Materials & Substrates:
Customers often ask us, "What type of signs do you make?", and when we answer "All types", they then try to put things in their own terms."Well do you make wood signs, plastic signs, metal signs or what?" The answer is YES, all of the above. Then, the education process begins. Years ago, these 3 materials dominated the sign industry, however, in the world we live in today, wood is discouraged in favor of polyurethane resin, metal and plastic are still used, but many new hybrid materials and expanded pvc's and vinyl have cropped up to give us many options in the signs we build.
Although the chart we have assembled here explains these materials in depth, it is our 15 years’ experience in using them in fabrication that sets us apart from other companies. Of course all materials can be used well in flat sheet form with flat lettering on them. However, when engraving, carving or dimensional construction are involved, the choices become much more in depth.
This chart is simply a way for us to help inform you of what attributes each material has and what mediums they work well for. A "material" in sign making refers to the physical surface the ink is applied to. Nearly all materials used in sign making have a specific inkset or laminate to use in order to maximize longevity. Bayside Woodworking & Signs always matches materials with the proper inkset and/or laminate for optimal quality and longevity. Materials are matched to the substrate as well, which include a range of longevity from 1 to 10 years. Specialty vinyls and laminates are used for textured surfaces, vehicle graphics, window overlays, and many other applications.
Corrugated Plastic / coro
A cellular plastic that is used for any type of flat sign Referred to in the industry as "Corex" or "Coro," this material is predominately used for temporary and promotional signage. It's ideal for lawn signs such as election signs, sales, directional signage, real estate signs, or site signs for new building projects. Bayside Signs is one of the few sign companies that uses an opaque coro for our signs, allowing for double-sided signage. This way the image from the second side does not telegraph through. We have seen this material last for many years outdoors as well, but is limited to being used alone and should not be used in building complex signs. A derivative of this product called Alumacore
PVC Polyvinyl Chloride Smooth Plastic
A PVC "Foam" that is lightweight yet rigid and durable, it is ideal for medium-term signs for use both indoors and outdoors. It's commonly used for menu boards, point of purchase, and tradeshow directionals. Other brand names for this PVC product are Sintra, Kapabloc, Foamacell.
Expanded PVC: A relatively new but amazing material. (PVC standing for Poly Vinyl Chloride.) Without getting to techy it is a material that is in the plastic family but through adding air to the fabrication process, hence the term expanded, makes it a little lighter and less prone to breakage as regular plastics would be. Great for fabricating with, in the heavier mills (thickness). Not recommended as a stand alone material, in other words with no frame or backing. It has some trouble with ordinary paint adhering to the surface, but can be painted with some automotive paints very successfully. Also must have room to breathe. Not to be screwed down to tight to other surfaces. Also can be engraved or machined, but is slightly less favorable in our estimation than the more expensive Poly-urethane resin sign boards described below, especially on larger signs due to its expansion and contraction ratio.
Dibond is an aluminum composite material made of two sheets of .012 aluminum with a solid polyethylene plastic core. This material is ideal for mid-to-long term outdoor signs as it is not prone to warping in high heat. Great for use in Post & Rail signs or wall signs.
A composite material made of two sheets of .012 aluminum with a corrugated plastic core, Alumalite is used for long-term lawn signs, building signs, fence- or post-mounted signs, sales kiosks, and more. This is a very rigid product that can be used between two 4x4 posts and not bend with the wind. Because it is as strong as MDO & fiberboard, but it's plastic & aluminum, it will not degrade in the weather.
MDO has an exterior-use, long-term grade plywood core, with a moisture-proof smooth surface with a life span of up to 7-8 years if painted and treated properly. Plastic edgecap is optional. It's perfect for construction site signs, real-estate signs, billboards, double post signs and more. Unlike many of the modern materials it is structurally good used alone (between two posts) etc. However, it is a wood product and is prone to absorb water through the edges. Most often used for temporary or short term permanent signs in real estate applications or many other industrial and commercial applications. M.D.O. has withstood the test of time and is very commonly used for simple signage and construction applications.
