorn sign graphics.

Richmond, Virginia—The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED credit library has introduced iconography with graphics for over 300 individual icons that were developed by architectural signage designer and fabricator Acorn Sign Graphics ( of Richmond, Virginia. The icons are available for free to use on signage and materials pertaining to LEED credits. Anyone choosing to display informational signage highlighting green features of their LEED-certified projects may incorporate the icons as a graphic element—adding visual interest, quick recognition, and reinforcement of the ways to achieve environmental stewardship. Icons correspond to every criteria in each credit category of all LEED rating systems. Visual icons are available for water efficiency, green infrastructure and buildings, environment quality, energy and atmosphere, sustainable sites, plus additional categories. “Environmental graphic design is all about storytelling, and [we are] deeply involved in supporting green building and helping to tell the LEED story by expanding LEED’s visual vocabulary with iconography,” said Beth Gillispie, president of Acorn Graphics. You can download the iconography in PDF format at https://


photos courtesy of outcast kustoms.

LEED Icons

Outcast Kustoms Wraps Up Season One Mooresville, Nor th Carolina—The Discovery Channel’s Velocity Network is airing the first season of big rig customization shop Outcast Kustoms’ ( self-titled TV series. Kelvin and April Locklear are the shop owners and stars of the show. Fans of the series know that Outcast Kustoms’ biggest project this first season turned out to be a thirty-eight-foot-long RV wrapped inside and out for the Bristol Motor Speedway that creates the ultimate fan experience. To begin the RV’s transformation, Outcast Kustoms sent initial designs for the wrap graphics to the marketing team at Bristol Motor Speedway. The two groups went back and forth for three weeks, discussing a total of thirty-eight unique designs before settling on photographs of actual races. “The key to it all was trying to make the graphics flow from one element to the next,” said April. Outcast Kustoms had a total of seven weeks to complete the project—as Kelvin described it, “The world’s fastest restoration for the world’s fastest track.” April did manage to convince the Bristol marketing team to unveil the wrapped RV at their track’s first race of the season instead of the earlier Daytona 500 in Florida, which brought some extra time. The graphics were designed in Adobe

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

Photoshop and Illustrator and output to the Roland SOLJET XC-540MT 54-inch printer/cutter with metallic ink through VersaWorks RIP software. Wrapping the RV inside and out used slightly more than two full rolls of material, and Outcast Kustoms ran their SOLJET MT for thirty-six hours straight and installed as they printed. To make their deadline, four people installed graphics inside the RV while four more installed the exterior graphics. “We were still doing the final interior installation as we were driving to the Speedway,” said April. The first thing visitors see as they enter the RV is a replica of the Speedway’s flag stand. The kitchen area is wrapped to look like a team pit box. Along the back wall of the interior is a nostalgia collage with photos from years of racing at Bristol Motor Speedway. The interior walls are edged with glass sets containing printed photos of Bristol race season winners. There are also graphics representing drag strip towers. The graphics on the RV’s exterior highlight the history of Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway, including images of the track during the day and at night. The finished vehicle was revealed at the Track’s fan event and continues to be a showpiece for the venue.


references seen here

Providing sign media fabric for applications seen pretty much anywhere. Digitally Printable Awning Fabrics: Weathertyte®, Weathertyte® Lite, Herculite® Natura™. Digital Media Fabrics: Sunbrella® Inkjet White, Vivitex™ Collection, Ferrari® Sign Media, Dickson® Jet 210 and Jet Tex, Bantex®, Main Street® Digital Plus. Backlit Fabrics: Cool Glo™/NorthStar®, Eradi-Lite®, Nite-Lite®, Cooley-Brite®, Cooley-Brite® Lite, Signmaster® Supreme.

SignSHOW AW N I N G S & V I N Y L - COAT E D FA B R I C S Roland Releases Three New Inkjet-printable Media for Fabric and Wall Décor Applications Further expanding the range of creative options available to users of its advanced large format printers, Roland DGA Corp., has added three new products to its extensive lineup of certified media. SoftSign Woven Polyester™ is composed of 100 percent polyester, is specially coated for eco-solvent printers, and is ideal for a variety of applications (banners, P-O-P, shortterm outdoor signage, and tradeshow graphics). Fire-retardant WallFlair™ Removable Fabric is a 6.7-mil 150-by-150 denier fabric with an adhesive back and is an excellent choice for enhancing indoor walls in office, retail, or residential settings with colorful, vibrant graphics and effects. WallFlair™ Removable Vinyl is a 6-mil matte, calendered, fire-retardant vinyl with acrylic, pressure-sensitive, ultra-removable adhesive, specially designed for retail locations and home décor wall graphic applications. All of Roland DGA’s new media products are profiled for VersaWorks RIP software and made for use with Roland’s advanced Eco-Sol MAX and Eco-Sol MAX 2 inks. 800/542-2307;

CUTTERS/PLOTTERS Epson Enters the Large Format Technical Printing Market with the Groundbreaking SureColor T-Series Epson America unveils its new line of large format color plotters designed to meet the requirements of today’s architects, engineers, and GIS professionals—the Epson® SureColor® T3000 (24-inch), T5000 (36-inch), and T7000 (44-inch). Built from the ground up using all-Epson engineering, the Epson SureColor T-Series delivers extreme line accuracy with resolutions up to 2880-by-1440 dpi at some of the fastest speeds in its class (producing a presentation-quality D-size plot in as little as 25 seconds and up to 110 per hour). For added performance, the SureColor T-Series plotters feature an output stacking basket that organizes up to twenty A1/D- or A0/E-sized plain paper plots for quick retrieval and to reduce sorting time. The SureColor T-Series also features Epson’s latest ink technology, Epson UltraChrome XD pigment ink, delivering crisp lines, brilliant color, and photographic quality on virtually any paper type for accurate prints that are truly archival and extremely smudge- and water-resistant. An internal 250GB hard drive releases workstations for unattended plotting and features a web server for print queue management and printer maintenance.

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 FUJIFILM Lets You Do More with the Versatile Acuity Advance Select Printer FUJIFILM North America Corporation has introduced the latest addition to its Acuity wide format UV inkjet family of printers, the Acuity® Advance Select. The new printer builds on all of the advantages of the Acuity Advance platform, with a few new features. In addition to the standard CMYK ink set, the Acuity® Advance Select printer also includes clear and white ink, for a possible eight independent ink channels. The ink can be configured in a number of ways: clear + white, white + white, and two configurations for laying down additional cyan and magenta ink. In addition to the flatbed, Acuity Advance Select has an optional roll media kit for flexible materials. The printer also features additional vacuum zones for more complex jobs or those that require multiple sets of prints.

The New High-speed UV LED Flatbed JFX500-2131 from Mimaki Mimaki USA announces the availability of the JFX500-2131 large format UV LED flatbed inkjet printer. With a maximum speed of 645 square feet per hour, the JFX500-2131 offers a newly developed printhead, UV ink, and advanced UV LED curing features. The printer also features new LUS-150 high-speed UV ink, with ink circulation, ecology, and economy with the application of white ink as well as an ink degassing module that enhances inkjet-ability and reduces ink costs. Also included are a nozzle recovery function, reverse print function, and layout pins. MAPs (a newly equipped mask pattern that effectively reduces bandings) and Raster Link 6 software RIP also come with the new printer. 678/730-0100;

Océ Arizona 480 UV Flatbed Printers Offer Improved Productivity and Efficiency Equipped with the same Océ VariaDot® imaging technology as in every Océ Arizona printer, the new Océ Arizona® 480 GT and Océ Arizona 480 XT printers from Océ, a Canon Group Company, feature application versatility and improved productivity while maintaining uncompromising quality. New features include: Eight independent ink channels with support for varnish or double-opacity white ink printing (including additional cyan and magenta channels for higher print quality at faster speeds); active pixel placement compensation for optimum image sharpness, density, and uniformity over the entire printing area (both flatbed or across the Roll Media Option); a precise vacuum system configured to match the majority of standard-sized graphic arts media; and batch mode operation for streamlining multi-layered jobs or facilitating set collation. The Océ Arizona 480 GT printer has a standard table size of 49.2-by-98.4 inches, while the Océ Arizona 480 XT printer offers a 98.4-by-120-inch table size. Both models can print on rigid media up to two inches thick.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

SignSHOW L A M I N AT I N G E Q U I PM E N T/ S U P P L I E S Do You Hate Your Laminator? What if it was Designed by a Sign Maker Instead? Ezy Taper® is everything a sign business could want! This device really was designed from scratch for the sign industry by a sign fabricator, Warrick Pye, who was unhappy with his laminators. If you buy an Ezy Taper, you will end up with more than you bargained for: You will get a laminator plus a print mounter, a transfer tape applicator, a background coater, and more—all for the price of one! What’s more is that the Ezy Taper does it all with no bubbles, no stretching, and no misalignment! Anything that will fit between its rollers can be stuck together (or even taken apart). The superfast Ezy Taper is also capable of laying film over uneven surfaces such as rivets. To make the deal even sweeter, Ezy Taper requires only a single operator.

