The plastic and acrylic fabrication process is essential to creating custom retail displays and signage. It’s also filled with words and terms that can seem foreign to those simply looking for a display or sign for their retail store. Although you don’t have to be a fabrication expert to order a display or sign for your store, it helps to understand these terms because they can have a significant impact on the finished product. Some materials also call for different fabrication methods because of their durability, thickness, and many other factors.
Here’s a quick glossary of fabrication terms and how they are used to fabricate custom displays and signage.
CNC (computer numerical control) routing is a method of cutting plastics like acrylic with precision and speed. The upside of using this method is the reduction in material waste, which can lower costs and make your custom product more affordable to manufacture. Any size and shape can be achieved with tight tolerances, including rounded shapes and 90-degree angles.
CNC routing can also cut intricate shapes into the middle of a sheet of plastic with a high repeatability.
The solvent welding of plastics allows for two pieces to be joined together quickly and easily. It is an affordable, durable, and precise way to manufacture larger, more intricate displays and signage that require more than one sheet of acrylic or plastic. Solvent welding uses strong solvents to create connections that do not require fasteners. This allows for the finished product to weigh less and have joints that are not highly noticeable. It also makes the joints less susceptible to breaking when under stress.
Many materials, like acrylic, can be bent to create rounded edges at different angles. This is done by heating the plastic to increase its malleability, bending it to the desired shape, then using water to cool the material and allow it to return to its original hardness. This method of shaping display and signage materials is inexpensive and results in crisp and precise bends that have a polished look.
Flame Edge Polishing
When cut, many materials leave a rough edge that does not look refined. Unlike with wood, these edges cannot be simply removed by sanding. The best way to smooth out the edges of a rough piece of plastic is flame polishing. It sounds easy and, at its core, the process is. All it takes is heating up the edge with a flame and a smoothing it out to achieve a clean and smooth look. However, this technique requires years of practice to perfect. It’s a precision-based process that results in a highly sophisticated look for your products.
Screen and Digital Printing
Some plastics are clear and colorless; others can be manufactured in multiple colors. Whether you are working with a clear or colored material, screen and digital printing allow you place logos, images, words, and other design elements right onto the surface of the material. For a closer look at the differences between screen and digital printing, including which is best for different materials, read our guide here.