When it comes to designing your sign, it is important to choose or help your customer choose the best material. Depending on your intended use for your sign you should consider at least three crucial factors:
- Where will it be showcased?
- How long you expect to use your sign?
- What kind of ink or finishing do you want?
Indoor signs and outdoor signs are made of different materials. Knowing the difference in materials will save you from having a botched sign. Remember, this is a representation of what you will be promoting, so its quality should match the message. Over the past 10 years, the combination of coating and inkjet advances has fostered a major increase in the number and types of materials that will work well with a specific printer. Let’s take a look at some of the different materials available for both indoor and outdoor signs.
Let’s take a look at the different materials available for both indoor and outdoor signs.
While it’s important to know the benefits of both indoor and outdoor materials, they can be swapped without too many negative consequences. It’s very common to see an outdoor sign made from typical indoor materials, but they don’t always hold up as long as expected.
For those who’d rather be safe than sorry, use materials like:
- Medium Density Overlay (MDO)
- Dibond/Alumalite and other aluminum composite materials
An MDO consists of exterior panels made from plywood, which have a fiber overlay that is resin imprinted and fused to the panel’s surface. The overlay removes the need for surface checking. These panels last much longer and look better after being painted. They can come primed or unprimed for painting.
You have seen MDO’s used in common signs such as:
- Highway and Traffic signs
- Building site signs
- Industrial shelving
- Park Signage
The main benefit of this material is that it doesn’t bend easily, making it great for posts or poles. One major disadvantage is that water will destroy it over a period of years, although this can be mitigated by treating the edges with an end cap.
Aluminum comes in a huge variety of different sizes and colors. When purchasing Aluminum, it typically has white on one side, and color on the other. The most common places you will see aluminum signage are license plates, real estate signs, and parking signs. Aluminum might be the single best material for outdoor signs because it does not rust. A downside is the flexibility of the material. Signs built with Aluminum are easily damaged or bent.
As the name suggests, alumalite (and other aluminum composite materials) is similar to aluminum. It’s a panel made from an aluminum composite that has a high-density polyallomer core that is corrugated or can be solid, or even high-density foam. For this reason, it will never corrode or swell from water damage. The surface of it is painted with high-gloss aluminum.
This type of material will never crack, chip, peel, or flake as it comes with acrylic factory baked faces.
You will most often find alumalite signs used in:
- Laser printing
- Kiosk canopy fascias
- Multiple panel signs
Alumalite features all the rigidity of an MDO while remaining lightweight.
Acyclic, most commonly referred to as plexiglass, features excellent optical, thermal, mechanical, and chemical resistant properties. It can be found in places like:
- Restroom panels
- Hockey Rinks
Because of acrylics waterproof nature, it can be used for outdoor and indoor applications.
Magnetic materials are waterproof are usually used for vehicle signs, hobbies, promotional purposes, menu boards and more. Advertising on vehicles is the single most common use for magnetic signage.
Banner is a vinyl material that is reinforced by nylon. It is most often used for graphics that are only intended for one side of the sign. Banners are by far one of the most common and popular sign materials, and they are often used at an event like grand openings and trade shows. White corrugated sheet materials, commonly called Coroplast, (and otherwise known as corrugated polypropylene) are a mainstay for low-cost outdoor signage that has a short lifespan. It is commonly used for yard signs and on poles, as it can easily be tacked in place, and because it is relatively inexpensive, a requirement for such low-cost non-permanent signage.
The most common indoor materials used are things like PVC, sho-card, and coroplast.
PVC is an another substrate that can be used for indoor and outdoor purposes. PVC is produced in sheets which have good levels of toughness that resist cracking and dents. It does well with many types of screen inks, vinyl films, and digital imaging.
Sho-card is completely resistant to grease, oil, and fingerprints. It often goes by the name poly signboard and is best used for directional signs, displays, and posters. It’s one of the least expensive materials available.
Since coroplast has a limited life, it is typically used on outdoor signs for real estate but is also used for short run usage in display panels, election signs, and for other temporary indoor uses. This product is very popular as it allows for signs to be folded during transportation.
As you can see, there are many different materials that can be used in the making of signs and they have different benefits and drawbacks. No matter the kind of sign you want, the important thing is to have both a printer and a digital cutter that can efficiently be used for their manufacture. Due to it’s“All in One” capability, with fully automated finishing for materials that require laser, router, or knife to cut and finish, the MCT VersaTech2 is the best choice to cut your materials.