ILFORD Introduces Two New Wide Format Innovations ILFORD has released two new products: ILFORD OMNIJET Trans and ILFORD OMNIJET NanoSolvent. ILFORD OMNIJET Trans is an inkjet alternative to traditional backlit silver halide products and has been developed for use with all wide format aqueous printers. It produces impeccable image quality even in dense black areas and skin tones and is perfectly adapted for use in the latest generation of backlit display devices. The new material also leaves a smaller environmental footprint by eliminating wet chemical processing. ILFORD OMNIJET NanoSolvent is a unique new layer offering that increases productivity with solvent and eco-solvent printing. The layer offers a very fast printing and drying speed, enabling print service providers to laminate quickly and avoid ink transfer when the material is rolled up. The layer will be coated onto a variety of PVC-free substrates, and ILFORD OMNIJET NanoSolvent versions of the FSC (C107238)certified and PEFC-certified OMNIJET photo papers will also be available.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

ClearShield Coating Sample Kits are Now Available from Marabu Marabu North America offers customers two new sample kits of its ClearShield liquid laminates: the ClearShield Original and the ClearShield Type C for canvas. The ClearShield Original Sample Kit includes eight-ounce bottles of ClearShield Original in both Gloss and Matte finishes, a roller and tray for application, and coated and uncoated vinyl samples for comparison and practice. In addition, application fluids Graffix Gone, Window Juice, and Action Tac are also included. The ClearShield Type C kit includes specifically formulated samples of this laminate for use with canvas, as well as eight-ounce bottles of ClearShield Type C in both Gloss and Satin finishes, a roller with a tray, and canvas samples. ClearShield coatings are an inexpensive way to protect a myriad of products. They feature the most current innovations in UV absorbers and light stabilizers, are extremely easy to apply, and do not require extensive equipment. 888/253-2778;

LIGHTING EQUIPMENT Get Your Sign Lighting from the Sign Bracket Store With the days getting shorter, it’s time to help your customers to see the light! In the winter, an unlit sign only works for half of the day. The good news is that The Sign Bracket Store has a number of lighting solutions to help you increase the visibility of your customers’ signage while creating a greater perceived and practical value for that sign. The company offers gooseneck, spotlight, and fluorescent bar lights for a wide variety of applications. They can even incorporate light fixtures into their sign brackets. So when creating your next sign, do not forget to turn on the lights!

Thrilling performance.

Unbeatable value. "Our VersaCAMM runs 20 hours a day without any issues. The print and cut feature is awesome, and the metallic and white inks give us a range of additional money-making capabilities in our motosports industry." Jace Wade, Impulse Design Company Now you can get a VS at its best value ever! VS-540 Now just $19,995

VS-640 Now just $23,995

SAVE $3,000 SAVE $4,000

For details and a free print sample, visit Wrap graphics printed and cut on a VS printer/cutter. 64”, 54” and 30” models available.

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


SignSHOW S O F T WA R E - P R I N T/C U T/ R I P/ R O U T E / E N G R AV E / E ST I M AT I N G Be Even More of a Pro with SAi’s FlexiSIGN-PRO SA International (SAi) has announced the availability of FlexiSIGN-PRO, its latest member of FlexiFAMILY sign-making software. SAi’s FlexiFAMILY includes a full line of products from simple text layout and vinyl cutting to high-production features with cutting and printing tools, and FlexiSIGN-PRO is SAi’s total solution for designing and outputting vinyl and digital print graphics. With more than 400 ICC Output Profiles and built-in direct drivers, the software offers a complete set of designing, cutting, RIPing, and printing tools to maximize productivity. Via an easy-to-use interface, FlexiSIGN-PRO enables users to improve throughput with rapid clean-up of colored or grayscale bitmap artwork thanks to powerful vectorization and cleanup tools. This efficiency is further enhanced with the ability to quickly and accurately create decals within the industry’s easiest print-and-cut workflow for hybrids or virtual hybrid printer/cutter combinations.

VINYL/VINYL FILMS/SUPPLIES MACtac® Takes You There with GlassMovie™ Rear-Projection Film MACtac® Graphic Products has introduced GlassMovie™ GM090P, a pressure-sensitive screen vinyl that acts as a rear-projection screen with excellent resolution under all brightness levels (from day or night to indoors or outdoors). The 5.9-mil translucent grey vinyl has a high-quality, permanent, solvent, acrylic adhesive with a high cohesive strength for long-term durability. The material can be digitally printed and plotter cut into any shape for use in touchscreen and virtual presenter applications. GlassMovie can be used in places where bulky monitors typically will not fit, and it offers a wide viewing angle of up to 100 degrees with excellent viewing from both the rear and the front. 866/622-8223;

Tri-Mod LED Backlighting Panels • A great way to backlight your graphics, posters and promotional messages • Evenly illuminates without any hot spots • Just 1/16” thick • Less than 1” of installation depth required • Panels are pre-wired and simply clip together



Barrel Lengths from 1/2” – 6” Diameters from 1/2” – 1-1/2”

Go to 2012 Web Pages 96-102


1” Diameter Barrel Unbeatable Part #


STDE-3224- * 3/4” STDE-3232- * 1” STDE-3248- * 1-1/2” STDE-3264- * 2” STDE-3296- * 3” STDE-32128- * 4” STDE-32192- * 6”


$1.60 ea. $2.02 ea. $2.22 ea. $2.42 ea. $2.92 ea. $3.33 ea. $4.00 ea.

Finishes Available: Polished Chrome Brushed Stainless Satin Copper matt Chrome Polished Chrome Black Nickel Satin Stainless Brushed Brass INQUIRE, AS FINIShES vARy * PLEASE FROm STyLE TO STyLE

PrEMIUM STEEL SErIES P SEr S rIES f Tamper Proo 3/4” Diameter Barrel Part # Length Price STD-24243/4” $6.55 ea. STD-2432- * 1” $6.85 ea. STD-2448- * 1-1/2” $7.60 ea. STD-24128-** 4” $10.25 ea.

Lowest Prices... Widest Selection... All From Stock! Serving the Industry Since 1972 FrEE 1,000 Page catalog!


Go to 2012 Web Pages 479-481

Best Prices in the Industry!

Greatest Variety of

Standoffs for Signage & Display

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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

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3M Commercial Graphics is Helping Graphics Providers and Sign Builders Embrace the Future New 3M™ Envision™ Translucent Films and 3M™ Envision™ Diffuser Films are industry breakthroughs—the first graphic films optimized for use with LEDs—letting graphics manufacturers achieve maximum sign face brightness while requiring fewer light sources. 3M Envision Translucent and Diffuser Films will help you create richly colored backlit signs with even sign illumination and no hot spots. Using these films, shops can achieve the same level of brightness with fewer LEDs, reducing material and maintenance costs while providing the great look that customers expect. Alternately graphics manufacturers can keep the same number of LEDs and increase a sign’s brightness even more. With the following films, shops have appealing new choices to create the looks they want: 3M Envision Translucent Film Series 3730; 3M Envision Translucent Film IJ3730-50, IJ3730-60; and 3M Envision Diffuser Film 3735-50, 3735-60. While specially optimized for use with LEDs, these new diffusers and translucent films are also compatible with fluorescent lights and will allow any backlit sign to look its best. The translucent films are available in several standard colors, custom colors, and as an inkjet printable film (offering an increased number of construction options).

