How Edge – Lighting works in signage

Sasign International was the First business to focus soley on Edge-lit Signage. We introduced it in 1992 and for 25 years, we owned the business. Our Extrusion was second to none, with a slide out lighting unit, and sleek Alluminium casing to hold and secure the acrylic artwork.

As technology has changed, Sasign has been at the forefront with new extrusions and lighting components along the journey. Cold Cathode technology allowed us to reduce the size of the Lighting unit and these were quickly replaced by LED strip lighting.

LEDs have really opened the door to edge -lighting as they provide brighter signs. More colours. More reliability and all for less money. Just as importantly, our lighting units are all 12VDC now, so they are safe and can be installed without the requirement of an electrician.

So lets focus on some the rules that have helped us make better signs:

  1. The First rule is ‘There are no rules” in edge-lit signage
  2. We use 10mm cast acrylic for most signs. This is because cast acrylic has better tolerances, and machines better, and therefore any machining will be more acurate.
  3. Lets focus on CNC machining first: We always do the artwork on the back of the acrylic in reverse. Not the front. The light is transmitted inside the acrylic so you are lighting the inside of the artwork. If you do the artwork on the front, you are going to transmit THROUGH the artwork. It simply does not illuminate as well.
  4. If using a CNC router to do the artwork, and V cut, you give you a 3D sign. This is very effective, and this is where the accuracy of the thickness comes into play. We use a variety of tools from 60 degrees to 120 degrees, although 90 degrees is the recognized standard. using a 90 degree cutting tool, the width of the cut will be 1.5 X the depth of the cut, so at 7mm deep, the cut will be 10.5mm wide. This is important, expecially if the acrylic is not a consistant thickness as it will make the letters all different widths. It is also very important because the deeper you cut, the more you are preventing light passing that cut. The letters can also be spaced futher apart to assist in light transmission. This is why we sometimes profile cut at a set depth (say 2mm depth) around the edge of letters instead, but will vary depending on the size of the letters. Sometimes less is more- especially with edge-lit signs
  5. If using a CNC lazer machine you are likely to want to either etch, or line cut. Etching a sign is unique because it is really the only way we know of that the brightness is close, on BOTH sides when lit. For this reason, symbols are our preference over letters, as they can easily be used as a double sided sign. Modern CNC Lazers do a great job, and we use ours to cut the Acylic, as well as etching and lines. Ours has an 80 Watt tube, which allows us to cut up to 15mm thick without any problems, while being small enough to manufacture accurate artwork. It is often using just 7 or 8 percent power.
  6. We also paint a high percentage of our signs. The best paint, and only one we recommend is an Acrylic laquer. You can get almost any color pre-mixed at Inspirations Paint, for @ $32 per can. If painting a sign you should back the paint up with white (@ $17 per can) , as this will lift the colour. We prefer Paper wrapped acrylic, as it stays stuck, while machining, when compared with plastic wrapped, but be warned- It also catches fire more easily when being laser cut!
  7. There are so many options when paint is introduced that each sign can be an expression of your artistry.
  8. Vinyl can also be used, although we tend to use it only when the artwork is busy. – coffee beans or the like. Why? Beacause, if you get it wrong, the glue will be visable, and amplified when turned on. Remember- when edge-lighting, anything on the surface of the acrylic is lit up. The glue is between the vinal and acrylic.
  9. We stock 13 colors of LEDs, and also RGB (colour changing) so, when you start mixing light colours with paint, almost anything can be achieved.
  10. If the sign is busy, then you will need more light. We stock various LED strips, all manufactured to our specifications and especially for edge lighting signs, so can help with the right selection. You can also improve the lighting by applying either white paint, or white vinyl around the outside edge, to reflect the light back into the sign.

We are here to help, so will always give you the heads up, on things to be aware of once we know what you are wanting to achieve in your edge-lit signage, so call us