Built-up lettering - November 2016

The rise of flex faced lettering

“Built-up letters in flex face are really taking off,” says Richard Vincent, Sales Director at Brownings Ltd.

While Brownings has long been a producer of standard shapes such as rectangles, squares and oval shaped objects, over the past 18 months, Richard notes that there has been a marked increase in the interest in flex faced lettering. Along with flex-faced signs, Browings also produce light boxes, fabric framed light boxes and poster units among other similar items.

So just what exactly has prompted the popularity of flex-faced built up lettering to rise?

“I think predominantly it’s as much to do with the introduction for LEDs as it is that (city) planners are probably putting slightly tighter restrictions on the size of boxes,” he says. “The left to right span of 4m high built-up letters may only be 12-15m, but I think the finished price of those letters would be less than one big rectangular sign full of LEDs. Yes the physical letters could look expensive, but you’re only illuminating that letter, not one single large rectangular box. I think that difference in price is pushing some planners to go down that route.”

Brownings are predominantly known for manufacturing flex face, including the Sign- Comp™ Tensioning Systems, the leading system in the world for flex faced boxes. “We do seem to be getting a bit of a name for manufacturing the more strange shapes,” adds Richard. “We do manufacture a number of standard rectangular and square boxes, but you can achieve some weird and wonderful shapes with the Econoflex system.” This system was developed based on customer feedback on the SignComp clip system, and it saves sign makers considerable time by incorporating the tensioning system the box into a single profile.

There are a number of benefits to using flex face lettering. Firstly, it enables sign makers to create one continual image without any breaks, and there’s virtually no limitation on size. Most ultra wide format printers can print the skins for boxes whether they are illuminated or non-illuminated. “They also provide great value for money longevity,” says Richard. “The aluminium itself will last a long time, and the PVC skins have a warrantee of five years - I’ve seen boxes that we produced in the first year I joined 17 years ago that are still going. The powder coating we can offer on some of the boxes is architectural coating, which has got a 25- year warranty on it, but we need to be told beforehand that the box requires it, as it changes the way we manufacture.”

    Things to bear in mind when ordering flex face:
  • Just because it can be drawn on a computer doesn’t mean that it can be built. Always check with us first, as we may be able to suggest ways to achieve a finish box close to the required shape. Jagged edges is one area that we always have to change, but the effect could be achieved with the printed skin and a partially block out to the edge of the box.
  • The bigger the better. Trying to produce small intricate shapes is a problem -trying to build a 1,500mm high letter “O” would probably take as long as building a 2,500mm high letter O, depending on the stoke width of the letter.
  • Keep an eye on angles. Internal angles tighter than 25 degrees can’t be built, as we would have to cut too much of the extrusion away, so there wouldn’t be any aluminium left for the tension clip to push into.

- Richard Vincent, Sales Director, Brownings Ltd.


Keep all your “soldering” irons in one fire


Soldering irons being heated for use with creating bespoke built up letters

Since inception in 1974, Sygnet Signs has been dedicated to becoming the most innovative, all encompassing and complete trade sign manufacture nationwide.

Originally formed in 1974 by Mick Iley and now under the leadership of his son Gary, Sygnet Signs has spent the last 42 years servicing the industry, meeting client objectives and providing the finest signage solutions to meet all requirements. “We aim to provide a wide range of solutions, whether that be a set of flat cut acrylic letters, or the most complicated of totem signs,” says Ross Martin, Department Head at Sygnet Signs, and an employee for 14 years to date. Sygnet Signs offer solutions to any 3D built-up letters, and can produce products such as flat faced letters, trough letters rim and return letters or rimless letters from stainless steel, mild steel, aluminium, copper and brass.

Sygnet Signs acknowledged there was a need to extend its services in order to maintain growth and widen its client market in 1995, when they caught wind of a rapidly increasing demand for the trade manufacturer to supply “the whole signage package”. Recognising the need to evolve, management started investigating the market of built up, three-dimensional letters. “An investment was made, and we purchased our first flatbed laser, a real rarity for a trade sign manufacturer at the time,” says Ross. “This meant that Sygnet were now in a position to be able to laser cut all stainless steel letter faces in house, completing the build in our newly formed letter shop department. This investment proved pivotal, and profitable.”

Starting out in 3D lettering

It wasn’t long before the manufacture of built up letters became staple diet for Sygnet, and this is something that remains the case today.