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

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated



By Peter Perszyk


RULES OF THUMB: LED & LEttErs Tips for getting your LED lighting uniform in channel letter applications.


or those sign companies working on channel letters (but with limited electrical resources), LED illumination has become quite a nice component to rely on. After all, these chains of tiny lights are easy to buy, stock, and wire. However they’re not exactly 100 percent foolproof (Photo 1). Their lower operating voltage appears to have given rise to an air of LED “safety” that’s blended with LED complacency. An LED rule of thumb (or four) may be in order here. Rule of Thumb #1: Make sure the LED modules/strips remain in place. Sometimes it’s quite simple to spot letters sporting LED lights these days; unfortunately at times, this is because the modules have fallen away from the backing and landed against the return or the letter face (Photo 2). Ironically this makes it appear the longevity of the mounting adhesive may not match the touted longevity of the illuminating diodes.

The use of adhesives is nothing new in the sign industry. What still appears to be an undocumented frontier is their life expectancy. In the past, testing agencies (UL, for example) would require a specific adhesive or accelerated testing to confirm the product’s functionality in the desired application. In one non-LED example I once experienced, we never found an accepted “off the shelf” adhesive and ended up having to use mechanical fasteners. The size of the letter is also an important consideration in LED placement. Whereas letter size was long dictated by the size of the internal electrode housings and prescribed bend backs when using neon, LED channel letter illumination allows for smaller and thinner letters. Now the letter stroke and return size can be based on design as much as lighting requirements. The caveat though remains uniformity—and spacing is a requirement for uniform illumination. Since the strips of lights or chains of modules are not linear light, the dog needs to learn a few new tricks.



Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012


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Some LED ribbons are created with the diodes at 90 degrees to the strip. These are specifically intended to apply to the inside of a letter return and face the wall (Photo 3). A great solution here is to place the lighting outside the supports or wrap them around the perimeter of the letter return. Sure there are always going to be some shadows, but it is a nice form of illumination. LED Rule of Thumb #2. Use enough lamps. A sufficient number of LED strips is the key to even lighting. It’s important to combine spacing of the LEDs (tighter if they’re at close range) with adequate distance from the surface the light is reflecting from (Photo 4). Is LED lighting intended to look like a Singer® sewing machine stitched it out around the shape? Look at Photo 5, for example. Warm red combines in the center openings where they got it right (a sufficient number of diodes in a compact area). However in the lower perimeter, the hot spots can be counted in dots and dashes a la Morse code. One easy solution to the problem of uniformity is to hold back on the lighting (especially with an intense color like red). Use more lower power lamps and/or tighter spacing of diffused lamps. A shorter stand-off dimension can intensify the illumination, as well, if the spacing/location is good. The spread of light is very small around the letter shape, yet it’s intense. Combined with the thinness available in an LEDilluminated letter, you can create a 3D reverse-lit channel letter than can be read in a wide field of view (something traditional deep-return channel letters fail at). Keep in mind that the standard for channel letter illumination is a neon tube, which is linear. Even more importantly, it radiates 360 degrees around its surface, giving the internal reflected light even dispersion. This is not a quality attached to LED lamps. However this shortcoming can be counteracted by facing the diode strips across the letter face or even into the letter. The channel letter has a normal white interior, so the illumination will ooze out as a softer glow. Having a set of letter backs on a line of channel letters can also emulate the light uniformity of classic neon.

LED Rule of Thumb #3: What you shine perimeter of the cabinet. the lights through creates the glow. The subtle glow of reverse-lit channel LED Rule of Thumb #4: Understand letters retains an understated elegance specular reflection. Some of the in the electric sign pallet. Remove that less desirable examples of LED-illulinear neon light and replace it with what minated channel letters (especially functions as intense spot lights and the reverse halo glow) aren’t the fault of recipe changes entirely. Here are some the lamps but rather the surfaces the letters are mounted to. things to consider. With the linear line of light neon When using white LED modules behind a plex face, smooth them out produces, the chance of seeing a dis(Photo 6). The perimeter of the backing tinct reflected spot isn’t a concern; plex shows some of the hot spots (which modules, on the other hand, can be a identifies the location of the LEDs), but very different story (Photo 8). If there’s a texture or variation to the it also adds a dimension to the light and mounting surface, you’re in luck. The softens the transition. An even better solution is the double specular gives way to diffuse reflection whammy of plex face topped with white by the nature of the substance. While Photo 9 shows the twin red vinyl (Photo 7). The vinyl industry offers materials specifically designed to diffuse LEDs reflecting back like the eyes of a Jawa, the light is produced in interestthe light. It should be noted that there are several ing feathered blotches, tangent to the styles of LED lamps created for the sign letter shape and fanned out across a industry that feature additional covers or speckled surface. Is it uniformly smooth? No. But it lenses over the basic LED. This helps to disperse the bright point of LED illumi- works because of the smooth curved letnation. Some of these are used as replace- ter shape and the way the LED produces the light on the background. ments for fluorescent tubes around the Justin 4.56x4.875 Justin Sign_Jan2012:4.56x4.875 Sign_Dec06 2/7/12 8:54 AM Page 1



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December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated



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Brush Up on Picking Sign Paints

Paint bigger profit strokes using the right coating

properly transforms panels and boards into eye-catching signage. “One of the biggest problems many people in the sign industry run into is that they’re working with so many more substrates than they were years ago,” notes Dennis Doran, vice president of sales for Ronan Paints (, a century-old company specializing in solvent and water-based primers, paints, and protective coatings. “You have to make sure you properly prepare that surface and then use the correct primer that’s going to work with the paint to achieve the desired effect.”

all photos courtesy of diaz sign art (



efore you reach for that that paint brush or sprayer, it might be a good idea to first confer with your paint suppliers. When it comes to coating signs, there are no blanket solutions, nor any magic brand or product for all your needs. Rather it’s the project and its goal that determine the right choices—whether you’re detailing a truck, handlettering a hanging shingle, or matching colors for corporate signs installed in a lobby. It’s the paint producers’ responsibility to know and advise which of their coatings will


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

Suppliers are your best source of information on all the latest paints and coatings, which continually have their formulations updated to keep pace with the changing requirements of the marketplace. “Tell us what substrate you plan to work with and what the goals are and listen to our advice,” suggests Doran. David Bly, technical and training manager of sign finishes for international coatings supplier AkzoNobel ( says that “working backward” is the key to choosing the right paint or coating for the job. “Know your end game,” he suggests. “Ask yourself: What are you trying to accomplish? Where’s the sign’s going? What are your customer’s expectations in terms of how long it lasts? “Give us that information, and then we can recommend the right system and process.” In addition to color, project parameters that all influence choices in the primer, paint, and protective coatings include: n The substrate used; n Whether the sign will be installed indoors or outdoors; n Weather exposure (where applicable); n Viewing distance; and n The client’s budget. Bly says determining the right paint or coating system depends on “three Ps:” People—the customer, their requirements, and their expectations; Process—where and how the sign will be primed and painted; and Products—pigments, solvents, toners, binders, and the material or substrate that will serve as the sign. There’s a paint for every project— within reasonable expectations. “If [customers] expect you to redo a sign for them that’s already been installed out in the open, they need to understand that could impact the quality,” observes Bly. “And when they want a perfect sign, for all their requirements, you’ll have to make sure that they understand the cost and that they’re willing to pay for it.” Part of his company’s goal is to make product selection easier for sign painters by providing them with a single integrated system of paints, primers, and coatings that can be combined and adapted to a broad variety of projects and

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December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


strates. “Users can take a toner and mix a color, blend it with the binder (which is also a base coat), and then add a urethane coating for the desired finish,” says Bly. “It makes painting easier and much faster and puts the sign producer in complete control.”

