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Acrylic vs. Photopolymer – What’s The Difference?

At Park Place many customers request pricing for a basic 1/8″ thick room identification sign with raised text and braille. After confirming the size needed the next question asked is what material, photopolymer or acrylic? For many customers the response is “what’s the difference?”
Although many experienced sign partners are familiar with the differences and best applications for each material, education is an important component in selecting the best sign material for your projects. In many applications for both interior and exterior locations, signs constructed of photopolymer and acrylic materials still dominate the ADA signage market and are the preferred materials in many sign specifications. Zinc signage has been around for many years and performs well in extreme environments. However, the moderate price of zinc and other metal signs leave this variety of signage at the high end of ADA options. Thermoformed acrylic signs are also gaining traction as new alternative for a one-piece sign design but remain basically unproven in regards to durability because of the lack of long term applications now in the field. Acrylic signs – An attractive and economical choice When ADA and directional signage is needed for protected settings such as hospitals, clinics and offices, 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 screen printed, painted or applied vinyl decoration with the appropriate ADA compliant surface gloss level. The material can also be finished with surface applied paint, digital printing or vinyl decoration. 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 options and 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 the material, photopolymer signs are more expensive than a comparable acrylic sign. 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 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.

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