Impact 3D Signs

A single built up letter created by Impact 3D Signs

Impact 3D Signs in Tyne and Wear, also specialise in supplying the sign trade with built up 3D lettering in acrylic; 316 marine grade stainless steel and brass and powder coated aluminium.

A notable job they are working on is making signs for a company who supply the oil industries. Some of the lettering is 2m tall and 250mm deep with removable rim faces and internal LEDs. A different kind of job is supplying mild steel built up letters with a recessed face and holes in for the client to add his own cabochon bulbs, which give it a fairground look.

Again service is vital to their business and they attribute their success to the core group of dedicated metal letter makers, some who have been with the company from the outset, 20 years ago. Kevin Washbourne from Impact 3D Signs says this enables them to fit rush jobs in as well as process their regular work. A sign of their craftsmen's skill is 'kiss cutting' the corners on a small serif typefaces to achieve a crisp corner.

Speaking about channel letter bending machines, Kevin said: "We have and are still considering a channel letter bending machine. We looked at importing one from China but feel these are still in their infancy and are not really suited to small one off letter work.

"We feel that the production of built up metal letters will lend itself to the automated system but we will still have our craftsmen to hand to do small runs that would be quicker than having to programme the machine."


Sign Here - Adidas exhibition stand

Sign Here in Leicester, a trade service for built up acrylic and metal letters rely on their machines to cope with short lead times. Their CNC and laser cutters are able to have jobs cut and ready to build in an hour, providing a valuable service to their customers who are often in a rush. Thanks to their skilled and experienced staff they feel they 'provide the trade with a quality hand made product at a competitive price'. Of course price is a big factor in their business as it's important their customers have a margin for profit and get their products at the right 'trade rate'.

Rob Gardner, a director at Sign Here, says they are often an 'afterthought' in the project plan, which means their main challenges on a day to day basis are short lead times, schedules, and the logistics of getting the finished product where it needs to be, all at a reasonable rate. Something that also adds to the duration of a job is making sure their products are packed carefully to avoid damage in transit.

One recent job they are particularly proud of was for an Adidas exhibition stand. Rob tells us about it:
"Client confidentiality has played a big part in our continued growth over the years, building an extensive client base who know they can rely on us it's difficult to 'blow our own trumpet' at times. I think people would be amazed at what we have helped produce for top brands and high street chains! if we receive an enquiry that conflicts with another client we will always discuss with them the way forward in their best interests.

We also work closely with several design companies' signage projects so we were delighted when local company Mynt design agreed that we could talk about their Adidas project.

Mynt design and branding agency approached us to help produce a fully illuminated built up acrylic Adidas logo for an exhibition backdrop in Germany. We used CNC cut acrylic faces and returns, hand built returns, translucent blue vinyl applied to the faces, and back trays with mounted LEDS to give full illumination to face and returns. We also produced a full size fixing template to enable the fitters on site to easily line up with pre-drilled fixing bars. We tested the installation of the sign after we finished making it then carefully packaged it to be shipped to Germany."

Adidas Logo installed on the exhibition stand


Mulitpanel UK

A Digitally-printed sign made with alupanel sheets Shopping centre sign with mulitple signs on made from alupanel sheets Alupanel Mirror Panel on an outside sign

James Meylan, Mulitpanel UK European Sales Manager, notes that Aluminium Composite remains a popular choice owing to its versatility, affordability and durability.

Alupanel is both cost and time effective, giving the best results for print and fabrication due to its flat, smooth composite characteristics,” he affirms. The material can be cut to a high-quality finish either by hand or with a CNC router, and sign makers can improve their finished piece by downloading the Fabrication Guide from Multipanel UK. It offers hints, tips and recommendations on how to get the best out of Alupanel sheets.

With regards to Aluminium Composite materials there are 3 standard aluminium gauges available depending on the application:

  • A Standard (0.30mm) skin is designed for full fabrication, which includes routing for sign trays, light boxes, etc, in load bearing projects.
  • A Lite (0.21mm) skin is designed for FLA, non-load bearing signage, and printing in non-load bearing projects.
  • An Eco(0.15mm) skin is designed for temporary signage, such as hoarding panels around construction sites and banners around football grounds. The latter would both be great examples of substrates suitable for vinyl application.

“For display application where the edge of the panel may be visible we have developed Alufoam, and aluminium composite sheet with a foamed polyethylene core,” James reveals. “Not only is Alufoam 30% lighter than standard aluminium composite, its enhanced flexural strength mean it can be used over large spans.”

