Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Foam is all around us. There are countless products made of foam, specifically Styrofoam (also known as EPS or Expanded Polystyrene) from the crown moldings in your home to the exhibit you just saw in the museum or the cool sign on the store you just shopped at.
But why would a fabricator choose to use foam when clearly he has other choices of materials, such as metals, aluminum, plastics, PVCs Acrylics or wood.
Dimensional lettering can be used as directional and architectural signage, attached to a building, office entrances or on walls for branding a message. Fabricator and sign shops have been using various materials to create dimensional letters, logo and signs for retail stores, companies, stages, weddings, trade shows, conventions and for any event. But imagine making letters from metal to go on a stage.
Metals and wood are considerably heavy and are inconvenient for transportation and for handling when moved from one place to another. Wood can yield a great finish look, yet is heavy as well and takes a great amount of time to work with. And plastics and PVCs are not an easy material to shape and machine. Therefore, more and more fabricators are now using foam, which is a lightweight substance as a source for creating large dimensional letters.
There are many ways in which the dimensional letters can be created. They can be left as raw white material if called for. They can be covered in matte, semi-gloss or gloss finish. The letters can be painted with specialty paintings to resemble wood, or with Faux bronze like paint to add a metal look. They can be laminated, covered in vinyl, in fabric or even be illuminated in the back to add a light effect to them.
Acrylic can be laminated in the front of the letters to match a specific logo color or to make a sign look colorful. Looks like acrylic cut letters have become one of the most popular choices for indoor sign letters. The acrylic is cut using a laser cutter and yields a fairly precise cut. Still, foam is the most cost-effective solution for creating signs, logo, letters and props.
Sintra is also a great material to use for signs and letters as it is light cost effective material, thin yet strong.
Since the raw foam material itself is brittle and can be damaged by water, humidity and sun exposure, being coated can protect it. Different types of coating can be used depending on the application and use needed.
They can be covered with light coating such as epoxy, to medium coating that can be sprayed, polished or brushed on such as Styrospray1000 or a hard coat polyurea sprayed with a reactor. The coating not only protects the letters, logo or sign, but also providing it much longer durability - They can last up to a lifetime once coated.
A block of EPS foam is typically 4 by 4 by 8 feet. Therefore, the most convenient size to create the project is up to 4 feet. However, there is no size limit while creating and fabricating letters. If they need to be larger they can be made in sections and glued together, and while sanding the glued pieces, the seam is almost completely eliminated.
The letters are cut using a CNC hot wire foam cutter. The foam is used to add dimension to the letters.
Foam letters are a great option for instance, if you want depth on a lobby wall sign.
They are actually 2D that can resemble a 3D project.
By giving it enough thickness they can be "stand alone" letters on a stage. For instance, a 4 feet letter should be made at a minimum of 8 inches thick to be able to stand on its own.
The foam can be cut fairly fast. A few single strokes of the hot wire melting into the material can create a letter in no time. Another advantage to the foam substrate is that it is easy to cut, mold, shape, carve and sand to a smoother finish.
Round letters can be made flat at the bottom to be able to hold their own.
The fabricator can create a base to the letters, either from the foam material itself or from acrylic, which is transparent, therefore serving as a great invisible support. Weights can also be placed inside the foam itself to hold the weight of the letter so that it does not tip off.
If the letters need to be suspended, a double-sided tape can be placed so they can be hung up on a wall for example. In case they are big and heavier, metal rods and suspensions can be placed in them or hooks can be placed to hang them from the ceiling. Dimensional letters will help a company attract customers and be more attractive.
Yes, there are certainly a lot of choices out there and it can be confusing at times trying to sort them out. I would say that if you are budget conscious, but still want a quality looking sign, then foam letters and logos are one of your best options.
Dimensional foam signs, logos and lettering are a great way to enhance the character and depth of your message or logo and to build recognition to your brand.