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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

ter Millar. Since the finished sign reflects first on the company providing it and then on the supplier of materials used, Millar suggests that sign makers approach their paint supplier as a working partner with a vested interest in any project. “As a supplier, I need to know what they sold the customer, what look they want, and what their expectations are in terms of how long that sign should last,” he says. “Based on those expectations, we can determine what needs to be done and the right coatings for that job.” Often the production environment also needs to be evaluated to ensure the best results. Both Bly and Millar point out that the spray equipment used, its age, and the work environment varies from company to company and impacts the quality of the results. Local climate conditions also add such variables as humidity, temperature, and exposure to the elements (which affect drying time, color retention, and durability). As much as sign providers might wish there was a single paint for all their needs, each project can require a specific mix of products and procedures. Over time, those who specialize in particular types of signage do develop a system of their own, with personal preferences in methods and materials to complete their work most efficiently without compromising quality or durability. A bit of trial and error will always be part of developing that system, as manufacturers continue to expand and update their paint catalogs. “None of these suppliers has bad coatings; everybody does deliver good, quality products,” says Millar. “But that doesn’t mean any one paint is going to be right for you, in your setting, and for your projects. “If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try something else until you find the paints that are right for you.” Everyone starts out wanting the best of everything, but many times, it trickles down to what’s affordable. “Painting a sign is more labor-intensive than any other parts of the sign industry, but it’s also an area where you can reduce costs, if approached correctly,” says Millar. “The selection of paint and related processes can make that difference. “When you can find a way to produce more throughput, that’s going to reduce costs and increase profits.”

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Channel Letter Counsel


nstalling channel letters has become a typical job in many sign shops, but that doesn’t mean shops still can’t learn new techniques here. Sign installers and suppliers offer some advice on the best ways to get letters to the job site and in place. Proper Preparation Whether this is a shop’s one hundredth channel letter install or its first, there are some things to always check on before heading out to the site.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

Photos courtesy of central graPhics.

Tips for ensuring a smooth channel letter install.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////Channel Letters / By Ashley BrAy

Make sure you know what you’re going to run into upfront.

— Michael McClure, Arrow Sign Company

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated



Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

Photos courtesy of (toP & bottom) central graPhics; (middle) direct sign wholesale.

When transporting channel letters, avoid damage by packaging the letters in bubble wrap, cardboard, and plastic shrink wrap. Taking the necessary time to ensure proper packaging prevents the letters from shifting in transit and becoming marred.

And that preparation begins as early as the initial site survey and the bidding process. “It is all about the survey and being prepared from the start. What is the substrate? What are the landlord specifications? Are you talking about a flush mount or a raceway mount?” says John Lewis, president of Direct Sign Wholesale in Denver, Colorado (www. “What is the substrate and how thick is it? Is there crawl space?” Those questions, along with what type of access and power is available, are important ones to answer before quoting or bidding on a job. Oftentimes landing a job or making a profit from one a shop already has acquired comes down to price. Properly assessing the time and labor needed for a job and how that translates into a price will get a shop started off right. “The mistakes that are usually made here are in the bidding process, not necessarily in the installation,” says Lewis. “If you do not account for enough time for the install, you can lose money real fast on a channel letter job.” Site inspections should also include a look at the entire area. “Installers need to survey the location of the installation,” say Dave Soulsby, owner & president, and Steve Ehmann, production manager, at Central Graphics in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio ( “Consider the affects of climate on the letters.” Another important part of the survey is measuring. Referring to a blueprint (if one is available) is helpful, but an installer can and should take his own measurements, as well. “The old adage ‘measure twice, cut once’ applies,” says Lewis. Knowing the overall dimensions of the fascia is also helpful. “Many cities have stipulations in the sign code. For example, a sign can only occupy 70 percent of the available space it is on,” says Michael McClure, service manager at Arrow Sign Company ( in Oakland, California. “It is important also for the permitting process to have that be correct.” Sure a thorough site survey may take time, but it is time an installer will save later on. “If you put forth just a little bit of time and effort on the front end, it does tend to make things go a lot better on the back end,” says McClure.

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Once the letters are fabricated, transporting them to the job site without jostling, scratching, or denting them can seem like a daunting task. Luckily transportation is not as difficult as it was when channel letters primarily used neon (which included fragile, glass tubes that broke easily). LEDs may be a hardier illumination source, but some of the materials used to make the letters still require care. For example, acrylic faces can be susceptible to some breakage, and brushed aluminum can easily be scuffed or marred. The key is in proper packaging. “Whether an installation is local or requires long travel, the slightest shift of materials could be a costly result so taking the extra time to protect your letters is very important. Wrap the letters in plastic bubble wrap and cardboard and then use plastic shrink wrap to hold it all together,” says Soulsby. “I see a lot of companies that do not want to spend the extra money and time in wrapping up their product to transport it, and [this] ends up costing more in the long run.”

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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012


When the letters arrive safely onsite, an installer should be sure to take his time. “Avoid being in a hurry to complete an installation because drilling or adhering letters is a permanent process and the slightest miscalculation could result in a poor-looking result,” says Ehmann. “I also recommend checking your measurements multiple times and performing a ‘dry fit’ of your letters before final installation to ensure your results appear the way you had planned.” Take the time to also properly secure a pattern to the wall before drilling. On surfaces where tape is not an option, McClure recommends using staples if the surface allows. Wall surfaces can not only pose problems to taped patterns but also to drilling. “As far as actual drilling, probably pre-cast concrete or tilt-up concrete is the worst—particularly if it has rebar in it because you do not know where that is at,” says McClure. “Some of the other more difficult surfaces to deal with would be granite or marble. Marble is really difficult to drill.” (Note: When drilling marble for previous jobs, McClure used a diamond-tipped saw.) When working with brick surfaces,

stallers should be aware that not all brick is laid perfectly. “Measuring off slanted joint lines will leave you with a sloped final product,” says McClure. “Take careful measurements and use tools like bubble and laser levels as a guide of reference.” An installer should know what material he will be up against ahead of time so he can prepare—hence the need for a proper site survey. “The important thing is just to have the correct kind of bits or hole saws or whatever you need to do the job right,” says McClure. When securing letters to a pylon sign or panel, the option to use an adhesive may be available. “Use a durable adhesive that can be relied on to keep performing over time and against the elements,” says Soulsby. “Also, if required, the use of correctly measured mounting hardware will not leave you wondering if your application will fail or not.”

Photo courtesy of central graPhics.

Securing Safety The proper precautions should always be taken when installing channel letters to ensure the safety of everyone on the job site. “Proper knowledge of your tools and equipment is key. Safety glasses, harnesses, and headgear are always a must,” says Ehmann. “More times than not, an installer will be elevated on ladders, scaffolding, or bucket cranes so following safety regulations is a must to avoid any injury on the job.” Those safety regulations include OSHA rules regarding service vehicles. “Typically when you are working out of either an aerial ladder or a boom truck with a basket or even a boom lift, OSHA requires you to have a safety harness and to have a safety lanyard tied off to a stable attachment point,” says McClure. Installers should be familiar with ontinuo all OSHA rules and regulations cbefore heading out to the job site.

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December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


LED Lighting / By Jeff Wooten ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////


LED lighting transforms a second-floor event space into a true colorchanging experience.

The (Not-Glass) Illuminated Ceiling 34

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

all photos courtesy of cutler identification systems.



he Cordish Companies of Baltimore, Maryland recently developed and opened The Gallery Event Space, a 9,000-square foot eclectic venue with floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor balcony ideal for hosting catered events. It’s located on the second floor of previously vacant retail space in the vibrant nine-square-block Power and Light District in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. This isn’t your typical ballroom. Its stark white walls and wood flooring keep in tune with a modern gallery look, while its illuminated

ceiling provides the focal point of interest. However The Cordish Companies and their Director of Construction Frank Cipolla wanted something really special for the illumination. Initial architect designs called for a white-lit, gridtype ceiling. But The Cordish Companies wanted to be able to dim each of three distinct areas of space separately with an eco-friendly, energyefficient solution. Mark Cutler, owner of Cutler Identification Systems in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, was brought onboard to put together and manage this project’s completion.

