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."


Centre Signs introduces LED illuminations

Built up lettering

Centre Signs has announced the introduction of LEDs to their existing range of built-up Stainless Steel and Perspex letters.

This is due to the recent recruitment of Mr Lee Burton as their LED and Lighting specialist.

Lee has spent 12 years with the ordering, assembly and installation of many types of IP65 rated LEDs and LED systems for such names as Miss Selfridge, Topman, Topshop, Kurt Geiger, Mothercare, Primark, Next and other blue chip companies.

He will be responsible for the ordering of high quality LED systems and components, installation and dry run testing of LEDs into built-up metal and acrylic letters to provide not only face and edge illumination but rear halo illumination as well.

Lee will also be available for telephone Technical support for LED lighting ensuring that customers not only get the best illumination possible but also the after service that is essential for the smooth completion of any illuminated letterwork.

Built up lettering

All of the LEDs supplied will be rated IP65 or over and will be compliant with the latest regulations. Due to the improvement in LED technology and reliability Centre Signs have decided to focus their suppliers to 2 main systems that are proven in the field to be highly rated within the Sign Industry.

On the technical side the LEDS modules are ROHS and WEEE compliant and are rigourously tested to high temperatures, high humidity and will operate between temperatures of -40c to + 60c without failing. CCT (constant current technology) enables the LEDs to be wired in parallel or series and provide a constant emission of uniform light and still have the capability to be dimmed in all the colours (Red, Blue, Yellow, Green) and of course White.

Reduced servicing and maintenance means that in the long term your customer is able to reduce his running costs as well as having the benefits of a longer lasting illuminated product compared to other available alternatives.

Centre Signs firmly believe that by offering this new venture to existing and new clients alike, this expands their capabilities and increases the scope of product ranges to all Sign companies and the end client.

For more information please call 0116 271 4247 or visit


Ever wondered how sign fixings are made?

Chris Ferrie, Managing Director of i-sPi, explains the production process to readers of Sign Update.

Fixings in a range of finishes, from i-sPi.
Brass rods at i-sPiCutting machine cutting a rod to length.Cut lengths are drilled and threaded.Barrels, cleaned and off to the polishers before plating.The finished fixing

Sign fixings, whether brass, aluminium or stainless steel, are used in increasing quantities in the sign and shop-fitting markets today. Recently, whilst on a trip to our production facilities I followed the manufacturing process from beginning to end, and saw the work, effort and manpower involved and the use of traditional skills and craftmanship in their manufacture.

Each step is done by hand using traditional tools and relatively basic machinery. The manufacture of our fixings uses a total of seven different factories.

A visit to the local metal trader buys us brass, aluminium or stainless steel rods, each around three metres in length and ranging in diameter from 13mm up to 120mm. Here we also buy 8mm rod which we use for the male threaded part of the fixings.

The rods are taken to the factory where they are cut to the required length (13mm to 75mm for i-sPi fixings) and 5mm thick "discs" are cut to make the head of the fixing, all the time working to a tolerance of less than 1/10th of a millimetre.

The barrels and heads are then drilled and threaded internally.

The 8mm rod is cut to length before going on to the next factory where it is threaded.

Next step in the process is to clean every element and then finely polish each part in preparation for plating.

The raw, but polished metal is now taken to the plating factories. At i-sPi we use three different plating companies, each specialising in certain finishes. One factory does chrome and polished gold, another specialises in our satin chrome finish and another anodises our aluminium range.

The finished and plated heads, threaded bar and barrels are all taken back to our main factory where under 500 kilos of pressure the threaded bars are joined to the heads. This new top or male section is then assembled with the corresponding barrel and the complete unit is bagged, boxed, labelled and prepared for export.

One week later it is on a ship, four weeks later it is in the UK and pretty soon after that, it’s is on your customer’s wall.

So, next time you install a sign using one of our sign fixings you will know exactly what went into their production, just in case anyone asks.

i-sPi can be contacted on telephone 0141 764 1600 or via


ITC takes the high road

Along the coast from Inverness in Banff, Addison Electrical Ltd is a well established subcontractor with over 20 years experience in the production of electrical control panels and associated components. However, its expertise and experience has seen the company diversify into the design, engraving and sign-making industries.

To support its diversification and enhance productivity capabilities and capacity, Addison Electrical acquired a Sabre 408 CNC Router in 2007. The experienced engineer that commissioned the machine for Addison suggested the Scottish company implement cutting tools from ITC of Tamworth to fully maximise the potential of the machine.

