Hot-spots in built-up letters

tower LED Module

The science behind the "hot spot"


Photometric: The shaded area represents the angle and "brightness strength".

Standard LED modules generally produce strong front firing light.

"0" represents the "Hot Spot". Tower LED modules are unique by firing light to the sides, which reflects off the side walls creating uniform bright illumination.

Lighting built up letters can make a significant difference to the overall effect, even make or break a project. One company has addressed one common problem with an innovative solution that makes sure there are no more 'hot spots'!

Khalid Bashir from 3D Sign Systems explains: "How many times have you seen a high quality sign installation but the only factor that makes the sign not so great is the 'hot spots' of light. The traditional method would be to use neon, but this 'art' has been in decline for a number of years for many reasons such as the rising cost of energy. And for many, the newcomer namely LED modules, have been struggling to fill this void satisfactorily. Illuminating small or shallow depth channel letters has been quite difficult and frustrating using standard LEDs. And for this reason many a good sign maker succumbs to compromise. In order to achieve adequate brightness, typically bright LEDs are used, which can create the dreaded hot spots. This is where the sign letter is not uniformly lit but suffers from dimly, and brightly, lit areas. To overcome this problem with hot spots, lesser powerful LEDs can be used, but the quantity of modules tends to increase proportionately, which increases production costs.

"So 3D Sign Systems can offer a product that offers 'hot spot' free illumination and superb levels of brightness with our very unique Tower LED modules. The Tower module uses a very specialised dome lens which reduces the amount of front firing light to the face of the letter, And instead the majority of the light emitted is fired sideways at a much shallower angle. This strong low angle light bounces of the channel sides to produce bright, uniform levels of front face or halo illumination. The end result is a quite impressive even on letters with 40mm depth. The Tower module is equally good on letters with up to 200mm deep channels.

"Unsurprisingly there are quite a high number of signs that deem a retrofit illumination upgrade and the potential to increase revenue in this market is quite high."

Read more... keep to traditional techniques

Mark making built up letters by hand.

Mark Ashcroft, Managing Director of TRADE-LETTERS.COM, notes that as the popularity of built up lettering has increased, the market has seen a number of new methods of lettering production.

One such method is the use of computerized bending machinery to make letters, as opposed to fabricating the letters by hand after they have been cut on a water jet machine. While there are some perks to this method, such as cost-efficiency, Mark notes that machines cannot always return the same quality results as handcrafted lettering. “We have made some lettering that a machine could never really handle,” he says. “In fact, I believe machines would struggle with anything that is not square cornered, and would have a difficult time with anything that wasn’t in a Sans Serif font.”

For sign makers on a budget, machine manufactured letters may be a slightly cheaper option, but for Mark, the focus lies on a quality finished product. His team of quality time served craftsmen create built up lettering made from polished, brushed and descaled stainless steel, the latter of which is used so they can powder coat or wet spray the lettering to a client defined colour. “It is not that we are against progress, if we thought the bending machines were any good we would purchase one tomorrow, maybe even two with the volume of work we have at present. But we have spent time reviewing them and we are happy with our current traditional methods of production, as from my point of view quality of the finished product is paramount.”

Another major improvement Mark has noticed over the last 5 years from a cost efficiency angle has been the introduction of LED lighting modules. “I just think LED’s have transformed illuminated built up letters, it has basically killed our neon department, but made the job so much easier and cost effective” he says. “There are new products all the time, the hot one at present looking at how some of our competitors seem to be marketing appears to be the LED light sheet, although it is more frequently used for other signage applications and not as much in built up lettering.”

For Mark, the focus remains on the customer, and listening to client feedback above all else. “As a company we do not try and lead the way in selling these new concepts, as we are client driven, and our clients haven’t asked us for them. We tend to concentrate on our core principal of letter making as we have for the last 60 years.”