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


It can change colors, and it can scroll colors. “The dimming requirement meant we couldn’t use new energy-efficient fluorescent lighting components, since their ballasts aren’t dimmable,” says Cutler, “so we designed prototypes using white LEDs.” Contemplating the ceiling, Cutler thought of a light box turned upside down. He found a pattern with rice paper-looking Plexiglas. An extrusion system and a retaining system would make this reasonably practical to build. The faces are individual panels.To make it efficient to build, each part of the ceiling grid was designed as three three-by-fourfoot box sections attached together as one three-by-twelve-foot piece. Cutler directed George Winn, production manager of IPG/SignArt in Charlotte, North Carolina to develop a working prototype out of one three-byfour-foot section. The laborious challenge: getting the highly translucent Plexiglas panels to illuminate evenly. “But the owners loved the look so much that they asked, ‘Could you do it in changing colors,’” he says, “‘but without breaking Fort Knox?’” Cutler called on Sales/Technical Reps Lauren Davis and Mike Sonline of Pioneer Supply Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and they met with MaxBrite General Manager John Lee. So MaxBrite RGB color-changing modules were used in the prototype. The owners were impressed and ap36

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

proved this project in mid-June with a firm mid-August Grand Opening due date. IPG/SignArt built and wired thirty-eight six-inch-thick light box sections over a twoweek period and had them ready by the first week in August. The light boxes were shipped to Construction Manager Logan Henson of Complete Construction Service in Shawnee, Kansas, and Henson and the electrical contractor completed the installation. Cutler brought Jason Yeager of Midwest Sign Co., in Overland Park, Kansas, onboard to perform testing and troubleshooting during and after the installation. The elevator was too small to transport each twelve-foot-long light box up to the second floor, so Midwest Sign Co., used a crane to lift each one up to the balcony, where they were placed onto dollies and wheeled inside. “Then it became a series of man lifts, manpower, and heavy all-thread to attach struts up in the ceiling to mount the boxes, level them, and get them all straight,” says Cutler. The completed ceiling is composed of four quadrants approximately 12-by-27 feet, two quadrants measuring 9-by-25 feet, and two lighting coves of 360 feet each. All are dimmable from 0 to 100 percent. The systems features 7,364 MaxBrite LED RGB modules—which can do about 250 different colors, as well as a light cove or trough that runs around it. The entire ceiling runs off of only four









20-amp, 120-volt circuits. The 60-watt MaxBrite power supplies for the LED lighting are housed inside the grid. The event center management controls the lighting remotely, and the individual parties (weddings, corporate events, birthdays, etc.) request the colors and themes they want. “It can change colors, and it can scroll colors,” explains Cutler. Since this space can be viewed from the street, The Cordish Companies wanted the ability to make the center section of the grid a certain color, while the two outer ones closer to the street could be programmed a different color. So Cutler had to design the ceiling grid with three independent control systems. John Lutz of Selbert Perkins + Design in Chicago, Illinois designed front- and back-lit white LED channel letters and lighted stripes for the exterior of the building to complement the interior lighting. “One night, I was across the street and the entire ceiling and room were glowing purple, and the outdoor signage helped highlight this,” says Cutler. “It was very cool-looking!”

An RGB system would give management the

flexibility to adapt the ceiling to corporate colors for events and bridal party theme colors for weddings.

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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

Neon/ By Adam Brown /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Neon Forecasting



recently spoke with an old friend of mine about the misconception that custom neon signs have lost their place in today’s sign world. Despite some misconceptions, we both believe that neon is far from being a dinosaur. Neon will remain a viable art form. Not only does it have the ability to create nostalgia, but it also has attention-grabbing visibility for the right brand or retailer. And raw neon has a unique look that’s very hard to replicate. However neon is a skilled trade that not everyone can perform. It takes a lot of experience and patience to manipulate what is essentially a wet noodle of glass at 1200°F! The tube can collapse or kink, and you have to keep the ID as uniform as possible, because there is an electric current running through it. It’s a lot like going

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

photo by philip desiere.

Predictions for the future of neon signs.

from a 4-gauge wire to a 12-gauge and then back to a 4-gauge. The neon tube has to stay as uniform as possible to maintain an even level of current.

Neon Advancements What LEDs can’t do is present the classic image that neon can. There have been many advancements in neon

photo by philip desiere. photo courtesy of sign effectz.

In the past, neon was used as a light source (engine) and for delivering a definite aesthetic look. It was (and still is) used in channel letters because you could manipulate the glass tubes to fit custom forms and shapes. However neon has declined in popularity as a light engine in certain applications. Take flashers, for instance. (Note: Flashers are the electrical components that turn neon on and off.) These aren’t as common these days, since they have been used so closely with neon. Communities tend to view them as “unsafe,” and besides, you can’t use a flasher on a GFI transformer. Another factor has been the onset of LEDs and their promoted advantages—safety, low voltage (12 volts vs. secondary voltage, up to 15k volts), etc. You can custom-fit LEDs as a light engine much easier today than years ago, and [as a matter of fact], their prevalence and versatility have brought down their associated cost factor. However this doesn’t mean that neon is extinct. There are still a lot of neon signs out there, which means there will be demand for repair work (such as replacing a piece of glass). Still a good number of old neon signs will end up being replaced with newer technology as they age. Businesses that choose to replace neon with LED within internally illuminated channel letters are making the economic decision. They’re banking on recovering the initial hit of a costly sign replacement with the longer life expectancy of LED. My advice to these people is to watch for color variations that can come with inexpensive LEDs. With white LEDs, “going cheap” means you may not get the right hue. It’s not really pure white; it can have blue tints to it. If you do go with LEDs, be sure to go with a reputable brand.

photo courtesy of peter perszyk.

The Impact of LEDs

over the years—including in the level of power consumption. Neon’s power consumption has been reduced from drawing three amps to only drawing 0.6 amps, thanks to the electronic circuitry that’s integrated into today’s transformers. Electronic circuitry has allowed sign builders to dial in power consumption and make it far more efficient than in the past. Now microprocessors enable manufacturers to use every bit of energy that goes into it. Advancements have also been made with neon transformers, which have a life that varies extensively based on

how well the glass is made. It could last up to fifteen years, if the glass is made well; however if the glass isn’t made properly, it will have to work that much harder. There are also other attributes that affect the life of the transformer: n Impurities removed from the glass during the processing procedure. n Each piece of glass has a certain draw. Balancing the draw of the neon with the transformer is critical. Anything above or below “balanced” will shorten the life of the transformer. n Over-powering the glass. n Under-driving the glass.

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Neon has improved its energy consumption but still hasn’t matched the energy savings of LED. But I’d estimate that new neon (luminous tube) transformers are up to 80 percent more efficient than they were about ten years ago. I don’t think neon will ever die out, because it’s a specialty art form. It will be far less of a component of an electronic sign however, as it gets used strictly for aesthetics rather than as a light engine. Neon probably won’t return as the primary engine for commodity signs. In my opinion, people nowadays purchase neon signs because they look like something they can relate to—the heritage and classic image of neon are now what offers the appeal. Adam Brown is president at Sign Effectz, Inc. ( in Milwaukee,Wisconsin. If you have a neon sign photo you’d like to share, email

Photo courtesy of Peter Perszyk.


improvements made to neon over the years >>> Reduced power consumption >>> More energy-efficient transformers

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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012


/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Adhesives / By AnitA LAFond

Get a Grip! Structural adhesives increase design flexibility in sign making.

