Using a Laser to Create a Dimensional Precision Board HDU Sign

Team Williams Printing & Signs used a laser system to cut and engrave a two-sided dimensional sign out of PBLT-15 Precision Board high-density urethane foam. See how they used a vinyl covering during the laser engraving process to preserve the white finish of the primer before painting the HDU.


Mike Williams with Team Williams Printing and Signs used their 150 watt C02 Rose Laser System to fabricate a dimensional sign out of 1″ thick sheets of 15lb Precision Board HDU.

“We’ve been doing dimensional signs with a CNC, but we decided to try using our laser,” said Williams.  “It came out good.  We were very happy with the results,” he added.

Because the sign was two-sided, they decided to cut one side, flip it over, and cut the other side.

He likes using Precision Board high-density urethane for dimensional signs.

“It’s such a lightweight product and very easy to work with.  You can also get more detail and save time using a laser over a CNC because you don’t have to change router bits.”

Williams used an interesting technique to get crisp contrasts to the colors on the signs.  He says, “first we primed the Precision Board and then put a coat of vinyl on top of it before we lasered it.” He adds, “that way we could laser cut the vinyl on top of the primer, paint a base coat over that and then peel the vinyl away to reveal the nice white color underneath.”


Mike followed that up with a coat of exterior paint.

For this first laser-engraved sign, Williams dialed his settings back a bit and took his time.  Cutting time was about 30 minutes per side with his machine running at about half speed and half power.  He cut into the Precision Board HDU to about a quarter to 3/8ths inches deep.  Once he was finished engraving, he cut the outside part down at ¾ power.  Finally, he did two passes on the final cut so that it didn’t leave a black edge on the material.


The sign was going to be installed as a hanging sign and need to withstand the high Florida winds.  Mike drilled it out and attached the hangers using hooks and chains.  He pre-drilled the holes and put in metal drywall anchors with a spot of glue.

Mike Williams tells us, “we had 60 knot winds the other day here in Florida, so I’m checking to see if the sign is still hanging!”

We’re happy to report that the Precision Board HDU sign is safe and sound and still firmly attached to the chains!

EXTRA RESOURCE: An extensive guide to Laser Engraving Precision Board HDU

Team Williams Printing and Signs is a full service sign shop in Steinhatchee, Florida, offering magnets, banners, yard signs, boat/vehicle wraps, metal signs, billboards, brochures, letter heads, envelopes, backlit signs and much more.  They can be found on Facebook or by calling (352) 398-7480.

Coastal Enterprises manufactures Precision Board, a versatile, cost-effective and eco-friendly urethane material used extensively in the tooling industry.  It is a closed-cell, rigid, dimensionally-stable substrate that is ideal for use in a number of different tooling applications.

Request free samplesget a quote or sign up for weekly e-blasts packed with helpful information.  You can view our waterjet cutting playlist on our YouTube Channel.

Laser Engraving and Precision Board HDU

Laser engraving of Precision Board HDU

Laser engraving a 2″x2″ Coastal Enterprises logo on PBLT-15.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about whether or not Precision Board HDU can be laser engraved.  It absolutely can!  We decided to take a closer look at laser cutters in general and how they interact with our HDU material.  Our good friend Jim Dawson from Synergy Sign & Graphics LLC tested out his 75 watt Vytek laser cutter on a few different densities of Precision Board HDU and sent us the results.

Jim used his eight year old laser at 100% power, and though it works really well, he thought the newer machines would work faster.  He did two passes at 30 inches per second on the PBLT-15. Changed to 10 inches per second with two passes on the PBLT-18.  “I ran two passes on the 15 lb. to see how deep it would cut the material, then changed it to one pass on the PBLT-30 and three passes on the PBLT-40 at the slower speed so I could get better detail on the higher densities.  You’re not going to get a ton of detail in the lower densities, so if that’s what you’re looking for, start at the 30 pound density or higher depending on what you’re going after.”

Jim prefers the laser for projects requiring finite detail, especially on smaller size designs.  “Anytime you’re doing something super small, you can use laser. You can also have text that is very small.  We had some pretty impressive results in the PBLT-30 and PBLT-40 samples engraving a 4” by 4” Coastal Enterprises logo.”

Some benefits of laser cutters:

  • Lasers are extremely versatile, able to cut a wide variety of materials and need no additional setup, i.e. chemical additives or post processing.
  • Ease of use, with software packages compatible with most graphics programs.
  • Low energy consumption and speedier processing times.
  • Minimal equipment maintenance with low wear and tear due to no-contact process.
  • Extreme precision and detail.
  • Reduced waste and by-product because output is vapors which can be exhausted or ventilated with an air-filtration system.
  • Consistent quality level due to ability to save parameters of specific jobs and materials in database.
  • No material finishing required.

Source: “Advantages of lasers versus other methods of cutting, marking and engraving signs”

Laser engraving of Precision Board

Laser engraving a 4″x4″ Coastal Enterprises logo on PBLT-40.

You may be concerned with the toxicity of using lasers on Precision Board, but you shouldn’t be.  According to a study conducted by Universal Laser Systems on the effluent created from laser cutting several different densities of Precision Board indicated that, “the effluent stream is primarily composed of carbon monoxide, acetone, propene, and acetonitrile.  The concentration of the detected compounds did not exceed their respective OSHA PEL at any level of filtration during this study.”  Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) are federal regulations that dictate safe chemical exposure levels.

You can read more HERE about the testing methods used and see photos of the various densities after laser-cutting.

Precision Board is perfect for laser cutting and engraving, so get out there and laser it up! Laser cutting foam HDU is a great processing method, so click here for a free sample and start laser cutting Precision Board today.


Waterjet Benefits For Your Sign Shop

Waterjets have been becoming increasingly more popular in sign shops due to their ability to cut any type of material that comes in the door. 

As any sign shop owner will tell you, you can never predict the next job that is going to come in the door. Having the capability to cut anything is a great addition to any “shop arsenal.”

A previous blog featured an OMAX Waterjet cutting out the Coastal Enterprises logo from a piece of PBLT-30. Today we are going to show another example of how a waterjet can be used for a signage application.

This giant letter “A” was cut out using an OMAX 60120 Waterjet with a 40hp pump. This waterjet has a 0.0016 orifice nozzle, 0.0042 diameter mixing tube, and Barton Garnet as cutting media.

Not only is cutting time reduced with a waterjet, they also work well in a sign shop environment because the taper-control features and accuracy allow them to cut laminated materials with ease. CNC routers, lasers and plasma cutters are also limited in their ability to cut certain thicknesses and types of material (unlike a waterjet).

OMAX Corporation was founded in 1993 by Dr. John Cheung, and Dr. John Olsen and have been manufacturing waterjets ever since. Within the industry, OMAX is the only waterjet provider that designs and produces its own pump, nozzle, cutting table, machine controller and control software. All OMAX and MAXIEM waterjets are made in the USA, and they will be celebrating their 20th anniversary in August of this year, see their website for more details on this event.

If you would like more info, please contact Mr. Kimball Smith at OMAX Corporation: (253) 872-2300.