Add Shine to Your Sign with a Chrome Coating

When Jim Dawson from Synergy Sign & Graphics got the call from his friend Steve at Liquid 3D Design about collaborating on chrome coating of signs, he was intrigued.  Steve asked him to carve a 3D sign out of Precision Board PBLT-30 so that he could practice his chrome spraying technique.  Jim decided to make two signs- one for his own shop and one for his friend’s shop.  After a lot of trial and error, they are now offering their own line of chrome signs.  We asked Jim for some design tips and lessons learned from his experience.

sign with chrome coating

Chrome spray really highlights the surface details of your sign substrate, so you have to prep your material ahead of time.

“The higher the density of the Precision Board, the smoother the surface and the better to handle the chrome coating,” Dawson stated.  “Because it’s a silver nitrate, the chrome pours onto the HDU smooth, like liquid, and has almost zero texture once the hardcoat dries.”

Jim says that because it’s not a plating process, but rather a spray process, you have more flexibility.  You can do a lot with how the chrome is applied, whether in stages or using different inlays.  There is definitely an art form to creating chrome signs and Jim and Steve seem to have figured it out.

In partnering with Liquid 3D Designs, Synergy Sign & Graphics can create 3D signs with complete chrome finishes or just small chrome accents. Combine this with lighting and traditional sign techniques, and you have a real showstopper!  Check out their website or give them a call at (330) 878-7646 to see about your next project!

You can request a sample of Precision Board HDU on our website, get how-to tips, watch training videos and search our distributor directory to find a supplier near you.

3D Camel Puts “The Zone” Sign Over the Top

Are you thinking of creative ways to add 3D elements to a relatively 2D sign?  When The Zone children’s summer camp in the Catskills Mountains of New York needed their sign redesigned, they got in touch with Jim Dawson at Synergy Sign & Graphics in Strasburg, Ohio.  They wanted a design based on their mascot, a camel.  We asked Jim to talk us through the design and how they assembled such a large and heavy sign.

Steel frame 3D camel sign

The entire sign is 5′ tall by 10′ wide and incorporates a dimensional camel head into the design.  The head and neck were 4 feet tall and fabricated from PBLT-4 and PBLT-30.  The letters were also made out of PBLT-30 and the humps were made of out PBLT-10.

“We wanted the camel to be its own element so we could work on it separately.  We made it in modules so that it would all fit together,” says Dawson.  “It was a lot of work fitting the pieces together and they finally all came together when it was close to done,” he added.

Steel frame 3D camel sign

The head weighed close to 125 pounds, so Jim knew they would need steel to hold it all together.  He didn’t have room to build a wireframe, so they built a steel frame and applied the head and Precision Board HDU to the outside of it.  The head had a cantilever so it really had to be rigid.  He glued the head and neck to a cantilever and bolted it into the steel frame.  The humps were also glued straight to the steel plate.  The letters were attached to standoffs on the steel frame.

“We used Textured Surface Coating (TSF-45) to give the humps three coats and then hardcoated the neck and head with Smooth-On Freeform Habitat epoxy clay,” said Jim.  “The TSF-45 really gave the camel a nice texture and the hardcoat will help protect it from outside elements,” he added.

We think that Jim Dawson and his team do some really excellent work.  Synergy Sign & Graphics has a highly experienced staff whose backgrounds include graphic design, marketing, trade-show design, print media, branding, point of purchase design, fulfillment, and more.  Check out their website or give them a call at (330) 878-7646 to see about your next project!


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.


Synergy Sign & Graphics: A New Angle on Branding


These days, branding comes in more varieties than you can shake several sticks at. There’s a dizzying array of social media outlets, email marketing techniques, and online advertising tactics that all promise to bring unparalleled exposure to your business. Now, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing new and exciting branding strategies, but they can make it easy to forget about tried and true methods. A professionally constructed exterior sign is a one-time investment that provides constant advertisement. Night and day, 365 days a year, a good sign heralds your brand to the world passing by. No monthly service fees or web development skills required; all you need is the right sign company and the right material.

A New Angle Wellness Spa and Salon in New Philadelphia, Ohio found themselves in need of some fresh branding efforts, so they approached Jim Dawson and his team at Synergy Sign and Graphics to see how they could bring a little spice to their advertising strategy. Check out Synergy’s blog to see some of their other impressive projects, and visit their website to commission a sign of your own!


In process: After routing, during the beginning stages of painting

For this project, the Synergy team chose to use our PBLT-30 material, one of the higher densities commonly used in signage. The high density of the material gives the finished product a higher strength profile and allows it to hold edges better than lighter weight materials, allowing for greater detail to be carved into the sign.

The crew used Enroute Pro 5 CNC software to create the tooling paths, which were then carved out with their Multicam CNC router. For this sign, the team went with a raised border and lettering to really make it stand out from the background. They also used their router to mill out a grain pattern, giving the entire sign a faux wood effect. All the classic aesthetic of a sandblasted wood sign with none of the downsides! They then used Modern Masters metallic latex paints for all surfaces, finishing off the sign with a cream, black, and gold color scheme that really gives the sign the pop it needs. A local mason installed the cultured stone pillars, and the Synergy team attached their finished sign with a steel frame and bolts. Another job well done by Synergy! Check out their gallery of custom carved signage to see some of their other professionally constructed displays.