Metal on Foam
Acrylic on Foam
The first thing to know about using plastic letters on your buildings, marquees or store fronts, is that these are professional grade letters that are purpose made to give decades of service. When we say professional grade we mean that the letters we sell are made to be sold to sign companies and in fact the vast majority of sign companies in the USA buy the very same letters from the very same manufacturer as we do. The manufacturer we use has been in business over 50 years and produces everything right here in the United States employing thousands of Americans. All letters carry a lifetime manufacturer warranty and there is never an issue with getting warranty issues covered, albeit that we see so little of it due to the fact that quality and craftsmanship is of the highest caliber.
Many people ask what the difference is between Vacuum Formed Plastic Letters and Injection Molded Plastic letters. Essentially very little in terms of the material and longevity. The materials are the same cotton fiber based plastic known as Cellulose Acetate Butyrate or CAB for short. In vacuum forming, the material is in sheet form and is pre heated and sucked down over wooden or latex molds which causes edges to round over as the material cools. The edge of the mold is never at 90 degrees to the face to allow for the release of the material so vacuum formed letters will be slightly larger in the back of the letter than it is in the front. Another caveat of formed plastic sign letters is that as the molds become smaller with smaller letters, the definition of the letter becomes more rounded and any holes in the letter as with the letter "R" and "A" become much smaller still. This is one reason that lowercase letters are rarely offered in molded plastic letters at sizes below 6".
With Injection Molded letters the issue of rounding is solved by injecting the material into expensive precision made metal molds. The heated pellets liquefy and a perfectly sharp 90 degree edge is made and all details of the mold are accurately copied transferred to the finished product. The drawback with this type of molding is the cost to make molds which can get into very high dollar amounts and the result of that is that no custom molding can be done due to mod cost. In fact these precision molds are so expensive that injection molded plastic letters are only offered in 6 font styles and only up to 18" tall with many fonts not having lowercase or intermediate sizes beyond the standard 4-6-9-12-15-18" sizes.
Mounting hardware on molded letters, both vacuum formed and Injection molded is also an issue because the molding process cannot have pre-marked place holders for the mounting hardware. This means that all hardware must be glued in after production and the locations of where stud or combo type mounts are glued can differ widely even when they are the same letter. When it comes to making a mounting pattern, this issue becomes further complicated in that all letters must be hand drawn on the pattern paper after which a technician must mark out the where the studs falls for every letter and also number both the letter and it's place on the pattern. Unfortunately this means that multiple sets of the same sign letters require a pattern for each set.
Molded plastic letters will also give you far more depth for less cost than using a sheet cut material such as Acrylic. Once an acrylic letter gets beyond 1/4" in thickness and 6" in height, it is often more cost effective to use either Injection molded or vacuum formed plastic letters. Acrylic letters are cut from solid sheet material that is similar to colored Plexiglas which is actually not a material in itself but rather a trade name. Still, the term Acrylic and Plex is widely accepted as the same thing and is used throughout the United States for building letters both inside and outdoor. Acrylic letters are cheaper as long as the thickness required is minimal and the letter heights are not excessive. The drawback with excessive height and Acrylic solid sheet sign letters are easy cracking if impacted and UV degradation on unpainted surfaces. One question we get often is why a painted letter might hold up or look better than a sheet color letter and as I always tell people, Acrylic letters, especially in darker shades are prone to UV degradation and painting counters much of that due to the PGP/Matthews Architectural grade paint we use which are formulated to resist UV. The other benefit of painted letters in my opinion is to remove the plastic look that is the hallmark of acrylic plex sign letters. Simply put anyone looking at the sign can easily tell it's plastic. Once painted, the material itself is hidden from view and could just as easily be metal letters for all anyone would know. This removes the "cheap" look which of course nobody wants their business name to portray.
