Sign Manufacturing

Plastic sheet and film materials for indoor and outdoor signs

Plastic Materials for Signs

Plastics are used for many different signage applications including: 

  • Thermoformed sign faces
  • Channel letters
  • Restaurant menu boards
  • Wayfinding and identification plaques

Sign-grade plastic sheet materials such as OPTIX® SG acrylic and TUFFAK® SL polycarbonate are industry standards. Advanced LED light diffusing plastics including TUFFAK® LD polycarbonate and OPTIX® LD acrylic are engineered to diffuse LED lights for brilliant back-lighted signs without visible hot spots. Fluted polypropylene sheet materials are economical alternatives for low cost election and real estate signs.  

Acrylic and polycarbonate sheet for channel letter signs

Plastic materials for menu boards

Thermoformable Sign Materials

Impact modified acrylics and sign grade polycarbonates have outstanding thermoforming characteristics, which make them ideal choices for thermoformed sign faces. These materials are available with UV stabilizers to extend their service life when used outdoors. Many sign grade plastic sheet materials are available as reel stock, which allows fabricators to save cost by buying the exact size that is needed for a particular project.  

Channel Letter Materials

Acrylic and polycarbonate sheet are often used for the front faces of channel letter signs. These plastics are easy to fabricate into letters using ordinary woodworking tools such as CNC saws and routers.

Acrylic sheet offers the advantages of superior UV stability and outstanding light transmission. Polycarbonate is more durable than acrylic, which reduces the chance of breakage as a sign is being installed. Because of its high impact strength, polycarbonate sheet is also preferred for channel letter signs when the potential for vandalism is a concern.

Plastic Materials for Menu Boards

Restaurant menu boards may be back-lighted or they may be lighted from the front. Back-lighted menu board graphics are often printed on Makrofol® polycarbonate film. Makrofol® film is available with smooth or textured surfaces and clear or white color depending on the desired appearance. Makrofol® DE 1-4 in white or clear is the grade that is most often used for menu boards.

Makrofol® LM polycarbonate films are engineered to diffuse LED hot spots for applications where menu boards are to be back-lighted with LED lamps. Various grades of Makrofol® LM are available so that designers can select the film that best balances light transmission and diffusion for a particular application. 

Front-lighted menu boards are often printed on paper, which is then mounted to a rigid graphic arts board such as Fome-Cor® or Gatorfoam®.

Plastic Multi-Color Engravable Materials

UV stabilized, multi-colored engravable HDPE sheets like ColorCore® and Polycarve® are fantastic material alternatives for traditional wood-carved signs. Businesses, schools, private subdivisions, marinas, and government divisions such as parks and recreation departments want low maintenance and aesthetically pleasing signs that can withstand the elements and serve the desired purpose for years to come. Multi-color engravable HDPE has excellent weatherability properties, machines well, and comes in a variety of colors and thicknesses. For smaller scale engravable plaques, signage, and identification tags, engravable acrylic sheet offers a wide selection of colors and combinations for both indoor and outdoor applications.

Plastic Foam Materials

Celtec® expanded  PVC - lightweight, yet rigid for signage applicationsPlastic foam sheet materials are lightweight, stiff, and have excellent printing characteristics, which make them ideal choices for many sign applications.

Expanded PVC foams such as Sintra® and Celtec® can either be printed to make flat faced signs or they can be cut into letters, which are then mounted on a substrate. Expanded PVC foam is available in a wide variety of colors and thicknesses.

Rigid graphic arts boards such as Fome-Cor® and Gatorfoam® can be directly printed or they can be used as substrates for mounting printed graphics.

Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) Panels

This low-cost material alternative to aluminum or wood is a popular choice for long-term interior and exterior signage. ACM panels are designed for applications that require good dimensional stability, low weight, and a sleek look. 

The composite is a three-layer sandwich panel of two aluminum sheets bonded to a polyethylene core. ACM is half the weight of comparable aluminum panels, rigid, durable, and available in fire-rated grades. 
The aesthetic, ease of fabrication, and suitability for printing and graphic mounting often qualify it as a material of choice in high-end signage applications. 

Fabrication and Machining Services

Take advantage of our plastic fabrication and machining services to save time and money on plastic parts. Utilizing in-house capabilities and partnering with fabrication specialists we provide customers with reliable fabrication solutions, machined parts and cut-to-size materials for any application.

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Need materials for sign manufacturing? Contact us today.

Curbell supplies a wide range of plastic sheet and film materials as well as assembly adhesives for the sign market. We also have in-house technical support to help with design and fabrication challenges.

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Frequently Asked Questions
Can plastic materials be used for outdoor signs?

Most plastics are not inherently UV stable and will quickly fade, yellow, or become brittle when used outdoors. However, Curbell offers a wide range of sign-grade plastics such as OPTIX® SG acrylic and TUFFAK® SL polycarbonate that are formulated for outdoor environments. The life of a plastic sign used outdoors will depend on many factors including the geographic location of the sign (lower latitudes experience more intense sunlight) and the level of humidity in the environment.

Will inks adhere well to plastic materials?

Some plastics such as acrylic and polystyrene exhibit good adhesion to printing inks. Other materials such as HDPE and polypropylene can be more difficult to print. HDPE and PP are often corona treated at the factory to improve ink adhesion. It is important to note that different plastics may require different ink chemistries in order to achieve proper adhesion. Curbell’s technical team and the ink supplier should be consulted prior to selecting an ink for use with a particular plastic.

Can plastic sheet materials be digitally printed?

Digitally printing plastic materials can be particularly challenging. OPTIX® DA acrylic sheet has been engineered to provide optimal adhesion of UV curing inks without the necessity of first applying adhesion promoters. Most grades of Makrofol® polycarbonate film can also be digitally printed using UV curing or solvent based inks.

What are the best plastics for hiding LED hot spots?

LED bulbs create bright points of light, which can be difficult for conventional plastics to effectively diffuse. TUFFAK® LD polycarbonate and OPTIX® LD acrylic are engineered to diffuse LED lights for brilliant back-lighted signs without visible LED hot spots. Makrofol® LM polycarbonate films also have outstanding LED light diffusing properties.

What adhesives should be used to assemble plastic signs?

There have been a number of advances in adhesives technology for sign applications. Plexus® MA420FS is a fast setting methacrylate adhesive that achieves 75% of its ultimate strength in only 5 to 6 minutes. This makes it an ideal choice for rapid assembly of sign components such as channel letter cans. Plexus® MA685 is a clear, UV stable methacrylate adhesive that is used for applications where transparent bonding will contribute to the aesthetics of a sign.