It wasn't until Addison Electrical's Director, Mr Kenneth Addison installed the first cutting tools from ITC, that he realised how much of a difference high quality cutting tools could make. Machining anything from aluminium, plastic, traffolyte and brass through to stainless steel, the company now utilises ITC cutting tools for all machining processes on its CNC router.

ITC cutter engraving into metal.

As Mr Addison recalls: "We previously used a single flute cutter that left the edges of our plastic parts with a dull white colouring after machining. This resulted in a secondary process of sanding the edges prior to flame polishing. Sanding the edges could take up to 15 minutes per job and when we are producing over 25 to 30 plastic parts per month, this time is quite considerable.

"The ITC ClearCut works at increased speeds and feeds and gives us an outstanding surface finish. This eradicates all hand polishing and gives a surface finish close to the flame polished finish we achieve. Now we only flame polish parts that demand a visually impeccable finish. The 6mm diameter ClearCut from ITC has saved us a lot of time with secondary operations whilst improving surface quality."

As well as implementing the 6mm ClearCut, Addison has also employed a 5mm diameter cutter for stainless steel machining, as Mr Addison continues: "The stainless steel cutters are remarkably hard and resilient. We've been machining stainless for many years and we've never achieved anything like the tool life the ITC cutters provide. The exceptionally clean surface finishes now dispose of secondary deburring operations on most parts."

The company also utilises ITC's single flute routing tools to great effect. Machining traffolyte, aluminium and particularly plastic, the routing tools generate a smooth surface finish and deliver a tool life that the subcontractor is fully satisfied with.

With regards to special tooling Mr Addison states: "ITC has a really diverse range of products available off-the-shelf with an extremely wide range of specials available on short lead times. This diversity is way beyond anything any of our previous suppliers could achieve.

"One special we use is a 6mm diameter cutter with a 0.75mm flat for engraving. We have trialled many engraving tools and ITC's cutter has been the best by far. It is used on stainless steel electrical control panels and circuit boards to engrave letters and numbers. The tool has excellent swarf evacuation that clears out the engraved letters really well. With a longer flat, the ITC cutter has extended tool life way beyond anything we previously used. Cutter breakages used to be an issue for us but since we've used the ITC engraving tools, breakages have been eliminated."

The company has also employed an ITC 6mm diameter folding tool for machining its di-bond and stainless steel frame components. Using previous cutters, Addison had to make a number of passes prior to folding parts and even then achieving a high quality fold could prove difficult. "Since introducing the ITC folding tool, our cutters take less passes and this results in improved productivity. Added to this is the improved accuracy. The ITC tools guarantee we achieve a 90 degree fold that mates the two fold line surfaces impeccably. This new tool saves us at least 10 minutes per part in cycle time. On top of this is an improved cycle time for secondary assembly processes, as the fold lines are extremely accurate and our staff can assemble parts more efficiently," concludes Mr Addison.

For further information contact ITC on 01827 304500 or 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

Built up letters - How do they do that?

Stainless Steel built up letter. Built up letters are everywhere, we take them for granted, but making them is one of the most skilful trades in the sign industry. Kevin Washbourne of Impact 3D Signs Ltd explains how it is done.

Stainless steel is the most popular material for built up letters, although other metals such as brass, copper, even plastics such as acrylic can be made in basically the same way. They are all made with a flat cut face with a return fabricated to follow the outline which is attached to the face.

Like just about everything in the sign industry these days, the first stage is when we receive digital artwork by email. This is used to make a flat cut face, mostly by laser cutting but we sometimes still use the traditional method of tracing out & cutting by eye with a bandsaw. For a very urgent job it can still be quicker to cut this way than you can say DXF file. The stainless steel is always 316 grade as these signs are nearly always used externally and are never cleaned, inferior grades discolour & look shabby very quickly.

Laser cutting

Strips of the same material are accurately cut on the guillotine to the required width of the returns. The flat cut out letters are carefully inspected & dressed to remove any burrs. A piece of wire is bent to follow the shape around the letter, this way the length of strip to make the return can be measured and cut.

Letter with Stainless Steel folded strip next to it.

Every letter or shape has a starting point, usually at the top so that the joint will not be seen. The strip of metal is aligned with this point, and the position first bend is marked by eye where it will be curved or folded to give the right shape, flush to the edge of the flat cut letter. It takes a lot of experience to get this right, even a small error will result in an unsightly overhang or incorrect fit. A set square is used to mark the line across the width of the strip.

The strip is taken to a folding machine and is folded to the right angle, again by eye. If a curve is required rather than a fold, this is done by hand, or for larger lengths of curve using rollers. The strip is taken back to the flat cut letter, checked for a good fit, then the position for the next fold or curve marked by eye. This continues until a complete outline of the letter is made, any spare material being trimmed off to make a neat joint at the starting point.

