Sign Magnetism

Movable graphics merit greater attention.
Projects by Custom Graphix Signworks (Phoenix), Sir Speedy (Pittsburgh) and Infamous Graphics (Albany, NY) displayed the improvements in magnetic media and the many markets that make magnetic signs a very attractive offering.

From removable vehicle graphics to temporary, portable container or location IDs and more, signs made with magnetic media serve a range of purposes. Three shops involved in recent magnetic-signage projects displayed the improvements in the media and the many markets that make magnetic signs a very attractive offering.

200 MAGNETS BY NOON

You never know when a big order is going to arrive out of nowhere, and it’s impossible to predict when a new customer will make a huge overnight request, but that’s exactly what happened to Custom Graphix Signworks (CGS, Phoenix) when the medical company Veyo called and requested 100 pairs of 16 x 12-in. magnetic car signs by the next day at noon. “I wanted to make this happen,” said CGS owner Mladen Mike Mirkovic. “I talked to my team and we agreed to stay late into the night and try to finish this project.”

Veyo had found CGS on Google. “I have been doing lots of Google search engine optimization for better ranking for some major keywords,” Mirkovic said. Fortunately, Veyo supplied print-ready artwork right away. CGS uses Illustrator for most of its design projects, though Mirkovic added, “I’m a fan of [SAi’s] Flexi. I just love their cut contour feature for print-and-cut projects.”

Custom Graphix Signworks (Phoenix) cranked out 200 car magnets in 9 hours – cutting each by hand – to complete a next-day order from Veyo.
Custom Graphix Signworks (Phoenix) cranked out 200 car magnets in 9 hours – cutting each by hand – to complete a next-day order from Veyo.

Mirkovic and another employee put in nine hours on the project that day. “Our Roland [SOLJET Pro III XJ-740] printer was printing the vinyl, I was applying the vinyl to magnetic, and my other employee was trimming and rounding the corners,” he said. CGS also has a print-and-cut Roland VersaCAMM SP-540V, but because the printed vinyl overlaid onto the magnetic material was too thick for that machine to trim, they cut all 200 signs by hand, finishing the corners with their LasscoWizer Cornerrounder machine.

For the magnetic media, Mirkovic chose Magnum Magnetics. “In the past we tried using other brands, to save on material and offer more competitive pricing to customers,” he said. “But very shortly [afterwards], complaints started coming in that magnets were falling off the vehicle, or sometimes magnets would get stuck on the door. That’s when I switched to Magnum Magnetics. After that we never received any complaints.” Mirkovic reported that he’s seen some of their two-year-old magnets on customers’ vehicles that still look good.

In the past CGS tried printing directly to magnetic material, but Mirkovic didn’t feel that the colors were as vibrant as when printed on gloss vinyl. “I like to use heavy magnetic material,” he said. “It’s more aggressive and our machine would not be able to pull or cut this type of magnetic – it’s too thick.” Also, applying printed vinyl to the magnetic media extends the life of the signs, a process that definitely keeps customers happy, he added.

Mirkovic has noticed that in the past three years or so, magnetic material is lasting much longer on vehicles. “Quality has definitely improved,” he said. “We pass on to our customers some of the recommendations to remove the magnetics at least once per week and clean them, never to roll them, and [always to] keep them flat.” He also recommends selling blank, cut-to-size magnetic sheets in the same color as a car or truck. Many contractors and small business owners live in places, such as HOAs, that don’t allow vehicles with permanent (non-magnetic) signs. “Blank magnetics are the perfect way to cover the signage on their doors,” he said.

TANKS A LOT

Given the myriad applications for magnetic media, one you might not have encountered is for water (and other liquid) tanks at construction sites. However, for Sir Speedy (Pittsburgh), “Industrial magnetic signage is our principle use in this shop,” said owner Michael McCready. “Magnets are handy because they are prominent signage that can be switched up as safety needs dictate.” The two signs pictured on the next page are “water tank” magnets for use on an oil-drilling site.