Sign manufacturers are using structural adhesives as an alternative to traditional bonding methods.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

all Photos courtesy of lord corPoration.


tructural adhesives have been used in the sign industry for more than thirty years. They help to improve sign durability and aesthetics, and they are a practical alternative to traditional bonding methods such as welding, tapes, and mechanical fasteners. The advantages of using structural adhesives over other joining methods are especially notable in the design process. In addition to the benefits of parts reduction, reduced weight, simplified application techniques, and a cleaner finish, structural adhesives offer the ability to bond different materials, such as: plastics, brass, aluminum, cold rolled steel, copper, fiberglass, foam, painted metals, stainless steel, and wood.

You Never Looked So Good With Structural Adhesives LORD ® UL-approved Structural Adhesives have been making signs look better for more than 25 years: • • • •

Stronger than welding, fasteners & tapes Complete corrosion protection Structurally bonds dissimilar materials Faster with improved aesthetics

Come to see live demonstrations at the USSC Sign Show 2012 at the Atlantic City Convention Center BOOTH #726

Chemical Concepts, the company who innovated a new way to build channel letters by using adhesives has done it again by bringing clear Potting and Encapsulants to the LED market. To learn more about these exciting new products come see us at the USSC Sign Show or contact our office to speak to a sales representative.

Looking good is more than just appearance, it’s performance and reliability you can really count on!

For more information on LORD Structural Adhesives or to see our videos, contact:


Sign Design Fasteners, rivets, and welds can cause deformation of thin materials.


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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

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“Today’s sign manufacturers are looking for more cost-effective methods of producing their products,” says Michael Verdi, senior technical representative for LORD Corporation (, a manufacturer of specialty structural adhesives. “Structural adhesives allow the sign manufacturer to provide the same end products, [while] utilizing less expensive materials and saving both time and money.” Because structural adhesives are compatible with so many different materials, the sign designer has the freedom to use and/or source a variety of substrates without having to be concerned with stocking a variety of adhesives. A designer can choose less-expensive materials or use materials that are readily available, since structural adhesives will bond dissimilar materials of all thicknesses. “Sign makers must contend with complex shapes and styles in the sign-making process,” says Verdi. “With structural adhesives, you have the flexibility to match difficult shapes and bond intricate parts, something that is not possible with tapes or welding.”

Different Chemistries The key to success when using structural adhesives is applying the appropriate chemistry to the specific application and process. The substrates to be bonded are the key indicator in determining which adhesive chemistry is chosen. Acrylic-based adhesives are primarily used to bond metals. Acrylics offer anticorrosion properties and cure at room temperature. They can be used on sign boxes, raceways, brackets, hinges, and metal letters or trim caps. “Sign designers like to use acrylics because they are perfect for bare metal bonding, especially on aluminum materials,” notes Verdi. “Aluminum is used extensively in the sign industry, due to its lightweight properties. It offers the look and feel of heavier metals but reduces the sign’s weight.” Urethanes are a good choice for bonding plastics, wood, and foam. They will bond painted or metal surfaces and can be used with engineered plastics and foam or composite materials. As designers experiment with

Welding can cause burn through, corrosion sites, discoloration, and other problems for sign building.

three-dimensional techniques for signs, they are finding that urethanes are also good for bonding 3D sign images to a sign’s surface. Epoxies are ideal for metal, plastic, concrete, wood, and foam bonding, as well as bonding in masonry applications. They offer long open times, can be heatcured (most epoxies), and can be used for adhering anchor bolts, ceramics and stone, and rubber and leather.

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Meeting Standards With an increasing number of sign installations requiring an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approval, sign manufacturers must make sure that their finished products are UL Certified. A UL Listed sign means that it was fabricated with UL Recognized components and tested by the UL’s service. A UL Recognized component, such as an adhesive, defines a product that can be placed as a component in a UL Listed sign but cannot be used on its own. A sign manufacturer cannot receive a UL Listing for a sign without using UL Recognized components.

This QR code was engraved with the new Speedy 400 flexx. Scan to learn more about the material processing capabilities of the latest Iaser engraver from Trotec.

Final Thoughts As sign manufacturers look to decrease their costs while keeping on-trend with new design techniques, they are finding that structural adhesives are a practical alternative to traditional bonding methods. As material costs rise, it is a distinct advantage to have one bonding product that will adhere to dissimilar materials, while providing durability in an aesthetically pleasing design.

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December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


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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 # Company



1 3M Commercial Graphics . . . . . . . . 3

37 Orbus Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63

2 ADA Wholesale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63

38 Ornamental Post

3 Agilight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 4 Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . 63 5 Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . 63 6 A.R.K. Ramos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 7 A.R.K. Ramos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 8 ASE Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 9 Bayer MaterialScience . . . . . . . . . 17 10 Biesse America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 11 Bitro Group, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 12 Brooklyn Hardware . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 13 CAO Group, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 14 Car Top Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 15 Chemical Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 16 Coastal Enterprises/ 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36


InfoDirect # Company

Precision Board . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Duxbury Systems, Inc. . . . . . . . . . 63 Elliott Equipment Corporation. . . . 31 Epilog Laser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Epson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C2 Epson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Fastenation, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 FASTSIGNS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Formetco Powered by Ad Tech . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C4 Gemini, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Graphic House . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Gyford Standoff Systems . . . . . . . 56 Hartlauer Bits, Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Justin, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 L&L Industries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Lancaster Sign Company. . . . . . . . 62 Lucite International. . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Metomic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Mimaki USA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Mimaki USA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Orbus Inc . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

Panel & Traffic . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

39 Outwater Plastics 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

Industries, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Principal LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Rapid Tac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Roland DGA Corporation . . . . . . . . 15 Saw Trax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Sign America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Signs By Tomorrow . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 SloanLED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Small Balls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Southern Stud Weld . . . . . . . . . . . 53 superbrightLEDS.Com . . . . . . . . . . 24 SVP Neon Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Tri Vantage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Trim-Lok, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Trotec Laser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Universal Laser Systems . . . . . . . 14 US LED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

InfoDirect # Company


Companies in the Sign Show 56 3M Commercial Graphics . . . . . . . 17 57 Epson America. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 58 Ezy Taper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 59 FUJIFILM North America . . . . . . . . 12 60 ILFORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 61 MACtac Graphic Products . . . . . . . 16 62 Marabu North America . . . . . . . . . 15 63 Mimaki USA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 64 OcĂŠ. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 65 ORACAL USA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 66 Roland DGA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 67 SA International . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 68 Sign Bracket Store, The . . . . . . . . 15

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/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Vehicle Graphics / By Jeff Wooten

A Monster Wrap Job


monster truck alone is a vehicle that’s already hard not to notice. But one decked out in a full vinyl wrap? That’s one colossal statement that’s impossible to miss. In fact, one could say that this large wrap made just as much a colossal statement for the sign-&-graphics shop involved in its design, output, and installation. Fast-Trac Designs ( is located in Phoenix, Arizona and has been specializing in custom graphics of all kinds (vehicle wraps, murals, banners, apparel, etc.) since 2007.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

all photos courtesy of fast-trac designs.

A larger-than-life design covers a big-scale truck.