Whilst the technological world continues to develop new exciting systems and materials, Sygnet’s letter shop still operates in a way very similar to how it did in 1995. Highly skilled letter shop operatives, who have honed this art form down to a tee, manufacture the bulk of the work by hand. “Not only are our letter shop staff time efficient, but the quality of their hand crafted, fully soldered letters is unrivalled across the industry. It’s safe to say, that no matter the size of your project, with the wealth of experience their letter shop has, you’re in very safe hands,” adds Ross.

Whilst building letters the traditional way may offer a nostalgia and reliability, it doesn’t mean that Sygnet Signs haven’t continued to invest to keep up with the leading pack. Having noticed an uptick in the number of enquiries for large nationwide roll-out jobs, it became apparent that they needed to explore new avenues. Following an abundance of research, Sygnet invested £60,000 in a market leading channel bender. This piece of machinery sets the company up perfectly for roll out projects and bulk orders, as it offers the ability to press through substantial volumes of work quickly and on budget, whilst retaining a precise finish to the completed article. ‘The introduction of the letter bender will prove invaluable,” says Ross. “It is a cracking piece of kit, and will come into its own when we take on large roll out and repeat work contracts. It gives us the opportunity to become much more cost effective and competitive when tendering for those larger contracts.”

While Sygnet fully appreciates the introduction of such pieces of machinery, Ross is quick to add that having a team of skilled operatives to use it is invaluable, and that this machinery is no substitute for hand-craftsmanship when creating built-up letters. “The collective experience we have is crucial,” he says. “The channel bender is perfect for what it’s designed for – bulk work.

We understand not all of our work is going to form part of a nationwide roll out, and so the one off, bespoke projects are still all manufactured by hand and that suits everybody. We pride ourselves on the quality of our hand metal built letters, and of course, with so many variations and specifications to the letters we are able to build, some things have to be built the traditional way.”

Sygnet Signs is also able to supply LED products to illuminate these letters. Their sister company, LED Solutions, is the distributor for HiTech LED, an Italian module manufacturer. All LED modules are supplied with a five-year manufacturer’s warranty on light and power parts.


LUMA - Illuminated built-up lettering

Built-up letters flush to the Perspex creates both halo and partial side illumination. LUMA Built up Letters with red halo lighting behind LUMA Built up Letters with blue halo lighting behind

Centre Signs (UK) Ltd has recently revealed a new development in illuminated stainless steel lettering, made exclusively in-house at their premises in Leicester.

“We’re proud to introduce our new concept, LUMA™,” says Trevor Cockbill, Managing Director of Centre Signs. “In the past, if your stainless letters required Halo illumination, the opal or clear backtrays were fitted inside the letters. This idea has worked perfectly well for at least 25 years, and probably more.” Due to the introduction of brighter and better LEDs however, Centre Signs has integrated new LED technology and advanced their letter building techniques. “No longer are the backtrays hidden inside the letters with large visible screw heads, but instead, now the backtrays are fully visible and the letter returns are now “flush” with the edges of the backtrays. This enables halo and edge lit illumination at the same time, hence the name LUMA.”

This new and exclusive approach to both halo and edge lit letters enables signmakers to create effective and distinctive signage, using white, blue or red LEDs. As you would expect from Centre Signs, the quality of the lettering is up to our own high standard but still within an affordable price range,” adds Trevor, noting that all the LEDs used in the installations have a rating of IP65 or higher and carry a three-year manufacturer guarantee.

As with all aspects of LED illumination, there are certain restrictions that will apply with regard to Font style and minimum stroke widths, depending on the typeface or font. However, this should not detract from the final product or the stunning visual appearance that is now possible.

According to Trevor, the new LUMA style is ideal for use in retail and POS applications, reception and conference areas, bespoke interior concepts, arrivals and departures, cruise liners, marketing suites and more or less any application in which signage needs to be noticed, day or night. The letter faces and returns from Centre Signs are of the highest quality, and are available in finishes such as either Polished, Brushed (Satin), T22 Gold, Bronze, Rosy Gold, Blue, Green and Magentas. “This is the first stage of the development of this style of lettering, and there will be more to look forward to in the coming months,” Trevor adds.


Tel: 0116 271 4247


Design by Hinchliffeart.co.uk