This solid aluminum sheet features a smooth, baked enamel surface and is sold in a variety of gauges. Aluminum is ideal for long- to permanent-use signs such as traffic, parking lot, park, and reusable real-estate signs. White baked enamel faces come in .080, .063, and .040 thicknesses. Raw aluminum faces may be used if the sign needs to be made reflective by sheeting out with engineer grade reflective vinyl before printing. Although a great and highly durable effective sign material it does have fabrication restrictions. By that we mean that it can only change its form by being bent in various linear forms and is therefore used as angle pieces, channels, flat faces, etc.
Acrylic & Plexiglass
These are versatile substrates used for a large variety of applications. Available in multiple translucence levels and thicknesses, they're perfect for modern lobby displays, backlit signs of all types, 3D lettering, and more. Bayside Woodwoorking and Signs can print on the reverse side of clear plexiglass and sheet out the print with white vinyl to make a great indoor wall sign that is very protected. Acrylic and Plexiglass are used frequently in healthclubs & offices. Also widely used in the illuminated sign industry for sign faces that need to be illuminated. This material is painted with translucent paints to allow light to pass through and create a message read in the daytime or nighttime. Although this is the most common use for the product it is not the only one, however, with the onset of expanded PVC and Corrugated plastics sheets we use it much less often than we once did on non-illuminated signs. It’s shatter resistant but pretty breakable.
Foamcore & Gator Foam / Gator Plast
Foamcore is a soft, inexpensive paper product with a wood-fiber veneer. GatorPlast is an extruded, rigid, lightweight polystyrene foam board bonded between two layers of ultra thin polystyrene veneer. These are typically used for medium term office displays, kiosks, POP, exhibits, custom shaped signs, easel signs, and temporary signs.
Fiberglass Reinforced Plywood Fiberboard can be used in place of MDO wood where larger than a 4x8 substrate is needed. The fiberglass faces provide long-lasting outdoor durability. Fiberboard can be fabricated to almost any size, as long as there is a truck big enough to transport it!
Polystyrene / Styrene
High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) offers a consistent, easily printed matte surface for either one or two sided printing applications. This polystyrene product, available in HIPS sheet or rollstock form, is especially suitable for digital printing of displays, POP graphics, signs, translights, tags and cards. It can also be contour cut.
Lexan / Polycarbonate
Lexan / Polycarbonate comes in translucent white or clear for use in sign faces on backlit signs. It is 3/16" thick and can be cut to many sizes up to 100" x length of sign. Although available in thicker sheets it becomes cost prohibitive to use but is sometimes considered. Bayside Woodworking & Signs can print full color on translucent vinyls, or cut a variety of solid colors of vinyl to update your sign face. Also widely used in the illuminated sign industry this material has all the same qualities as acrylic, but is different in one huge way. It is unbreakable! A wonderful material to use in any flat sign application and has been used to engrave letter in.
Poly-urethane Resin Boards
Have been used very successfully for approximately 18 years now and were designed to imitate and improve on all the qualities of a soft wood without the decaying and water absorption of wood. This material is all it is cracked up to be. It paints well! It carves and machines well! You can build and fabricate with it, laminate it, sculpt and sand it. Just amazing! However, every sliver lining has its cloud. A small detriment would be that used alone as a structure unto itself it is breakable, and is also more prone to denting than some other materials. It is our opinion that these small drawbacks can be lived with due to the superior attributes of this material.
Aluminum Clad Acrylic & Plywood
Very good material, especially the aluminum clad plastics. These products are just as they state, a piece of aluminum is glued to a core of either acrylic or plywood. The plywood version is much more prone to de-laminating if the edge is not properly protected and actually pinched together. The acrylic version is great and has not been observed to de-laminate. Although if any holes are to be drilled or screws are to be put in we recommend using the acrylic product.
Cedar, Redwood or Mahogany
The lure of natural beauty and ecology is just too hard for some to resist, however, be aware that maintenance will be constantly present, usually re-painting or staining will need to be done bi-yearly at the very least seeing how wood remains a constantly breathing and moving material. We will use wood as a sign material, providing that you the customers are very aware of the maintenance, although we like not to use wood because if neglected can give us an undeserved bad image.