SBI News

Atlona has hired Victor Baut as national sales manager, residential. Baut will oversee Atlona residential sales throughout the United States and Canada. He previously worked for SpeakerCraft, Core Brands, and Monster Cable. Atlona has also appointed Thorsten Goecke as director of business development for EMEA, Commercial. Goecke will work to extend Atlona's partner network and brand awareness in the European AV installation market. He previously worked for Icron Technologies and Gefen Distribution GmbH.

Attendees at the upcoming ISA International Sign Expo, April 24-26, 2014 in Orlando, Florida will be able to experience the official launch of the new Roland DisplayStudio™ Digital Sign System, a powerful, user-friendly system for sign makers looking to get started in the rapidly growing digital signage market. Roland will also be showcasing its latest UV and eco-solvent digital printing technologies at the event.

Sign Builder Illustrated columnist Jim Hingst writes: “Understanding the sticky business can be challenging even for those with considerable experience.  Pressure-sensitive constructions combine a variety of components, including an assortment of adhesives, release liners and facestocks and carriers.

Fans that attended Chicago Cubs 2014 spring training games were treated to a new LED video display at Cubs Park in Mesa, Ari. The new displays were designed, manufactured, and installed by Daktronics of Brookings, South Dakota.

Delcam and Bloodhound SSC are running a competition for students to design the brass plaques to be presented to schools supporting the project. The students who produce the winning designs using Delcam’s ArtCAM software will each receive an invitation to watch the Bloodhound SSC test run in Cornwall in 2015, together with an adult companion, prior to the attempt to set a new world land speed record of 1,000 miles per hour in South Africa in 2016. For more information on Bloodhound visit

Drytac®, an international manufacturer of adhesive-coated products with locations throughout North America and Europe, has recently launched a new Web site to promote its custom adhesive coating services.

In recent years, many sign shops have turned to the versatility and durability of HDU material to create dimensional signs. But there are still some misconceptions out there about this material, so Sign Builder Illustrated spoke to manufacturers and suppliers to carve out the details on how to best work with HDU.

It’s important to first determine what type of project you’re working on and to then choose the best density of HDU for it. Common HDU options include ten-, fifteen-, eighteen-, and thirty-pound density, with the most popular being fifteen-pound.

The density affects everything from the tools to the detail to the finishing. A rule of thumb is the lower the density, the softer the material (and the less detail that’s possible). Lower densities may also require more primer and paint on the finishing end.

It’s also importnat to realize that HDU may be similar to wood in many respects, but it’s not meant to be used for structural strength. Wood grain provides a lot of structural support or beam strength, which HDU does not have.

So if the material will be used for any type of support, a thicker density or an additional backing will be needed.

Beyond density, shops often ask what type of tools can be used on HDU. Chuck Miller, president of Coastal Enterprises, sums it up simply: “You use exactly the same tools—the Dremels and the cutters and everything—that you would use on wood. If it works on wood, it’s easier to use it on HDU. But if you can’t use it on wood, you can’t use it on HDU.”

Everything from hand tools such as chisels to machining tools like CNC routers and lathes can be used on HDU. It just comes down to personal preference.

(Note: Miller dispels a common myth by explaining that a hot wire cannot be used on HDU—the material doesn’t dissolve under the heat, so it will break the wire.)

Whether machining or hand carving HDU, it’s important to take your time. “It’s just thinking the process through,” says Daniel Hennesey, Sales & Customer Service at Wensco Sign Supplies. “No redos—and that’s a rule for any shop. They don’t like redos because it costs them money and time.”

Still even the most careful carvers can make mistakes. The good news is that there are ways to fix them.

There are a few options for repairing smaller mistakes or mis-cuts:

+ Use Coastal Enterprise’s FSC-360 WB HDU Filler.

+ Combine HDU dust with a quality woodworking glue and use it for filling holes.

+ Use a polyurethane glue, but remember that the densities of the glue and the HDU are not the same. “You will see a sheen difference between where the glue spot is and the sign foam itself. That’s why you need to prime it a number of times and sand in between,” says Hennesey.

For bigger mistakes where a piece has been broken or cut off, you can re-carve the section and glue it on. You can even program your router to cut out a plug using the same tool path that made the mistake.

When you finish cutting/carving, you’re not out of the woods just yet—the piece still needs to be finished. In many ways, this can be the trickiest part since finishing HDU is so different from other materials. HDU doesn’t absorb anything, so the primer and paint must dry from the inside out.

(Note: A variety of paints can be used on HDU, including latex, laquer, and polyurethane-based coatings.)

“To speed up the drying process, after you apply the primer, put a twenty-four-inch-diameter shop fan blowing across it,” says Miller. “The air that’s moving across the surface creates a frictional heating as the air slides along and barely changes the temperature, but enough to where the moisture or whatever solvents are in the paint realize that it’s warmer on the outside than it is on the inside and it jumps out. So it dries really fast.”

(Note: HDU will take the longest to dry in cold, damp conditions.)

The HDU sign must dry out completely or blisters will appear on the sign when it’s out in the sun.


