Sign & Digital Graphics

November '18

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18 • November 2018 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL Wordy Wall Job is Fun with a Laser Creating letters with black acrylic B Y R I C K W I L L I A M S Shop Talk In the end, though just handling the multitude of parts was somewhat time consuming, the project went quite well and absolutely predictable, and our client loved the results. Some of the exact methods used, and illustrated here, may help other sign makers save time or avoid mistakes on similar projects. As one can tell from the photos, some of the elements we made for this project were fairly large, and most sign shop lasers, including ours, are not. Our Trotec 120-watt laser will handle sheets approximately 24" x 39" in size, and the large "Zeid" logo was well over that size. Also, the metal overlays on that logo and the lettering, which went below it, featured brushed aluminum centers, which cannot be cut on the type of laser we have. So, the large items of black acrylic, and the overlay parts that were actually made of metal were cut on a CNC waterjet. The other vast number of parts were cut on our laser. The acrylic used for the entire project was simply 3/16" thick gloss black. A small amount of clear acrylic, also 3/16" thick, was used to make special mounting hardware. This custom mounting hardware was made in-house using the laser. For the install patterns we used regular white poster board, which is easily and rapidly cut on a laser, and of course patterns made this way are incredibly accurate. The letters in the poster board patterns were made 1/16" thicker in stroke width so the patterns could easily be removed away from the lettering after installation. Though the largest acrylic parts also had to be cut on the waterjet, the .040 brushed aluminum parts were too, and for both of them a sacrificial sheet of coroplast (which happened to be orange in color) was used to reduce potentially damaging splash back when the stream of water crosses over the slats that support the work. This is fairly harmless with thicker metal but can be damaging to plastic and thin aluminum sheet and may cause edge flaws that can be seen from the front. Actually, the cutting of the many parts of this job was actu- ally the easiest part of the work. However, putting the metal parts over the logo and accompanying lettering needed to be done right the first time, since repositioning them would be impossible without damaging the parts made of thin .040 brushed aluminum sheet. This step, however, was carefully dealt with by using a sim- ple method of putting temporary paper spacers between the metal and acrylic parts, and only when absolutely certain they were aligned perfectly would the spacers be removed, allowing the double-sided adhesive to bond the parts in place. A few weeks ago, we completed one of the most wordy projects of individual letters and logos I can remember doing. It was for a women's medical clinic in a nearby city, and the staff wanted to decorate a large interior wall with a custom raised logo and also their entire mission and vision statements and more. I believe in the end it was made of more than 175 items, mostly black acrylic but some of it would be two-tone with elements overlaid with .040 brushed aluminum sheet. The unwieldy number of parts was made more manageable by using a laser to easily cut the vast majority of the lettering, and also laser cutting perfect poster board installation patterns to aid the work in the field. Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and documenting the sign business since 1986. Contact him at This very wordy inside wall job combined a couple of technologies, but the acrylic cutting ability of a laser really makes this work practi- cal and profitable.

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