Various liquids are used or extracted during the drilling process, McCready explained. “Metal storage tanks are on-site and may be used to store different liquids at different times. The magnets identify the current use. The ‘Company Man’ magnet identifies the location of the pad owner representative on the site – a trailer, shed or truck. Most workers on any site are contractors or employees of contractors; plus, there are a lot of deliveries when the pad is being built.” Hence the need for fixable – but movable – signage.

Tug Hill Operating, based out of Fort Worth, TX, has been a client of Sir Speedy for some time, and has developed a system for sign orders. Reordering information appears at the bottom of each sign, and the order can be placed either with Tug Hill or straight to Sir Speedy. “Orders that come directly to us are approved by a supervisor,” McCready said. Including both magnets and metal signs, a new drilling pad needs between 10 and 20 signs, possibly more, he added.

Site ID (top) and water tank (bottom) magnets for clients such as oil driller Tug Hill are a staple of Sir Speedy (Pittsburgh).
Site ID (top) and water tank (bottom) magnets for clients such as oil driller Tug Hill are a staple of Sir Speedy (Pittsburgh).

While these particular signs emphasize readability over aesthetics, they still are branded with company logo colors. “Some of the safety signage, particularly, has specific international color coding and symbols,” McCready said, and so Sir Speedy turns to Adobe InDesign and Acrobat for layout and proofing.

Master Magnetics, with its wide product line, is Sir Speedy’s go-to media. "We often use the stronger, .045 magnet material for oil sites, as the conditions can be harsh and oily,” he said. “Master will also cut pieces if needed. They ship from a nearby location, and their prices are fair.” The shop uses an HP Scitex FB550 printer with UV ink and prints directly on the magnet. Many, but not all, are laminated on a GBC Titan. Larger runs are cut on a Colex Sharpcut.

Sir Speedy generally completes magnetic-media orders within 3-5 days of proof approval. McCready has noticed that the digital-print surfaces for magnetic signs have improved significantly within the past three years. Maybe that’s the reason he feels that, “We have found that there are a lot more applications for magnetic signage – well beyond the refrigerator and car magnets.”

BOARD OF EDUCATION

Once in a while you get an unusual job, one you’ve never done before, maybe never even thought of before. Such was the case with a unique magnetic sign that Infamous Graphics (Albany, NY) recently completed at their hometown Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences for a collegiate foodservice provider – and return customer – Chartwells. The client wanted an a 48 x 77-in. magnetically attractive map installed on a rounded wall in the dining room. “They wanted to use [the board] to promote different programs they introduced, as in vegan cuisine, healthy options, things such as that,” said Jasmine Fay, customer service and administration.

Fay credited shop manager J.R. Cooke with the idea of using printed vinyl over a steel backer for the board. This job didn’t call for traditional sign magnetic media; the client already had their own magnets. The board was also part of a larger project for Chartwells, she said. “There was a ton of back and forth and changes to what they wanted. This was the first time we did a magnetic board for them, so they were certainly excited!”

Infamous Graphics (Albany, NY) created this vinyl-covered steel backer for Chartwells to allow the clients to move their own magnets around this map.
Infamous Graphics (Albany, NY) created this vinyl-covered steel backer for Chartwells to allow the clients to move their own magnets around this map.

Infamous received design files from the client and their own designer set up them for production using Illustrator. They printed the job on 3M IJ35 film using the shop’s Roland SOLJET Pro III XC-540 and covered it with 3M Scotchcal Gloss Overlaminate 8508 on their Audley laminator. “The steel was cleaned down with alcohol prior to laying down the graphic so that the vinyl would fully grasp the material,” Fay said.

Infamous Graphics expects the vinyl to enjoy a normal lifespan. “It adhered well to the steel, and since it is a flat panel that is indoors, we would not expect it to fail for many, many years,” Fay said.

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