For further information call 0800 917 6376 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rock Ferry Centre sign made with powder coated descaled stainless steel on a custom fabricated stand for ease of installation.


Sign here talk about Built-up letters

Acrylic being bent to form the lettersThe acrylic letters in preparation Built-up letters in production The lighting and colour variations being displayed alongside built up lettering

Ken Wildsmith, Director of Sign Here, also notes the changes that lighting and illumination have had on the built up lettering industry.

“The look of built up letters is forever changing,” he says. “Five years ago it just seemed to be stainless steel with Halo illumination that was the "in look", but now with a wide range of specialist material and lighting techniques available, designers are becoming more adventurous and demanding for that impactful and original look.”

Sign Here manufactures signs in acrylic, stainless steel and aluminum, and is currently making an abundance of lettering in a “fairground” style due to popular demand. “The finishes vary from the natural material to painted and powder-coated letters, with and without illumination” he adds. When it comes to illumination, the advent of LEDs has allowed the company to develop more complex signs with built up letters, using a wide variety of colours and changing colour combinations.

From simple built up acrylic letters to complex individual letters with different material incorporated into them, there are a number of styles that Sign Here are playing with in order to cater to increasing consumer demand. “The end user is becoming more aware of the impact that built up letters can make in display and corporate signage, and that it contributes to giving a greater visual presence in the market place, especially within the retail business,” he explains. The combination of a large variety of materials, illumination, colours, environmental factors and cost concerns can sometimes make it tough to create signage that ticks all the boxes. Ken credits the substantial investment his company has made in Laser & CNC machinery as being the key to being able to control the production schedule, and always provide the end user with the desired results. “The machinery combined with our skilled experienced letter builders has allowed us to perfect the art of bespoke built up lettering with the quality and service expected from an established company.”

Get the best finish

According to Ken, getting the best finish from built up signage is a combination of the right planning beforehand, and the correct care afterwards.

Whether the sign is installed indoors or out, choosing the right material is crucial to a strong finished product, as is the maintenance. “We do find that once the end user has fitted the sign, it almost becomes forgotten about! It should go without saying that a sign would benefit from a clean occasionally to maintain its best finish.” When it comes to selecting materials, Ken prides himself on the offerings available at Sign Here, and says a stringent quality control process maintains the high level of excellence from the products. “Achieving the best possible finish is only possible if you’re using quality materials made by skilled experienced letter builders,” he says, “and every one of our letter builders is conscious of the quality demanded, and will never let the customer down.”

For more information, visit

A finished addidas sign with vinyl applied to the letters


Gdi and the rise of the LED

Built up s/steel letters with fitted Gdi Trax rod connections. View from inside the window of the built up letters with not a cable in sight. View from outside glass, with LED illumination through Perspex letter face. Built up stainless steel letter in workshop
LED lighting is becoming ever more prevalent in signage, from LED trough lights to colour changing LEDs but the feedback we often get from our customers is that they understand technology is developing but "what does this mean for them?" Well at Gdi Trade Signs we develop components into systems which are easy to sell because of the obvious benefits enjoyed by the end user.

At Gdi we work tirelessly to bring the best signs we can to the market place, constantly reviewing production methods and developing ideas. A major part of our business is supplying LED illuminated letters. One issue often raised by customers is, "how do we hide the cable?"

The solution Gdi is offering the sign industry is Gdi TRAX
So what is new about Gdi Trax?

An innovative new system of transmitting power has been developed for LED illuminated built up letters called Gdi Trax which is basically a new way of delivering power to the individual built up letters. It uses a Gdi Trax rod system to feed the power to the letters, replacing unsightly cables with a 6mm dia s/steel Gdi Trax rod system. This system eliminates the need to use a sign tray to hide the wiring or threading the cable through the fabric of the building that the letters are mounted on.