Choosing the right aluminium gauge

Not all aluminium composite panels are made alike, and not opting for the right one can lead to issues down the line. James notes the large majority of mistakes seen by the experts at Multipanel UK can be attributed to not selecting the correct aluminium gauge for the project. “As a cost saving exercise, cheaper, lower quality materials are often used on projects which can result in a false economy when the materials prove to be inadequate for the application,” he says.

Another key factor is correct installation to avoid the effects of thermal expansion, which can be easily avoided by compensating for the 2.4mm expansion rate of ACM materials over 1m at temperature. According to James, incorrect installation can cause panels to expand and warp if they are fixed rigidly without space for expansion and contraction.

This versatile substrate has many applications, and can potentially help sign makers get the best out of each project when the right type of ACM is selected. “Used correctly, Aluminium Composite material provides the best price-quality ratio for most sign making projects,” says James.

For more information, visit Large for sale sign, displayed outside.


NE Plastics

A CNC router An ACP Sign Tray with Lighting System ACP Sign Tray made from aluminium composite 

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



Self Adhesive Supplies extends product portfolio

Examples of Polylite Polycarbonate film applicationsExamples of Polylite Polycarbonate film applicationsExamples of Polylite Polycarbonate film applicationsExamples of Polylite Polycarbonate film applications
Self Adhesive Supplies (SAS), part of the Amari Plastics family, is delighted to announce an extension to the product offering it carries in its portfolio. SAS has traditionally offered the market leading brands of 3M adhesives and adhesive tapes and has become one of the most significant distributors of these ranges in the UK today.

A key component in the success of SAS has been the sales of double sided self adhesives such as 3M's 467MP and 468MP acrylic based adhesives tapes, sold in sheets and used extensively in conjunction with polycarbonate films for membrane switches and the nameplate industry.

To complement this SAS are delighted to add the Polylite® range of polycarbonate films to their stock offering. Manufactured in Asia on state of the art machinery by a division of the former leading distributor of Lexan ® polycarbonate films in South East Asia, Polylite is now established with many of the leading manufacturing brands and is a development partner of 3M in Asia.

Polylite is manufactured to the tightest specifications and controls and as a result the sheets are consistently of the highest possible quality making them easy to both screen or digitally print. The product is available in sheet sizes 610 x 915mm or 915 x 1220mm or on 1220mm wide reels from 125 micron to 1mm. It is stocked in 2 grades – Velvet / Matt or Gloss / Gloss, however other grades such as Matt / Gloss or Gloss / Velvet are also available along with speciality grades such as Flame Retardant or black flame retardant can be obtained.

Fiona Hughes, Manager of SAS, commented "Polylite Polycarbonate sheets have been extensively trialled both by our staff in the UK and at our sister company in the USA. The results have been hugely encouraging and customer feedback has reported that the sheets have performed better than other sheets that have been available in the market for a long time. Once we had established the quality and consistency of the product we had no hesitation in putting the sheets in to stock and offering them to our customer base." Polylite product is now available from the SAS warehouse in Reading for next day delivery nationwide.

For further information please telephone SAS on 0118 957 5111 or visit the SAS website on


Correct application of foamed acrylic tape: Expert advice

We discover why foamed acrylic tape can make your life easier.

The market for adhesive tapes is a well populated one, with a plethora of tapes to suit your needs. Choosing the best tape that would be effective for bonding substrates can be an issue which many sign makers can overlook, as there are many types of tapes, with different adhesive compounds.

Sign Update's new Editor, Ashwin Mehra spoke to Simon Dearing, Managing Director of Eurobond Adhesives who shares his expert advice on bonding and preparation techniques for foamed acrylic tapes.

Simon Dearing Managing Director of Eurobond Adhesives Ltd What tips do you have for surface cleaning substrates before applying adhesive tapes?

Firstly, it is important to establish the type of surface you intend to bond to i.e. glass, plastic, painted metals etc. Glass substrates should always be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol and allowed to air dry. If practical gently warm the glass with an air gun for a few seconds to remove any surface moisture before applying acrylic tape. Powder coated or painted materials again should be cleaned with Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) to remove any surface grease or oils to prevent any contaminant being forced into the substrate material during the abrasion process. Then lightly abrade both surfaces to increase the surface area and clean again with IPA to remove any debris. Metals such as aluminium or mild steel may have protective plastic film coatings or light oil coatings. These need to be removed and the surfaces thoroughly cleaned prior to bonding.

How effective and economical are surface cleaner sachets and wipes compared to Isopropanol Alcohol (IPA) cleaning fluid?

