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Custom Aluminum Metal Signs and Fabrication

How are traffic signs manufactured?

From traffic street signs to large-scale pylon signs, custom metal signfabrication varies from basic to elaborate. Basic skills and equipment are essential to manufacturing basic traffic control signs and flat panel simple signage. However, Monument signs, architectural feature signs, and pylon signs require a high level of experience and talent from design, engineering, fabrication, and installation.

sign repairSign Material

A basic flat panel aluminum sign can be fabricated using pre-finished aluminum. It can be sprayed with an assortment of paint finishes and/or films. Typical street signs utilized for basic traffic control may be manufactured from .080 or .125 aluminum sheet. They are often coated with a reflective film for maximum visibility at night.

Traffic signs must follow Federal guidelines as dictated by The Federal Highway Administration.  These design details found in the Manual on Uniform Control Devices, are also known as “MUTCD”.  One must also ensure jurisdictional code is met, be it State, County or City. It is not uncommon for specifications required to meet local jurisdictional code for Accessible Parking signs and Fire Lane signs.

What are applications that require sheet metal fabrication?

Projects with large-scale monument signs, directional signs, pylon signs, and architectural feature. Building mounted signs including aluminum channel letters also require metal fabrication with options to include acrylic faces, aluminum returns, and backs and internally illuminated with LEDs or neon. Backlit or Halo light letters have metal faces and returns with internal LED lights, creating a glow of light around the letter at night.

The Sign Making Process

Once a concept design is created, structural engineering is implemented to ensure integrity, safety, and longevity. Often an engineer’s stamp or seal is required for permitting and the stamped drawings then become the blueprint for all fabrication and installation. Metal fabricators should be called Metal Artisans, as they take engineering and convert to metal art with unique shapes and designs possible in the hands of a talented fabricator.

With assistance from a variety of equipment, it requires a highly skilled and imaginative craftsman to bring the final structure from paper to reality. Metal fabrication includes routing, bending, shaping, drilling, and altering raw material to form both structural and decorative pieces. Fabrication can be performed through the tradition hands-on method or by modern methods.

After analyzing the design, the pieces are then cut to the proper size using techniques that could include a cutting with a hydraulic shear, forming with a computerized brake, CNC routing, waterjet cutting and more.

If structural items need to be fastened together, holes may be drilled for bolts or rivets to be introduced later on. Depending on the shape of the pattern, other functions might be utilized such as the roller or automated brake machine to make curves in the metal. After the shapes are created, often welding is involved to fuse shapes together in both structural and decorative applications.

Completing the process

Once the structure is complete it is sanded smooth to fill any irregular surfaces. Then a final primer and architectural grade urethane coating is applied. Any defects in the metal work will be abundantly obvious if finish work is not meticulously performed.

Illuminated signs - LED lights, acrylic, wiring, and power supplies must be integrated into the sign to create the letters and/or logos. Plus any final design elements or embellishments that are required.

Non-illuminated signs- A variety of methods for final letters, logos and decoration may include cut and applied vinyl film, dimensional acrylic, and dimensional aluminum.

Once a quality control inspection of all aspects and components is complete, now the sign is ready to be installed. The field services team steps in. Utilizing everything from basic hand tools to cranes, the final steps in project completion are near. Following specifications from the drawings, the signs are mounted or installed.