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Acrylic vs. Photopolymer Signs – What’s The Difference?

Although many experienced sign professionals are familiar with the differences and best applications for the most commonly used interior sign materials of acrylic and photopolymer, education is an important component for those less experienced in selecting the best material for a project. In most applications signs constructed of photopolymer and acrylic materials still dominate the ADA signage market and are the preferred materials in many sign specifications. Acrylic signs – An attractive and economical choice When ADA and directional signage is needed for protected settings such as hospitals, clinics and office buildings, signs constructed of acrylic are often used. Acrylic signs with raised text applied to the sign face and the raster fit method of braille insertion provide a cost effective sign solution with many attractive design options. Acrylic with a non-glare surface finish is available in 1/16, 1/8”, 3/16” and ¼” thicknesses that can incorporate subsurface graphics utilizing digital printed, painted or applied vinyl decoration with the appropriate ADA compliant surface gloss level. This material can also be finished with surface applied paint, digital printing or vinyl graphics. The raised text utilizes 1/32” thick ADA compliant plastic materials with high bond adhesive applied to the back of the material then attached to the sign face. For added protection the text can be recessed by engraving an area for a 1/16” thick letterform that sets 1/32” below the sign surface. Grade 2 braille uses acrylic braille beads that are inserted into a high tolerance drilled hole for very tight fit. Many laminate materials such as WilsonArt, ChemMetal and Pionite can be incorporated into acrylic sign designs to provide a unique appearance. Basic one color acrylic signs with contrasting color that are comprised of a 1/16” faceplate and a 1/8” backplate are priced in the neighborhood of $.50 per square inch and up depending on the options added and the complexity of construction. Photopolymer – Tough Signs for Tough Environments Many unprotected environments such as educational facilities and buildings with public access require signs that provide a more durable product with a greater degree of vandal resistance. Photopolymer is a common sign making material that provides raised text and braille that is integral with the sign surface and makes it more difficult to remove the tactile components of the sign. Photopolymer material can be finished in many of the same techniques as acrylic signs, such as painting or digital printing on the sign face or reverse applied decoration (sub-surface). Because of a higher raw material cost and the additional time to process and finish the material, photopolymer signs are more expensive than a comparable acrylic sign. In many situations the added durability of the sign justifies the additional investment. Basic one color photopolymer signs with contrasting color text in a 1/8″ thick material are priced at approximately $.80 per square inch and higher depending on the finishing method and the complexity of the sign design. Selection of the proper sign material – Acrylic vs. Photopolymer Signs Typically the type of facility a sign is to be used in determines the type of material to be selected for the sign construction. Acrylic signs work best in protected environments that have a reduced chance of the signs being defaced. Photopolymer could be used in all applications, especially where a more durable product is desired and where vandalism of the signs is a factor. Settings such as schools and public buildings are typical of facilities that require vandal resistant signs. The staff at Park Place can provide assistance in selecting the right material for your application. In addition, we are very familiar with the current ADA sign codes and can answer your questions concerning ADA sign requirements and their installation.


3 Responses

  1. Very informative, I would like to add that there is another choice for vandal resistant signage that is simply the best choice for any unprotected environment. The Supersine Company’s Die Raised Aluminum Letter signs are stamped from one piece .102 anodized aluminum including Braille and meet all ADA regulations.These signs have been installed in many schools around the country since 1955 and are still used today. These are the most durable signs in the industry and are competitively priced with photopolymer signs.

  2. It was very informative, however I would like to point out that there is another option for vandal resistant signage that is simply the best for unprotected areas. I think since 1955, these signs have been installed in many schools across the country.