Soldering Irons in a furnace

The next stage is to solder the two parts together. We may use laser technology for most of the cutting these days, but soldering is still done using old fashioned soldering irons, which are actually made of copper, and are heated in a gas flame to just the right temperature. Too hot and the solder will not stick, too cold and the iron will not have enough heat to melt the solder onto both faces of the letter. I always like to have a few irons in the fire!!!

A brush is used to apply flux to the edge of the return and the back of the cut out letter. Care is taken to keep the flux off the face of the letter or it will leave a mark. The two parts of the letter are then held in position by hand. The hot iron is dipped in a solution to remove impurities then is held against the joint to be soldered, solder being applied to melt onto both faces and make a secure join. When the iron starts to cool it is returned to the fire and another used to continue until the whole return is neatly joined to the face.

Built up letter being soldered on the join. End of return being trimmed to length before soldering.

Finally the join where the ends meet is soldered, and if required, studs or other fixings are soldered in place. The letter is dipped in water to remove any flux, then cleaned and carefully inspected.

Final join is soldered. Finished built up letter ready for inspection.

That is the process for simple built up letters, LEDs can be attached inside the letters, pack them up and send to the customer.

Illuminated lettering.

There are much cleverer things than simple flat letters with flat returns. We can make returns with bevels, double bevels, all sorts of profiles. The same methods can be used to make light boxes and logos with illuminated faces. We can use aluminium with MIG or TIG welded returns and powder coat paint, stove enamel, or use coloured stainless steel for vibrant metallic colours.

Various examples of lettering:

Built up letter example Built up letter example
Built up letter example Built up letter example

When we have finished making these clever signs at the end of the day, I can go home, clean up, have a quick bite to eat, then appear on a stage near you as Kevin Starr, the legendary stage hypnotist.

For further information contact: Kevin Washbourne, impact 3d Signs Ltd, Tel 01915 360536 or visit

'Impact 3D Signs' sign at their premises.

Signarama marks start of The West Highland Way

When they were approached by East DunBartonshire Council to design, manufacture and install a sign to mark the start of Scotland's famous walk "The West Highland Way", Signarama Glasgow North were delighted to accept the challenge.

Having completed the West Highland Walk himself many years ago, Marc Burley of Signarama understood the importance of having an impressive landmark to mark the start of what is an amazing 96 mile journey across some of Scotland's most breath taking scenery.

The design for the sign is on a British Racing Green background and features fret cut Scottish thistles in stainless steel, with built up text manufactured from brushed stainless steel. The use of the thistle motif gives the sign a traditional Scottish feel and is sure to mean that this landmark is photographed for years to come.

The location for the sign is Milngavie Main Street on a sloping bridge spanning Allander Water. The site for the sign meant that the team from Signarama Glasgow North faced numerous challenges during the construction. Because of its position on a bridge the sign is likely to be subject to severe weather conditions, as a result everything for the sign including the fixings and internal structure has been constructed from stainless steel. The sign spans 12.5 metres broken into three sections. The centre section is 5.6 metres wide and features a broad curve. To give the curved section added strength, Signarama used 40mm stainless steel square section supports in this part of the sign. The supporting posts for the sign were made from 5mm thick 150mm square sections of stainless steel, welded to 20mm thick base plates.

The sign was constructed by Signarama over a two week period and the installation took three days.

For further information on Signarama franchises visit the website


EtchFAST - Long lasting impact

EtchFAST Plaque The company uses many materials, from stainless steel, glass, marble and stone to plastics and rigid laminates. As well as laser engraving and chemical etching, it supplies vinyl lettering; commemorative plaques, property signage, badges, labels and internal sign systems are just some of the goods available.

etchFAST says its trade prices are extremely competitive without scrimping on quality and great pride is taken to provide the best finish possible and a fast turnaround.

Signage is critical in promoting an image in the market. A tarnished name plate impacts negatively on both the sign maker and their client.

Where plaques and nameplates need to be durable enough to withstand extreme conditions and cope with sunlight and corrosive chemicals, chemical etching and engraving are good choices with long-lasting impact, even in extreme outdoor applications.

EtchFAST Falklands Plaque commemorating the 25th anniversary of the QE2's return to southampton in 1982. Both processes can be effectively carried out on a range of materials, stainless steel and brass being the most popular. For added protection panels can be baked with durable lacquer if requested.

etchFAST also manufactures plates for use in other areas of industry such as control panels, dials and badges, serialnumbered labels and more.

Visit or telephone 0208 880 2070 for further information.

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