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Fast-Trac Designs originally started out of the home of Sean and Judy Dale, and thanks to early success, they were able to move to a 4,000-square foot facility with plenty of space for screen and digital printing. Their motto: “You think it, We print it!” And this is exactly what happened when the owner of a Ford F-350 monster truck came calling for a wrap, after being referred to them from another satisfied client. However this customer was still searching for a design to serve as a theme for the wrap. After talking with the staff, he selected the “Sharpie Lamborghini” design (a freehand design created with a Sharpie® marker that features strategically placed drawn arrows all pointing forward to reflect “youth, ingenuity, and hope for the future.”) “This very-complex design is abstract with a subtle black and blue graffiti look,” explains Sean Dale, coowner of Fast-Trac Designs. The shop placed the hand-drawn design into vector art and imported it into Adobe Illustrator® CS5 and Adobe Photoshop® CS5 for further manipulation. They then imported this artwork into template software using a 1999 F-350 Long Bed Quad Cab as the model. This thirteen-and-a-half-foot-tall F-350 had some monster dimensions. For instance, it boasts fifty-four-inch tires. And its air bags add two more feet to the frame 52

(meaning the distance from the ground to the bottom of the door is sixty inches). When the owner brought this truck to the Fast-Trac Designs facility, employees had to use ladders and scaffolding to obtain all the measurements. Fast-Trac Designs output the design via its Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 64-inch solvent printer onto about 365 square feet of 3M™ Controltac™ with Comply™ v3 Adhesive IJ180CV3-10 with high-gloss lamination. To verify color management, they used Caldera RIP software to print the wrap at 720-by-720 dpi and set the design at 96 ppi to size. “We did several test prints of the wrap before the final print,” says Sean. “This was to ensure that there weren’t any flaws and that the blue would be perfect. “The lamination added to the phenomenal appearance of the finished product.” When one hears of a “black and blue” vinyl wrap, you might think a lot of pain was involved in its completion, but this really wasn’t the case. Installation was performed by just two installers and took seven hours. The tools used: squeegees with a felt side, retractable X-Acto™ blades, Rapid Prep fluid (see sidebar), a heat torch, and magnets and tape (to hold the vinyl). The biggest challenge on this seamless wrap involved having to move the scaffolding and ladders up and down plenty of times during the entire application. Although this monster truck will never

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

be able to venture onto a freeway (due to underpass issues), the sight of it anywhere still generates plenty of publicity. “When we had the finished wrap parked outside of the shop, we people and nearby businesses drove or walked by, stopping to take pictures of it and look at it in awe,” says Sean. The customer is so pleased with the finished wrap that he is entering his monster truck into various car shows. And for Fast-Trac Designs, this was another chance to show potential customers their big-time design-and-install skills.

Fast-Trac Designs Employees

y SeAn DAle, co-owner/

production manager

y JuDy DAle, co-owner/ office manager

y ChArlIe reBlIn, screen printer/production

y ASPen roDroCk,

production/office assistant

y STeve ClArk, graphic designer

y MArk GerhArDT, graphic designer

Using Rapid Prep for a Vinyl Install


he use of rapid Prep to set up a clean, residue-free

substrate requires some small changes from traditional methods. rapid Tac owner roger Bailey explains:

1. y 2. y

Spray rapid Prep onto the surface and allow a

minute for it to soak in. next wipe the surface dry with a “cheap” kitchen

paper towel. “This is important because the cloth rags or lintfree paper products contain chemicals (lanolin, silicone, polymers, etc.),” says Bailey. “These chemicals transfer onto the substrate, causing poor bonding issues.

3. y

Spray the substrate with rapid Tac™ application

fluid and wipe again with “cheap” kitchen paper towels. “now the vinyl will bond and actually go the distance for the manufacturer’s warranty period,” says Bailey. “This bond even withstands high-pressure

photo courtesy of fast-trac designs.

car washes.”

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Vehicle Graphics / By Lori Shridhare //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sounding the

Alarm onveying just the right message or emergency access numbers in the clearest way possible can make all the difference between life and death. Companies that specialize in emergency vehicle graphics must not only keep up with best practices but also follow changes in federal regulations. One major change that has affected the industry in recent years—and specifically, those who work on fire vehicles—is the 2009 edition of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 1901 Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus. In Section, all new fire vehicles are required to have at least 50 percent of the rear-facing vertical surfaces covered with retro-reflective striping in a chevron pattern (inverted v-shape) sloping downward and away from the center line of the vehicle at a 45-degree angle. Each sixinch-wide stripe is to be a single color, alternating between red and either yellow, fluorescent yellow, or fluorescent yellow-green.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

photos (this page) courtesy of rj marx custom graphics.

Maximizing emergency vehicle graphics.


Keep up with best practices but also follow changes in federal regulations.

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Another basic requirement (Section includes a retro-reflective strip at least four inches wide affixed to at least 50 percent of the cab and body length and to at least 25 percent of the front. RJ Marx Custom Graphics (www. in Appleton, Wisconsin knows these recent regulation changes firsthand, as it supplies graphic products such as gold leaf lettering, striping, seals, Maltese crosses, and safety markings to the fire and other emergency markets. “Vehicle doors, aerial device outriggers, tool trays, and other equipment that could extend from the vehicle into traffic needs to be marked with reflective material for safety concerns,” says President/CEO Bob Marx. “Beyond that, the department name, unit numbers, emblems that mirror the department’s uniform patch, or city emblem are common.” Since municipal budgets began to be cut, the trend has been to replace genuine gold leaf products with faux-gold leaf vinyls, as well as faux-reflective and vinyl products. “Fire departments are constantly dealing with reduced budgets, which in turn is reflected in fewer funds allotted for vehicle graphics,” adds Marx. (Note: For those departments with substantial budgets, RJ Marx still offers genuine 23K gold leaf lettering, striping, and emblems made using traditional surface gilding techniques and sometimes digital printing.) Police vehicles and ambulances are regulated separately from fire by either the department or the state they reside in. “Most often, the chief, commissioner, lieutenant, and/or captain have total jurisdiction of their fleet style and graphics, but in some cases, there are governing boards or rules set on how the fleet

To read tips and trade secrets for emergency vehicle graphics, visit


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

photo (top) courtesy of diaz sign art; other photos courtesy of vsp marketing

is presented,” says Trace George, president of VSP Marketing Graphic Group ( in West Seneca, New York. “When an agency decides on a new look for their police vehicles, they automatically want to change the cosmetics of the car striping. “Homeland Security fleet projects are completely controlled by a system of rules on the look and style of each given fleet unit—including cars, trucks, and boats. The rules run the gamut from dictating how each decal looks to Pantone® colors, specified information, and badges.” The trends currently seen by VSP Marketing can be summarized as “back to the basics.” George says, “After September 2001, many agencies added their identity to their fleets, preferring to distinguish their cars from those of other departments and changing from the traditional ‘Mayberry’ police model. “Now we’re seeing at least 40 percent of our designs returning back to simply black and white for police car colors with basic copy. I believe that some agencies value the ‘simple is more’ ideology, and this could be due to budget cuts or a return to traditional values.” In addition to complying with national standards, vehicle companies that work on fire graphics also incorporate the style of the department that might have been passed down historically. “This can mean digitizing letter styles to match the hand-lettered

layouts of old equipment, as well as emblems and ornate scrollwork and striping,” says Marx. “Combine the challenges of trying to match the look of the past with the contours of modern day equipment and safety requirements and most every job needs a little innovation to pull it together.” Marx notes that complicating this is the variation in the fleet, ranging from battalion cars and small brush trucks,

to engines, large tankers, and aerial units—all of which require a consistent look. Fire equipment graphics start with the essentials: department name, unit number, required reflective striping, and possibly an emblem, Maltese cross, or company mascot as primary graphics. “This information, combined with the secondary graphics, needs to be blended into a cohesive, legible graphics package,” says Marx.

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


Polycarbonates / By Jeff wooten /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Getting Durable with

Polycarbonates Easy answers for working with this tough material.


Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012


olycarbonate is a durable material that’s being used in signage for a variety of reasons—increased light transmission for the sign face, added protection to drivethru menu boards and monument sign panels, the ability to stand up to strong winds or harsh conditions, etc. Because of this, it’s employed in a wide range of sign applications. “It’s equally well suited for flat or formed channel letter faces,” says Bill Uline, general manager of Faces® (, a wholesaleonly manufacturer of custom signs in Pelham, Alabama. “For example, the new MAKROLON® polycarbonate has been designed especially for use with LEDs.” (Note: Since the diffusion capability is in the sheet, it doesn’t need a secondary diffusion process to hide hot spots that can be seen with LED.)

