Selecting the right sheet material for your job is easy, right? Wrong. At Signforce, we often find ourselves helping our clients specify the materials for their signage projects, and with more and more options in the marketplace than ever before, it’s key to get this right to maximise profit, meet client expectations and maintain a reputation for a job well done...
In this blog, we will be comparing the most popular sheet materials, as well as introducing you to some lesser known, but equally brilliant products available.
1. DIBOND ALUMINIUM COMPOSITE
Dibond Aluminium composite is a lightweight material, which can be used both internally and externally. It is essentially aluminum sheets, with a density polyethylene core.
This allows it to be relatively durable, whilst keeping lightweight but rigid. Although it can be used internally, it really comes into it’s own in producing external signage. It comes in 3mm, 4mm and 6mm thick, and in panels up to 4 metres in length, which can be machined with ease on our 4m x 2m Multicam CNC router.
The fact that it comes pre-painted can save time and money… trays and lightboxes can be produced using CNC machines, and folded up quickly and with precision, cutting down on lead-times.
It also accepts self-adhesive graphics extremely well – printed graphics can be applied whilst in the flat state, before folding and finishing, for a flawless job.
We also offer a Marine-Grade, which is saltwater-resistant (ideal for use in Coastal areas), that has an extended lifespan.
However, buyer-beware… there are several grades of these products, all available at various price-points from alternative manufacturers, and although they appear the same, they can vary in quality and therefore effective lifespan due to the various skin-thicknesses, paint systems, alloys used etc. Cheaper, unbranded products have been known to delaminate and fail within a short space of time.
We use and endorse genuine Dibond, from 3A composites – the original aluminum composite for all fabrication use, and Dilite for flat panel work. We have hoarding grades available, but we will never use those for anything other than their intended use.
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Best for: Tray Signs (illuminated and non-illuminated), Exterior Panel Signs, Post Signs, Fabricated Point of Sale (POS) and Displays, High-end Exhibition Graphics.
2. FOAM PVC
Foam PVC has always been one of the most popular sheet materials for low-cost signage. Foam PVC is relatively lightweight and cost effective material and is ideal for most internal signage and exhibition use, and some external use. Foam PVC accepts direct print very well, and has a nice smooth surface for self-adhesive printed graphics – ideal for exhibition use and mid-range POS projects.
Foam PVC should only really be used internally in thinner gauges, as it can be susceptible to warping and bowing through exposure to heat from the sun if fixed incorrectly.
It comes in a wide range of colours and thicknesses, from 1mm to 19mm. Thicker gauges are quite often used for Lower-cost feature lettering and logos.
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Best for: Internal signage, Cut letters (in 8mm thick or more)
The common term for fluted polypropylene, and is often used for high volume, low cost signage, such as “Estate Agent” signs and temporary POS displays and signs. It doesn’t have the premium look that you’d get with Aluminium, Acrylic or Dibond, it does certainly have a place…
Because it is so light in weight, it is often the perfect choice for short term promotional materials and point of sale solutions. It can be direct printed, takes cut vinyl and printed graphics exceptionally well, and can be CNC cut, punched, drilled, slit and folded (very durable and won’t shatter easily). Cheap as chips
Correx board is long-lasting, 100% weatherproof and 100% recyclable with a clear identity which makes it easy to process, increasing the likelihood that it will be recycled.
Unfortunately, it still can’t be added to most household recycling collections from the council, which primarily accept plastic numbered 1, 2 & 3. This does vary across the country. As a guide, if your recycling system accepts plastic straws, it will most likely accept Correx boards.
Once it has been recycled, Correx boards are then turned into battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets and trays. Source: BPF
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Best for: Low cost POS and signage.
Aluminium is one of the most durable materials used for signage. Although heavier in weight than some materials, its robust nature means it is perfect for long-term external signage projects, in particular post and panel signs, monoliths and totems.
Colour options are endless, using either wet-spraying or powder-coating. We can also laser-cut or CNC cut letters, shaped signs, boxes and trays, with welded and dressed corners and detail, to produce Signs that will last years... Once finished it can be decorated with self-adhesive vinyl or print and will accept mechanical fixing more securely than other substrates.
To complete your internal and external projects, as a Spandex SignBuild Centre, we stock and process full range of Spandex Modular Systems, which are a full range of versatile solutions for all aspects of signage. For more information, click here.
Aluminium’s ability to be endlessly recycled also makes it one of the most conscientious choices for all signage types.
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Best for: External post signage, monoliths, totems & wayfinding signage. “The Daddy.”
Our favourite for all signage applications, and when used with careful consideration, achievable effects can be fantastic. More costly than Foam PVC or Aluminium Composite, but the end product is outstanding.
We stock acrylic in a huge range of colours and finishes and have specialist diamond machines and flame polishing equipment to ensure the finish is spot on. This can be formed, fabricated and illuminated to great effect.
The recent boom in the use of acrylic to simulate neon is leading to more experimentation, which combined with the progress being made in LED technology, is allowing us to be more creative with this material… very exciting times.
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6. TIMBER PRODUCTS
Good old wood… Sustainable products that have been used for signs for Hundreds of years…
We can cut, engrave and inlay wood-based products that can have a more traditional feel, or when combined with other materials, can have a real “cutting edge” feel. The right use of timber products can bring a warmth, character and real feel of hand-crafted quality to a signage scheme, particularly in an interior environment.
In a world where the environment is of more and more concern, these traditional, sustainable materials are enjoying a huge revival.
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OTHER SHEET MATERIALS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
KERROCK: A solid surface material, used for worksurfaces, desks, counters… an incredibly versatile material, that can be bonded together and machined to create seamless surfaces… it comes in variety of colours and effects to simulate stone and marble.
POLYCARBONATE: Ideal for machine guards and security glazing, polycarbonate can also be used for signage applications that require resistance to vandalism.
MULTISHIELD: A galvanized steel composite material that can add another dimension to information signage, project boards, Ideas walls, etc. Can be printed or accept vinyl graphics – has a drywipe coating that will also accept magnetic graphics…