Figuring it Out


Valley Wide Signs & Graphics hesitates to say it specializes in any one area; instead the shop does whatever it takes to get a job done—no matter if that calls for a custom sign or for a custom process that’s never been done before.

“I always say the answer is yes, and we just need to figure out how to go and do it,” says Steven Gingras, who has owned the thirteen-year-old shop for the last five years.

The shop put this figure-it-out mentality to work to complete two recent projects.

Wall Signs That Wow

Valley Wide Signs has done a lot of work with medical device company B. Braun Medical, so when the company wanted new interior signs to highlight its history, the sign shop was top of mind.

B. Braun approached the shop with a drawing of a forty-foot-long illuminated wall sign that would showcase the company’s timeline.

Based on the drawing, Valley Wide Signs created a prototype that was the full 30 inches high but only 2-1/2 to 3 feet wide.

The shop presented it to the client, who was so impressed that he ordered another wall sign to display the company’s product portfolio. (Note: After the two signs were installed, the client ordered a third sign for a total of 120 feet worth of signage throughout the building.)

The fabrication of the wall signs required a bit of research on the sign shop’s end.

The first hurdle was finding a material that would properly diffuse the LED lighting. Valley Wide Signs found that traditional acrylic wouldn’t work—the light went right through it.

Gingras turned to LuciteLux® for some material recommendations and ended up choosing LuciteLux® Light Guide Panel (LGP), a continuous cast acrylic specifically designed for edge-lit applications with evenly dispersed diffusion particles.

“LGP’s unique properties provided even illumination and allowed us to achieve the wow-factor and lit, floating effect we were aiming for in the design,” says Gingras.

Valley Wide Signs ordered fifteen to twenty sheets of LGP and cut them to about 7-1/2 to 8 feet long on their Vision Engraving and Routing Systems’ four-by-eight-foot CNC router.

Then using its CET Color X-Press 500 UV true flatbed printer, the shop printed the images in reverse onto the back of the material to create visual dimension and to prevent scratching. They lay down white vinyl over this.

“Our flatbed does not have white,” explains Gingras. “So instead, we just print all the other colors and then lay down a piece of white vinyl behind it. This makes it look just like it was printed with white.”

Valley Wide Signs also fabricated rails for the top and bottom of the sign, which the faces slide into. Using their CNC router, the shop cut particle board to size. It then applied .040 aluminum sheets over the board and secured it with contact cement.

“It gives it a really nice, consistent look,” says Gingras.

The shop inserted 1/4-inch aluminum U-channels into the rails to hold the sign faces and the flexible strips of LED on the top and bottom.

“LEDs pretty much have to be right up against the acrylic. They can’t be away from it,” says Gingras.


The U-channels not only hold the LEDs against the acrylic, but they also keep the panels straight and conduct some of the heat away from the LEDs.

It took about a day to install each wall sign. The rails were secured to the wall with one-inch standoffs, and the faces were slid into place. The standoffs make it appear as if the signs are floating off the wall.

“We created a template so that we knew exactly where all the holes went, and we could line it up perfectly down the hallway,” says Gingras.

Valley Wide Signs finds it is doing a lot more interior signs like these lately, which toe the line between interior décor and signage.

“It’s somewhere in between a sign and art,” says Gingras. “It really helps having the router and the flatbed printer. You have the right tools, and you can get these done a bit easier.”

Revving Up a Rebrand

On a rebranding project for Air Products, a supplier of industrial gasses, the right tools ended up being a bit more cerebral for the sign shop.

Air Products needed to update hundreds of tanker trucks with its new design, which called for a combination of paint and a yellow “momentum line” of vinyl.

The company wanted the trucks painted because there was a lot of “junk” on them that would prove difficult to wrap in vinyl. They also wanted the vehicles on the road for at least ten years before touch-ups or updates would be needed.

Air Products asked Valley Wide Signs to create kits that included the paint mask, the yellow vinyl line, and instructions for painters at five different locations to complete the rebrands.

The new branding elements include a green/white interface, which is an arc of a circle, and the yellow momentum line, which is a completely different shape.

The challenge was to find a way to take the two-dimensional curves, translate them into three-dimensional space, cut them out of two-dimensional materials, and then create instructions for the painters to duplicate.


The additional challenge was that Air Products has ten different diameter trucks but only wanted to stock three different rebranding kits.

Valley Wide Signs had a good, old-fashioned math problem on its hands.

Gingras fell back on his chemical engineering background for this one. Without a CAD program to help, Gingras used an Excel spreadsheet and some trigonometry and geometry to work out the dimensions so that everything fell into the right place.

For the mask, Gingras turned to his router’s layout program to lay out the two-dimensional design.

“I got the data points off of that and did the calculations,” he says.

Gingras cut the masks and vinyl strips out on his plotter, using 3M vinyl for the yellow momentum line.

He then wrote up directions and put in guide marks to help the painters line everything up.

“If you put one point in exactly the right spot and then lined up this extra stripe with the green and white interface, everything came out perfectly,” says Gingras.

Thanks to the success of this project, Valley Wide Signs is now helping Air Products to rebrand thirty to forty additional vehicles.

By Ashley Bray

All photos: Valley Wide Signs