Metal letters are the pinnacle of sign letters and naturally command more up front cost. There are many reasons to use metal letters over plastic letters but as with everything else in life, the budget is not always there. Having said that, the main reason to use metal should be because it fits with your organization and it's position in the business world and it's intended audience. What I mean by that is if you are trying to attract low income bargain shoppers to your business, the signage you use should not portray wealth as it may be perceived that you have high prices. If on the other hand you are a high end professional firm then the use of high end letters that portray wealth, success and longevity is of high importance. In my opinion, every business can afford the high end sign if they are looking for long term investment in their trade or brand name. Buying a cheap sign just because you need a sign and not considering what your choice is saying about you or your company is the wrong way to look at things. Buy the sign based on what you do and what your service level is, not on price.
On the high end of the spectrum we have the very popular and outrageously expensive Fabricated Stainless Steel letters, complete with halo backlighting or face lighting.
If you don't care for lighted letters or want to save some cost but still have deep rich looking metal letters then we have those too and you can knock a chunk of change off the cost. Open back, Fabricated stainless steel letters are lightweight and easy to install and will last for decades. On the heavier side of things come cast aluminum and cast bronze sign letters. Just as with plastic molded letters versus acrylic letters, cast metal letters get much cheaper when you consider the overall depth and height of the letter and start to weigh the cost against its sheet cut counterpart. Again, once you get past 1/4" deep or 6" tall with cut metal letters, the costs differences start to even out and the cast aluminum and cast bronze begin to be the better choice, both for aesthetics and price. Too many customers take the time to research our competition prices on a single product, without researching the savings that can be had when comparing products. It is essential to look at all the options.. take the time and educate yourself to what is available and why a different manufacturing method may save you a lot of money and give you more bang for your buck.
While we are on this subject it should be mentioned that the intended use of the product should not be overlooked. If for instance your head is saying METAL for indoors behind a reception desk or an honor wall or waiting area, there is no need for expensive solid OR cast metal. Look at display letters such as Metal Face Acrylic for behind reception areas. With 16 different face metal finishes from aluminum to brass to bronze you will get the look you want without the cost of solid cut letters or cast letters. Look at Gemleaf letters for small areas such as door names, picture titles and honor walls. Look at Metal on foam letters or acrylic on foam letters if you want a bold deep look.
For outdoors where you want the longevity of solid metal, the look of metal or just the strength of metal, look to using cut metal letters. These are cut from solid metal sheet up to 1.5" thick with a price tag to match. We recommend that you always consider cast aluminum letters or cast bronze letters if you want depth, but if you can live with 1/4" thickness, which are more than strong enough for most outdoor signs, cut metal may be the solution. Choose from cut aluminum letters, cut brass letters, cut bronze letters, cut copper letters, cut stainless steel letters or for a rusted look choose Cor-Ten Steel letters. Any of these types of letters will, with proper maintenance, give you a decade of service before you need to re coat the clear protective's. With aluminum cut letters, choose anodized if you never want to worry about clear coats. With stainless steel letters, all of them are now passivated at the factory to reduce streaking and tarnish and for coastal areas and marine you can get alloy marine graded 316 stainless.
So earlier, I had said that face lighted letters were flashy and signaled high prices. In the image above, we all know that BOUTIQUE prices are not bargain basement but their cloth's are not cookie cutter either. This is where we want to shout out BOUTIQUE in big bright bold letters with face lighting. We want our customers to know we offer something different. We are not looking for the bargain hunter, we are looking for a more affluent customer that has the money to buy something more exclusive.
Every product we sell has a use. It is intended to convey a message to the reader in a subliminal way. It is vitally important for our customers to do the homework and not just buy the cheapest thing we have. You deserve better and you can put up a sign that works for you and your intended audience. Life is a stage, your sign is the first thing a customer see's. Make a statement, make the RIGHT statement. A sign is not the last thing on the list for your business, it should be a priority for you to get it right the first time. You didn't start your business to have it close down next year .. it's an investment that will last many years and when you do the math of what your sign letters are going to cost and then spread that cost over the many years that you expect to be in business, the cost even for the high end is negligible. Be smart.. this isn't walmart. Look at your business, your wall space, your store area, your competitors signs, the level of affluence in your location and build a sign that match's all that information. Thanks for your time.