For the past 30 years, acrylic, impact modified acrylic, and polycarbonate have been the staple for indoor and outdoor sign production. All three types of material are lightweight and easy to machine. Each type exhibits a different set of advantages and will work better in different environments.
Acrylic Sheet – Commonly referred to as plexiglass, acrylic sheeting offers great light transmittance and strength. Acrylic is produced with UV inhibitors in the resin to make the product UV stable and withstand years of abuse from the sun. Due to its natural strength, plexiglass sheeting is the preferred material for applications requiring routing like channel letter production.
Impact Modified Acrylic Sheet – Like standard acrylic, this product is produced to be UV stable. This product comes in several different levels. The most common and SG 5, and SG 7. Each number refers to the amount of rubberization inherent within the panel. The SG 5 is 50% impact modified, while the SG 7 is 70%. These panels are about 10 times stronger than normal plexiglass.
Polycarbonate Sheet – With trade names like Lexan™ and Makrolon™, polycarbonate panels are the epitome of strength and durability. Polycarbonate is 200 times stronger than glass and 15 times stronger than standard acrylic sheets. This material type is a great solution for areas where panels need to undergo extreme abuse.
Applications of Plexiglass and Polycarbonate Within Signage
When coupled with LED lights acrylic and polycarbonate sheeting display excellent light transmittance. Light diffusion options are available to help hide hotspots on acrylic and polycarbonate. For instances when standard panels need to be used, diffuser film can help achieve the same result. These material types can be seen in channel letter production, monument signs, cabinet signs, pylon signs, and interior displays.
Acrylic Sheet for Sign Applications
- Best level of clarity
- Hardest material
- Easiest to route
- UV stable
- Easiest application to vinyl
- Largest variety of colors
- Standard sign white is 7328
- Standard milky white is 2447
Acrylic plexiglass sheet comes in many new variations to adhere to the ever changing market of LED lights. New varieties of plexiglass include Light Diffusion Sheets, Block Acrylic, 2406 white, and Day/Night acrylic.
- Light diffusion sheets also known as LD sheets are the top of the line as far as hiding hot spots. These sheets allow manufacturers to place LED lights closer to the panels while still maintaining even light dispersion. For shallower channel depths these panel types are an excellent solution.
- Block Acrylic is a new style of acrylic recently brought over the United States from the European sign market. These panels come in a 30mm thickness (1.118”). Block acrylic is a solid light diffusing opal white acrylic panel that allows manufacturers to route out and inlay LED lights directly into the panels. The end result is a slimmer channel letter without the use of a metal trim cap. These style signs can be painted to either direct the light out of the front, or sides for a halo effect.
- 2406 LD white is a new style of light opal white that boasts a solid 67% light transmission. The high light transmission coupled with it being an LD sheet offer an excellent solution for making darker hues of blue and red vinyl pop at night.
- Day/Night acrylic also called black white acrylic is a style of plexiglass sheeting specially formulated to look black during the day. However, when the panel is lit up at night it turns white. These panels are naturally LD sheets and offer a more cost-effective alternative to making these style signs without the use of diffuser and perforated film.
Polycarbonate Material for Signage
Polycarbonate sheet is the material of choice for long retail signs and cabinet signs. Polycarbonate comes in both a general purpose style and a Sun Life (SL) UV coated option. The SL material carries a 10-year warranty against yellowing. Polycarbonate is available both in sheets and off of a reel. Because of this sign makers can get one continuous piece of material up to 300 feet long. Standard widths are 52”, 64”, 76”, and 100”. This material is made in clear, white, and in a few sign colors.