Other ideas: tradeshow panels, laminates, floor graphics, and vending machine fronts (to name a few). “It can be used as a flat panel or as a formed face for a pylon sign or a wall-mounted directional,” states Jeff Hester, Segment Manager-New Business Development at Bayer MaterialScience (, manufacturer of MAKROLON® LD diffuser polycarbonate, MAKROLON® SL signgrade polycarbonate, and MAKROLON® AR abrasion-resistant polycarbonate.) “It’s also ideal for decorated outdoor signs, office park directories, mass transit signs, digital advertisement screens, and electronic messaging fascias,” adds Mark Troszak, image market leader-Polymershapes at SABIC (, manufacturer of LEXAN® polycarbonate. Because of polycarbonate’s UL fire rating (UL 94), Uline’s company also uses it to form cabinet shapes, along with some various cabinet components for panels. “We have also formed decorative panels for amusement park rides, ceiling tiles, exterior building panels, and food display cases, to name a few,” he says. There are different ways to decorate polycarbonate faces—vinyl, digital prints, first- and second-surface painting being most popular. And today’s UV and latex flatbed printers allow you to print directly onto the material. But working with polycarbonate involves knowing more than how it can be used—it takes understanding how to sell it to customers, how to build with it, and how to install it.

photos (top, middle) courtesy of dave forrest; (bottom) bayer materialscience.

Selling. There are numerous advantages that can be promoted. Longevity is one. “Both the sign maker and the end-user can expect a product that will perform well for many years compared to other types of face materials,” explains Uline. Durability is another big selling point— it’s extremely tough to break. Although polycarbonate material is “lighter than glass,” it still offers plenty of strength. “[It] delivers more than thirty times the impact strength of acrylic and ten times that of impact-modified acrylic, so signs maintain their appearance over time and especially in locations that may be subjected to pedestrian contact, debris, vandalism, or graffiti,” says Troszak. Hester notes that polycarbonate is a stable product that can withstand high heat and extreme cold temperatures.

There are a variety of different uses for polycarbonate in today’s signage— protecting the sign face from low-flying debris or vandals to light diffusion to hide LED hot spots.

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated


“Temperature stability means that it won’t expand or contract less with temperature changes versus many other products used in the sign industry,” he states. “It’s also very good in environments that are subject to heavy winds or are hurricane-prone.” Impact resistance is also beneficial for the sign shop. Sign makers will experience less breakage and handling problems internally when they’re cutting the material and moving it from station to station. “This means a lot less rejected material,” adds Hester. Coated polycarbonate is also abrasionresistant (less susceptible to graffiti and scratches), so it’s ideal for sign coverings. “It allows you to remove graffiti and protects against scratches while cleaning,” says Hester. Fabrication. Polycarbonate sheet material can be shaped with routing, cutting, and heat-bending tools and equipment. “Use the proper type of cutting blade and check for sharpness,” advises Uline. It’s also important to avoid the “notch effect” when cutting polycarbonate.

“This is where you create a small indention along the edge of the cut that can potentially create a stress point that can result in a crack occurring,” says Uline. “Proper cutting and sanding the edges [of the polycarbonate sheet] afterward will help prevent this.” One popular form of manufacture is thermoforming. This is where the plastic sheet is preheated to the desired forming temperature (in the case of polycarbonate, approximately 360°F), allowing the sheet to become pliable enough so that, when the plastic is lowered over the part and vacuum-applied, it will conform to the shape of the part. “After the vacuum is applied to the part, the plastic remains over the part until it has cooled sufficiently to maintain the shape,” explains Uline. “The vacuum is then released and the plastic removed from the part.” The key, says Hester, is the polycarbonate needs to be dried prior to forming. “Due to its higher heat deflection temperature, you have to heat the sheet to a level that would create the moisture in the sheet

to expand while still in the sheet, causing bubbles or blisters,” he remarks. Polycarbonate inherently sets up faster at a higher temperature over the course of a day while processing and forming than other commonly used plastics, and the key is transferring the sheet quickly from the heating station to the mold or forming table. “Rapid transfer of polycarbonate sheet is necessary because the sheet cools quickly and becomes form-stable at a higher temperature than some other sign materials,” says Troszak. “Doubleoven automatic or semi-automatic forming equipment is recommended, although single-sided heating canopy-type equipment can also be used. “Polycarbonate can also be coldformed, to a maximum radius curvature of 100 times the material thickness.” Installation. When installing, it’s important to avoid situations that would cause the sign face to bend or twist—but due to the material’s durability, this isn’t a fatal mistake. “I’m not recommending this, but I’ve been out at job sites where

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installers have allowed the polycarbonate faces to bend in half without causing any damage to the face,” comments Uline, noting that—especially with long sign faces—a spreader bar is an excellent method. Uline adds that hang rails are a helpful option to support larger polycarbonate sign faces. “This will allow it to expand and contract, due to temperature changes, without binding,” he says. (Note: See Hester’s earlier comments about polycarbonate’s thermal stability.) It’s possible to secure a polycarbonate face to a sign cabinet using screws or bolts but, if you do, pay close attention. “Hole sizes must be over-sized, and you’ll need to use a fastener with a fender washer,” explains Uline. “Then ‘soft’ tighten it again, in order to allow for the face to move. “The key is to allow the [polycarbonate] material to move within the sign cabinet. This will prevent any binding of the face itself.” Myths. There are still some misconceptions about polycarbonate. Hester’s top three: (1.) You can’t glue polycarbonates. “Actually you can use glue,” he says. “Recommended adhesives might not be as fast curing as those for other materials, but sign makers can give us a call, and we can recommend adhesives for the particular application.” (2). Polycarbonate is not ideal for outdoor use. A lot of this stems from concerns about UV rays causing weathering or yellowing. But several high-performance grades of [polycarbonate] come with a UV-resistant cap layer, providing great options for signs that will be exposed to intense sunlight. “Due to sheet extruding technology over the last fifteen years, we’re able to co-extrude on one side of the sheet a UV-enhanced coating that gives it extended life outdoors,” he mentions. (3.) Polycarbonate is only available in clear or white products. Hester can’t wait to “clear” this up. “Polycarbonate is actually readily available in standard sign colors and pigment sheets,” he says, “and the UV-enhanced coating reduces the fading process of colors relative to other UV-transparent products in the marketplace.”

December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated



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Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

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December 2012 // Sign Builder Illustrated



B y A s h l e y B r Ay

Revamping Business: Colorado Signs & Graphics

Adam Rego:

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This sign shop has its business model mostly wrapped up. 64

custom— nothing cookie-cutter here,” says Rego. Colorado Signs has also begun to focus in on installation. It recently started up an install division in which the shop is contracted to come in and handle commercial installs. “This has led to large contracts where we are now doing ninetyfoot trains in seven hours—full coverage and both sides,” says Rego. “We’re pretty darn fast.” Of course, business hasn’t always been smooth. As a young entrepreneur, Rego has run into his share of problems. “Some customers would find out I was young and really try to take advantage of me, thinking I was inexperienced,” he says. But Rego was able to overcome his challenges with a winning combination of the right materials and the right attitude. “Signs and wraps are more than manufacturing, building, and installing. We have to educate our customers, relate with them, and give them options,” he says. “We build relationships here and do our best to keep our customers.” The most important piece of advice he offers is to listen. “Don’t think you know it all,” he says. “You can always learn something new.”

all Photos courtesy of colorado signs & graPhics.

t just twenty-five years old, Adam Rego is already a seasoned graphic installer. After graduating with a degree in business and graphic design, Rego bought a failing business in 2009 in Denver, Colorado. “It was possibly the worst year for the economy. People thought I was out of my mind,” he says. But his experience working in a sign shop in high school and college helped him to entirely revamp the business, and Colorado Signs & Graphics ( was born. The company started off as just a small shop and has developed to include seven employees and a growing reputation. “Our employees love working here,” says Rego. “It’s more than just a nine-hour day. “We come in and love what we do, and for that reason, we have really well produced products.” Although Colorado Signs is a full-service shop, about 90 percent of its products are wraps. The company currently does a lot of fleet wraps for local businesses. And with two full-time designers on staff, there’s a focus on making sure the designs are top-notch quality. “All our designs are

High-quality vehicle wraps with custom designs are what Colorado Signs specializes in.

Sign Builder Illustrated // December 2012

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Sign Builder Illustrated December 2012  

Sign Builder Illustrated's December 2012 issue features stories on channel letters, neon and LED, vehicle wraps, polycarbonate substrates, s...

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