The advantage of this is, firstly, that the wiring is not on view to the customer and secondly, it saves time and money as it speeds up the fitter's time on site and removes the cost of additional components such as trays. But the most amazing benefit of this system is that it means our customers can now fix built up LED face illuminated letters directly to glazing without the need to drill the glass. The finished look is not only very neat, it is absolutely stunning, giving a real 21st century solution to a 20th century problem.

Although the system has not been on the market long, a number of prestigious high street names in retail and leisure are now specifying this system, and having them installed to a number of sites throughout the UK. In times when it is important to stand out from the crowd, even some small independent businesses are specifying this style of sign.

How much does it cost?

It is surprisingly affordable, as you are reducing the cost of the materials and of course the time to install, whilst improving the final look. Prices are subject to specification. If you would like a quote for a current or forthcoming project, please call 0800 146008 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will email a written quote back to you the same day or for more information visit


Centre Signs introduces the Premier Range

The team at Centre Signs is always looking at new and exciting ways of improving its stainless steel built up letters, which is why the company is introducing the Premier Range.

This latest addition to the built up range of letters offers a fully polished rounded edge that not only looks good but eliminates the risk of sharp edges. Receptions and low level signage areas are where these new letters may be deemed beneficial and would give the biggest impact. As with all Centre Signs' letters, there is an option to have internal or external grade polished stainless steel.

Letters of this design and quality are usually imported from Asia and the U.S. and therefore incur import costs, high delivery charges, and varying prices due to exchange rates. All the company's letters are manufactured in house at its factory in Leicester by a team of expert letter makers each of whom has more than 20 years experience in the sign trade, and over the last few months has been working hard to achieve the perfect finish that Centre Signs demands.

The company currently offers the Premier Range in a block style only, with a minimum letter height of 65mm up to a recommended height of 450mm. Over the next few months serif style letters will be added to the range. As yet there are no plans to produce these letters in brushed stainless steel but watch this space.

For further information regarding the Premier Range or any other product contact sales on 0116 2714247.


Polished built up letter

Fabricut - Trade supplier is busier than ever

Examples of Built up LettersBucking the trend of economic recession and shrinking order books, is trade supplier Fabricut.

"It's been flat out, non-stop, for more than six months now," says Paul Newman, Director. "Customer feedback tells us the reason we're so busy is our top quality work and good service, combined with quick turnaround and reliability."

"It's largely down to our first-class personnel who are versatile and have high levels of skill and experience, such as our letter-maker who's been fabricating for 20+ years. We don't compete on price alone, we make a very thorough job of anything we take on and go the whole nine miles for our clients."

One example Paul gives is whereas many suppliers don't take films off the letter face before sending to the customer, Fabricut removes them and checks that there are no dents or scratches. They then coat the letter faces with a metal protector and wrap the goods in tissue paper and bubble wrap for safe carriage.

A three sided bespoke stainless steel monolith with a clean and contemporary style."That way the signmaker, our client, knows that what he's installing is perfect. He doesn't have the problem of putting up a sign, removing the film and then discovering an imperfection which his client, the end user, blames him for. The signmaker also doesn't have the hassle and cost implications of having to replace and re-install the lettering or signage."

The increase in work Paul speaks of is across the Fabricut range. He says flat cut lettering in a wide range of materials, built up letters with and without LED illumination, specialist aluminium composite tray signs, and sign blanks have all been flying out of the company's purpose-designed 6,000 sq.ft. site in Feltham.

So busy is Fabricut that a temporary hold has been put on a new range of built-up letters currently under development.

Paul explains: "It's a question of time to get a few things finalised and the range launched at the same time as getting customer orders through. We came up with the idea because there just doesn't seem to be anything around in the built-up letter market that makes you go "Wow!" and our new built up lettering will do just that. By making use of new concepts and adding a little extra style, they will have that extra special look."

Keep up to date with all Fabricut's news at or telephone 0208 751 7250.Sign created using internal LED illumination and 10mm clear push through lettering faced with translucent vinyl.

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