Awards & Engraving

September '19

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14 • A&E SEPTEMBER 2019 A s an awards shop that utilizes laser engraving, sublimation, or possibly a combination of the two processes, you have probably run into the question, "Can you make a sign?" When thinking about it, laser engraving and sublimation are just two ways to decorate different substrates. A sign is anything that tries to convey a message through visual means. From that perspective, there's really no reason someone couldn't utilize sublima- tion or a laser system for signage. You just have to know the limits of each process and figure out where they come into play best. GETTING STARTED If you go to your internet browser and type in "How to get started in the sign industry," you will notice one of the first things to pop up is a vinyl plotter cutter. A plotter cutter is a machine that drags a knife on a horizontal X-axis through a piece of vinyl that is being fed back and forth on a vertical Y-axis using small wheels called The big thing that separates an awards shop from other standard sign shops is the fact that you can incorporate multiple processes to give customers a one-of-a-kind sign. ALL IMAGES COURTESY COLIN VANLINT Colin VanLint is a Sign Specialist that started with JDS Industries in 2015. Colin graduated with a Bachelor of Art with an emphasis on Multimedia Design from Northern State University in 2014 where he learned graphic design skills. While attending college, he worked as a computer and printer technician, acquiring years of troubleshooting and repair skills. Colin can be reached at Can You Make a Sign? How to create a sign using multiple design processes By Colin VanLint pinch rollers. Plotter cutters use vector graphics to determine the path that the blade will take to cut out your image. Sound familiar? For most people just starting in sig- nage, a vinyl plotter cutter is the foot in the door of the sign world. For an awards shop looking to expand and get into signs, it wouldn't be any different. A plotter cutter is a great tool that anyone looking to get into signs should have. The integration process is convenient as well — you can run your plotter cutter out of the same software as you use for sublimation and laser engraving. For example, I use CorelDRAW as my main vector-based software. My Graphtec plotter cutter has a plug-in that allows me to send my vector designs from CorelDRAW directly to my plotter. I can take the same file and send it to my sublimation printer or my laser engraver, all from one computer and design software. Adobe Illustrator is another well-known design software that many plotter cutters integrate with. It is important to note when looking for a plotter cutter that fits your needs to check whether it comes with a proprietary software or if it can integrate with existing software. Being able to use a familiar design software allows you to hit the ground running if and when you decide to get a plotter cutter. BIG BENEFITS The big thing that separates an awards shop coming into signage from other stan- dard sign shops is the fact that you can incorporate multiple processes to give cus- tomers a one-of-a-kind sign. In my experi- ence in the sign world, it boils down to creative problem solving. People come to me with all sorts of sign ideas, some basic and some complex. My job is to look at the application of the sign and figure out where it will hang and how

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