With health and safety becoming more restrictive for many businesses, it is safer, more convenient and economical for businesses to use specially prepared cleaning wipes. Cleaning wipes packaged in sachets are fiddly and not really cost effective. However, by using wipes supplied in flip top tubs sign makers can build in the cost of a wipe to a particular process. Wipes will also improve quality control by ensuring fabricators use a controlled and standardised cleaning material that will not contaminate a surface by depositing lint or paper debris from dry cleaning cloths/tissues.

Why shouldn't sign makers use methylated spirits?

The use of methylated spirits and white spirits as cleaning agents is widespread throughout the industry. We have always recommended our customers NOT to use these liquids. These liquids leave a molecular trace on the surface which will act as an interlayer which interacts with the tape and causes it to degrade over time. Almost like clockwork you will see the bonded pieces start to fail at 90 days.

Eurobond’s low lint IPA impregnated industrial wipes and foamed acrylic tapes.

How do adhesive primers work?

Typically material surfaces can be classified as having low, medium or high surface energies. Low surface energy materials include plastics such as polypropylene, polyethylene, EVA and Teflon. These materials are very difficult to bond together and will require surface pre-treatment to change the surface energy to medium from high. This can be achieved in a number of ways: plasma treatment; Corona discharge; more commonly used method is the application of brush/spray-on surface primers. Primers are effectively volatile contact adhesives which when applied to a substrate, change its surface energy from low energy to either medium or high energy enabling tapes and liquid adhesives to bond to them much more readily.

What is the common reason why most foamed acrylic tapes fail?

    Failure is usually down to one of five reasons.
  • Lack of knowledge by the tape salesperson wrongly specifying a tape for a given application
  • Poor quality tapes
  • Insufficient tape applied to surface area to support a given weight
  • User error in selecting and applying the wrong tape for the given application
  • Contamination either by the user or by the environment in which it is to operate in. i.e. ice, snow, rain, oils, detergents, heat, etc

What would you recommend the removal of adhesive tape strips from difficult sub surfaces such as plastics, vinyl and exterior window glass?

Foamed acrylic tapes can be difficult to remove from some substrates. However, little tricks of the trade include elongating the tape which helps to remove it from the surface. Special scrapers and the use of IPA wipes will also assist in the removal of tape.

What products would you recommend that would aid users in bonding?

Eurobond Adhesives Ltd supply rubber rollers to help 'wet out' the tape as it is applied to the surface, ensuring that there are no void areas and that the tape adheres to every nook and cranny of the substrate, however small. We also supply special low lint, IPA impregnated surface cleaning wipes. And of course we have a dedicated range of high performance tapes and structural adhesives for just about every conceivable sign making application.


New Freestanding Counter Top Light Panels from Mid West Displays

Freestanding Counter Top Light Panel Freestanding-Counter-Top-Light-Panel2

Mid West Displays has added a new product to its ever growing Light Panel range. The Freestanding Counter Top Light Panels use energy efficient LEDs to illuminate graphics placed within the acrylic pocket and work in exactly the same way as all of their Light Panels. They are made from 6mm acrylic onto which a special light carrying matrix is applied using screen printing techniques. This matrix ensures that the graphics are evenly illuminated and produces an impressive bright light.

"Our customers have demanded a small, flexible version of our Light Panels that could be used on counter tops, by till points or even on bars. With this in mind we have developed this new product," explains Mark Newman for Mid West Displays.

The Counter Top Light Panels are a single unit that plug directly into a mains power point via a 12 volt transformer, making it installation free and easy for customers to use. Mid West Displays manufacture all Light Panel ranges in house and are therefore able to manufacture different shapes, colours and styles depending on the customer's requirements. Logo etching and brand colour matching are also options available.

Freestanding Counter Top Light Panel

"We foresee these Light Panels being extremely popular in bars, restaurants and high street retailers, they are so easy to use they could be used anywhere," said Newman.

Mid West Displays have also adapted their Wall Mounted Light Panel ranges to include a magnetic front which will allow even easier access to change the graphic and means customers can change the colour of the border. The front pocket easily locates itself onto the magnets ensuring a good fit.

The new products can be found on or telephone 01743 465531 to request the new 2012 brochure.


Perspex - Celebrating 75 years

The number 75 engraved into Perspex

Independently starting out as a general study of polymeric materials and as a project to find a laminated safety glass interlayer, Perspex® has become one of the UK's ubiquitous brands and not only the most widely used term for plastics but one of the most widely understood English words. Chances are, you will have heard of the name and have probably used it yourself both figuratively and literally in reference to many different clear plastic products.

In 1934 the word Perspex came into the English language. Derived from the Latin "to see through" it was registered as the trademark for ICI's acrylic sheet. However, before volume production was possible, two very different projects combined to create and commercialise the clear Perspex sheet.

