Nick Warne, Managing Director of NE Plastics, notes that there are many sheet materials that work well specifically for use with vinyl application.
“Materials of choice that we stock at NE Plastics include ACP (Aluminium Composite), Foam PVC and Perspex Acrylic,” he says. “Printing direct to ACP is achievable with our special formulated coated print grade. PETG & Polycarbonate also allow ink to key (bond) to them, which is significantly better.”
NE Plastics supplied the Aluminium Composite for the 5km round Olympic park when it was being developed, as the dimensional stability and direct-to-print qualities of material made it ideal for the job. According to Nick, boarding has in fact become one of the biggest areas for signage. “We have recently stocked a new product called Viscom Easy-Print, which is lightweight, durable and applicable outside,” he says. “This material is perfect for printing directly on to, and is a versatile part of the display board family.”
Aside from the materials for use with outdoor boards and signage, Nick notes that sales of Foam PVC remain strong, as it continues to be a safe choice for simple signage. “That said, there are problems with it not being very dimensionally stable,” he says. “Aluminium Composite on the other hand, offers a far better solution when in need of a cost effective material, where flatness and rigidity is a priority.” Aluminium Composite trays are also becoming more popular, he reveals.
While larger sign makers with their own shops tend to use flat-sheet aluminium to make custom trays, the majority of sign makers will buy pre-made ACP trays. NE Plastics produces bespoke sign trays made from their own branded Aluminium Composite, ‘Alliance’. The demand for these trays has increased significantly in recent years, according to Nick, owing largely to their versatility. The trays can be used in a number of ways:
· Flat panel screwed to wall
· Panels to go into a Panatrim Frame
· Illuminating ‘Perspex Opal’ in an aluminium light-box
· Mounting letters onto a fascia (ACP flat sheet as background)
The importance of correct installation
Nick notes that while choosing the right material is important, so too is taking into account the type of use and therefore installation expected from the sign.
If a sign is being installed in areas prone to vandalism, it should be made with a vandal-resistant, durable material. Similarly if it’s going to be placed outside, a weatherproof material coupled with appropriate installation is just as important. To emphasize his point, Nick recites an old industry example. “A sign was being put together for a shop, black foam PVC was being used as a fascia (20metres long & 5mm thick). This was butted together and screwed in, with vinyl applied on top. When the sun came out, it completely skewed the foam boards. The problem was that the boards where physically screwed onto the building, when the boards were heated in sunlight, they expanded and bowed. The sign-maker hadn’t allowed for expansion; he should have instead put a frame up and let the panels hang, thus giving them space to expand.”
Finally, to achieve a perfect finish, Nick notes that although a CNC router or laser can achieve an expert finish on virtually any material, the real trick is to ensure that the material is of a high quality. “This is a must to avoid chipping or burring,” he explains. “When routing, it is essential to have sharp premium quality tools to get a clean finish. Quite a few customers buy their own flatbed cutter like a Zund or Konsberg to meet cutting requirements.”
To learn more, visit www.neplastics.co.uk