Beware that a dry surface doesn’t always indicate a fully dry sign. To tell if the HDU is really dry, sign makers should sand a corner of the sign with 100-grit sandpaper. If any primer or paint streaks onto the sandpaper, the piece isn’t fully dry.

Whether finishing, cutting, or carving HDU, it’s important to do so safely. “First and foremost, you need to have a dust mask,” says Hennesey.

There’s nothing carcinogenic in the HDU dust, and no fumes/gases are given off when it’s cut, but it’s still important to avoid breathing in the dust.

Protective eyewear is a must, and Hennesey also recommends wearing textured gloves for a better grip when dealing with larger HDU pieces.

By Ashley Bray

Photos: Jeff Wisdom, Oregon SignWorks in Springfield, OR.

Last year’s ISA International Sign Expo, held in Las Vegas, Nevada, landed on the most recent version of Trade Show Executive’s annual list of the “Fifty Fastest Growing Trade Shows.” That event occupied 202,000 square feet and drew more than 19,5000 attendees checking out more than 595 companies in the exhibit hall. The increase in each area was significant enough to place the event on separate lists for: (A.) growth in attendance and (B.) number of exhibiting companies.

So you have a set of channel letters that need to be updated from neon to LED—either by the desire of the sign’s owner or your ability to find new income streams. Let’s take a look at some of your considerations!

Letter Heights

Letter heights typically determine the module footprint. Today most LED suppliers offer two, three, and even more channel letter modules (CLM) per foot, and the reason to use one over the other typically comes down to the above criteria.

The larger the letter, the larger the CLM you can use. This makes the install easier, since you work with less CLM. In return, less labor is involved.

On the other hand, smaller letters or letters featuring serifs and cursive-type fonts typically require smaller footprint modules (like three or more per foot) to fill in and around the tighter letter bends.

Letter Return Depths

Return depths also have a direct effect on the CLM placement.

Typically four-inch (or less) return depths require the CLM to be mounted closer to each other, which technically increases the power consumption and CLM count.

Even shallower return depths require even tighter spacing and possibly a wider beam angle to help prevent hot spots with the point of light so close to the face.

In all cases, consult your particular vendor of choice.

Letter Strokes

As it was with neon, the letter stroke is another vital consideration.

A CLM from any vendor has recommended row spacing for various strokes, and up to five to six inches is standard per row of multiple LED. Thus a large letter with a fifteen-inch letter stroke, as an example, will typically need three or more rows of CLM.

Also some fonts are thick and thin, requiring more rows in the larger areas and less in the serifs or radiuses.

As mentioned previously, your LED vendor should be able to do this recommended layout for you.

Face Color

This factor should be considered if the face of the channel letter is going to stay the same. Face color, as with neon of the past, can be affected by the color of illumination.

For example, red faces with white LEDs offer less saturated “red” color, as the white light washes out through the red face. On the other hand, red LED behind a red face provides for a saturated red with more impact.

However in today’s market, we are seeing less use of all colored LED, as the performance and costs of white LED have increased and the price reduced. It is my belief, though, that placing colored LED behind colored faces gives the best color saturation.

Relative to face color, you also need to consider that white LED is typically available in 3K, 5K, 6.5K, and the newer, more popular 7.2 to 7.5K whites.

Warm K temps (lower numbers) are more yellowish, and high K temps (higher numbers) have a bluer look. Thus a warmer K temp CLM will make, as an example, a red face look better, and a higher K temp CLM with a blue face will make the blue look better.

So you, as the manufacturer of the sign, have choices to further satisfy your customer with your knowledge and to choose the solution that makes them look best.


Halo Mounting

For halo illumination (where a typical letter is stud-mounted off the wall), the wall surface can have a positive or negative effect on the finished look.

For example, halo letters mounted on a nice, polished marble surface will give a direct image of the back of the letter on the shiny surface, and this needs to be addressed.

For this scenario, I recommend using a white pigmented back panel. This ensures that the mirror image is a clean letter shape.

However a word of caution using LED (as they are a point source): If you are using a clear back on this mirrored mounting surface, test a finished letter first. The right solution here can make or break the final look.

By Fritz Meyne, Jr., vice president of Sales at LED lighting solutions provider Bitro Group, Inc.

Photos (top to bottom): Gemini, Bitro Group.

Digital printing leader Roland DGA Corp., has entered the dynamic digital signage market in a big way with its new Roland DisplayStudio digital sign system, a complete, affordable solution that allows traditional sign shops to increase profits by adding digital signage to their product mix.

SA International (SAi) has announced details of an exclusive promotional giveaway at ISA, Orlando (Booth #1436), offering visitors the chance to walk away with one of eight cool Android tablets during the three-day event.

Esko announces that EskoWorld 2014, the annual event for Esko users in the Americas, is headed to Orlando at the award-winning Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin - located in the heart of Walt Disney World, June 15-18. The 2013 event hosted nearly 600 attendees, and Esko plans to be prepared for a valuable learning experience for all.

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