Projects That POP

Two sign companies discuss recent jobs and trends involving POP and rigid substrates.
Casco Signs Inc. produced and installed this comic, "The Sting."

It’s no coincidence that as digital printing continues to expand the types and sizes of substrates it can handle, and those substrates themselves also advance in their receptivity to printing and diversity of application, that point-of-purchase (POP) and other rigid-media signage would evolve as well. The combination of these new materials and machines can produce signs that look elegant, cost the customer less than before, and also last up to a decade or more, even when installed outside.


In Charlotte, NC, the expansion of the city’s light rail system meant a length of the new tracks would run 20 ft. from the parking garage for MPV Properties, a local property management company. According to an article in The Charlotte Observer, businesses along the route were encouraged to beautify the surroundings. Because MPV’s property had been redeveloped within the previous year, “The city could mandate that art be part of the redevelopment; if MPV chose not to put any up, the city had the right to do it.” Rather than leaving the artwork to chance, MPV decided to provide its own graphics along a 160 x 4-ft. portion of their garage: a comic strip playing on the history of the city of Charlotte and its NBA team, the Hornets.

MPV turned to Casco Signs Inc. (Concord, NC) to produce and install “The Sting,” as the comic is titled. The first concept was a painted mural but its cost was deemed too high, Andrew Crutchfield, VP of marketing/web development for Casco, said. Plus, graffiti was a concern. The next idea called for a vinyl intended for concrete applications, which would reduce cost and could be changed out, but its downside was lasting just a few years. “[MPV was] looking for it to last at least 10 years with little to no color degradation,” Crutchfield said. “With the advancement in printing technology, we provided the option of direct-printed ACM [aluminum composite material] with a special anti-graffiti coating.” This third suggestion proved to be a perfect fit, especially after Casco provided samples, and even graffiti’d products to display how easily the ACM can be cleaned.

With the client supplying the art, Casco selected a house brand of ACM from distributor Piedmont Plastics. “ACM has a great printing surface, plus it is rigid and has spectacular outdoor durability,” Crutchfield said. Casco used its HP Scitex FB550 to print 16 4 x 10- ft. sheets of ACM, each weighing about 25 lbs. Production lasted three days (including coating time), and installation required only one day. The garage was fairly low to the ground, so Casco’s team was able to perform the install from ladders. “We lifted all 16 pieces into place by hand,” he said, the completed comic strip now entertaining both rail and other traffic passing by. With print technology continually improving, Crutchfield believes more projects similar to this job are on the horizon. “Having substrates that work well with printer inks to provide long-lasting colors and great durability is key to success on projects like these,” he said.


Infamous Graphics constructed exterior and interior signs for Lia Toyota of Colonie, NY.
Infamous Graphics constructed exterior and interior signs for Lia Toyota of Colonie, NY.

If you live in the Northeast, perhaps you’ve seen one of the many businesses owned by the Lia family, among them a real estate company, multiple gyms and some fast food locations. They also run the Lia Auto Group, with more than 22 dealers. Infamous Graphics (Albany, NY) had been doing vehicle graphics for Lia for some time, but over the last 18 months, Infamous expanded into both exterior and interior signs for the auto group. “One location in particular, Lia Toyota of Colonie [NY], has been instrumental in growing the relationship between our companies,” E.C. Stumpf, owner of Infamous Graphics, said. “The general manager reached out to us about filling up wall space with a vinyl logo.” When first quoting out the job, Infamous offered an option for 3D routed foamcore letters in addition to standard vinyl. Initially, the client was unsure which way to go, as well as whether they wanted a plain white routed logo or a brushed-aluminum finish. Mockups along with samples of the different materials and finishes were important in helping the client decide.

Cost and longevity were also major factors, Stumpf said. The client wanted a substrate that was cost-effective, but also long-lasting. “They were certainly looking for something more than a banner, but not looking for something like [metal or acrylic] letters that would have been triple the price.” The foamcore with brushed-aluminum vinyl overlay provided a clean, finished look while staying within budget. For the logo wall signs, Infamous chose Avery Dennison’s Brushed Aluminum Metallic SW900-812-X wrap vinyl film. “The color and performance of the material were key factors in the choice to go with this brand,” Stumpf said. “After the first [brushed-aluminum vinyl] sign was finished and installed, other locations’ offices were quick to inquire about signage for their locations.”

Infamous also included stand-up POP signage as part of the package for Lia Toyota of Colonie. While Lia supplied the logo artwork for the routed foamcore wall signs, Infamous’ shop manager, J.R. Cooke, designed the POP sign. Infamous selected 3A Composites’ ¾-in.-thick black Gatorboard foam as the substrate for the POP sign and 3M Scotchcal IJ35 Graphic Film on which to print the overlay, using the shop’s Roland SOLJET with eco-solvent inks and a gloss overlaminate. The POP stands were custom-bent from 1/8-in. plate aluminum in-house on an 8-ft. brake. 

Direct-to-substrate printing is becoming more popular, according to Stumpf. “It will take over the rigid substrate market,” he predicted, “especially for large orders.” Orders for point-of-sale marketing signs on rigid substrates have also been increasing, he noted. “We have noticed sneeze guards, printed and routed signs in fast food restaurants being used as POS.” Stumpf attributes this trend to many businesses’ need for eye-catching signage for anyone who walks through their doors. Demand for these signs “has truly grown,” he said, “and we expect it to keep doing so.”


Signs of the Times July 2020

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