John Crawford of the Research Department at ICI had the objective to find a replacement for cellulose nitrate which yellowed badly in sunlight while Crawford Hill of British Dyestuffs Corporation had prepared the polymer of methyl methacrylate which turned out to be unexpectedly hard and tough. A patent was applied for in November 1931, which also claimed cover for both moulding and extrusion of the polymer.

Both Hill and Crawford recognised the unique properties of the material but also appreciated that an economic route to the monomer was required before commercial production was possible. Crawford's vital contribution was to determine the reactions involved and the conditions necessary to achieve an optimum yield. This work resulted in a process that could produce 100lb batches of methyl methacrylate monomer that appeared commercially attractive. Produced in Billingham at the Cassel Works, the monomer was cast between flat sheets of glass separated by a gasket and polymerized in an oven. This process still forms the basis for the commercial manufacture of acrylic throughout the world, albeit more stable with greater quality control and larger volumes.

A fighter aircraft.While originally produced as a replacement for safety glass where a weight saving was required, it took the war to bring about a significant demand for Perspex as a glazing material for aircraft. With this increased demand and the Ministry of Supply insisting on manufacture over a number of different sites, to minimise the risk from enemy attack, a production site at Darwen, Lancashire was found.

According to Mike Lombard, Technical Support Manager at manufacturer, Lucite International, the decision was strongly influenced by the prevailing climate at Darwen, which apparently "has more low lying cloud cover than any other UK town". So it was in 1940 that production of Perspex on a small scale began and continues to this day.

The fledgling product would soon become an increasingly important part of the war effort with 50 tons of Perspex produced during that first year at Darwen for the cockpit canopies of fighter aircraft. In the Battle of Britain year, production had increased significantly to 455 tons and by 1944 Perspex had grown to six thousand tons. However, this use of the product was always going to be of a temporary nature.

As expected, with the end of the war, the need for Perspex fell dramatically to less than half of the wartime peak. However, some succession planning for the product had been considered and a corrugated Perspex sheet was produced to allow natural daylight into buildings, specifically for industry and agriculture. Favourable reports on its performance were received from many quarters and the product became a huge success. However, it took much longer for Perspex flat sheet in clear and colours to find a replacement market for the capacity that had been developed during those war years.

Perspex Fort Dunlop Sign on top of a tall buildingOne of the new colours developed at Darwen was opal, in four different grades, which helped to create a demand in an entirely new market, for both indoor and outdoor lighting applications. Endorsement of Perspex for the lighting industry was also helped by a significant installation of four hundred fittings designed by Sir Gilbert Scott for the new House of Commons. This success and the abundance of grades and colours would subsequently lead to the consideration of Perspex for signs and fascias. Complemented in no small part by the characteristics of the material, signage remains a market of prime importance to this day.

With its high molecular weight, Perspex cast acrylic benefits from excellent strength, rigidity and resistance to weathering making it equally suitable for use both indoors and outdoors. A versatile material noted for its unequalled clarity and produced in a batch process, Perspex offers the flexibility for many colours, surface textures and grades. Available in a vast range of standard products from UK distributor, Perspex Distribution and with an accumulated store of colour-match records, Perspex has been used for many innovative sign applications and corporate identity programmes.

TheFort Dunlop sign using the latest Perspex Opal LED Light Source Grade.Most recently and notable both in the industry, for winning Sign of the Year and at large, for its landmark status off the M6 at Birmingham, the Fort Dunlop sign produced by ASG uses the latest Perspex Opal LED Light Source Grade. Built of individual letters, each standing 2.5m high, the Hollywood style sign spans 45 metres in length.

Supplied by Perspex Distribution, Paul Neal, Branch Manager in the Midlands, believes "this spectacular sign at the summit of the Fort Dunlop building is made more impressive by the incredible number and combination of colours that can be produced, with a brilliant and even illuminationthrough the specially developed Perspex surface".

Crowning this Urban Splash development, the sign has certainly become a highly visible symbol of the area.

Now, 75 years after it first appeared, Perspex is produced in many variants and for many applications. Supplied in the UK since 2003 by Perspex Distribution who have established Perspex cast acrylic once again as the market leader, it is a clear example of a UK made product that is flourishing. Undoubtedly, the UK's foremost plastics property and a nationally ubiquitous brand, Perspex shows no sign of dropping out of vogue. While today, the product is equally about colours as it is about clarity, as a term, it seems that Perspex will continue to be used by the public for all manner of clear plastic products even though, there is only one Perspex.

For further information visit the website

Perspex sign on top of the Travelodge Building
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