Sign & Digital Graphics

August '18

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20 • August 2018 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S ELECTRIC SIGNAGE specification community. Many of the LED manufacturers now have developed simulated neon products using LEDs." The process of putting an open-face letter into place includes using a com- bination of fastening and choosing the proper light source. Open-face letters are "any type of channel letter where the returns are fas- tened to the letter back and the face of the can is open to expose a light source," Popp says. "Often exposed neon is used for the artistic/retro effect. It can also be non-illuminated or have bulbs." Specialty Letters—With specialty channel letters, there is a bit of vague- ness. Typically, it is classified as some- thing close to one of the above letter types, but with some kind of differen- tiator. "Specialty could be considered a com- bination of both halo and front lit," says Eppert. "We have done many jobs like this and it requires a minimum depth of three inches and a baffle set into the let- ter can (we prefer it at two inches from the face) to separate the LEDs, provid- ing the face illumination from the LEDs providing the halo illumination." These types of projects can also include different materials or colors. "Specialty channel letters are built like the face-lit channel letter, but have a clear or white polycarbonate letter back," says Popp. "This allows the face to illu- minate and the halo effect reflect off the wall or background." Tips and Considerations Channel letters are becoming increas- ingly more relevant and popular. This is one of the reasons why sign makers should capitalize on bringing this type of work to their shops. Another good moti- vator for turning to channel letter proj- ects is because shops likely already have the design capabilities and labor force in place—it's just a matter of acquiring the equipment and gaining experience. "Equipment is key," declares Popp. "Invest in the right equipment and if you cannot buy good equipment let a wholesaler build it for you. Wholesalers can build it cheaper than you can as a startup without equipment. Focus on selling signs and wholesaling what you can sell for good margin rather than add- ing overhead and feeling like you need to sell anything you can in order to use the equipment you invested so much in." Beyond choosing the proper equip- ment, there are elements to consider when tackling these projects. Here is a categorized list of tips from some chan- nel letter professionals. Plan Ahead—Of course, it's always wise to make sure a sound plan is in place for any kind of work. This is especially true with channel letters due to all the pieces of the puzzle coming together accurately. "Make sure building or associa- tion restrictions are reviewed," says Wett. "Many have a limit on the square foot coverage allowed for signs. Make sure you know how this is calculated. Understand the local building codes and plan to secure the required permits. Be sure to know and understand all electri- cal requirements—codes, restrictions, limits, etc." Specifically, Wett suggests inquiring about UL certification with your sign and if a master electrician is needed for the wiring. "Are there any other electrical issues to prepare for such as lead wire require- ments or enclosures?" Wett asks. Popp agrees, stating that unexpected issues are nearly certain to arise. He cites challenges such as "the sales, permitting, and the design phase before a wholesale manufacture would receive the order." Design Accurately—The design phase, as Popp mentioned, is essential to a successful channel letter sign, says Popp, "The process starts with design." He further explains how design kicks off the project. "When we receive a pre- designed art file as a wholesale manu- facture, we import, clean, and size the file. Then supply the customer with an approval drawing and produce produc- tion files for cutting, bending and fabri- cation of the channel letters, raceways, backgrounds, vinyl and other ancillary pieces. Once the approval drawing is accepted by the customer we cut, bend and fabricate the product." It's at this initial stage that sign makers should address the questions associated Consider the mounting distance and depth of the letter when choosing lighting options. (Image courtesy of US Sign & Fabrication) (Left) Fabricated letters can be made of aluminum or stainless steel. (Image courtesy of US Sign & Fabrication)

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