Plastic or Metal Signs? Brushed Aluminum Acrylic Offers the Best of Both Worlds
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When working with a new client who isn’t sure what type of signage material would work best for their needs, it isn’t unusual to receive the following question: “Which is better—plastic or metal?”
The short answer is…it depends.
There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing material for signage.
- Will the sign be installed inside or outside?
- What is the sign’s intended purpose?
- What look is the client going for?
- What is the client’s budget?
- And so on…
That’s why sign professionals are strongly encouraged to not only get as many details from a new client as possible but also familiarize themselves with the pros and cons of various material types beforehand. That way, they can use their knowledge to determine the best choice for each client’s needs and position themselves as an authority on the subject.
Additionally, having the lowdown on and access to a wide assortment of material options means sign professionals can make recommendations that a client wasn’t even aware existed—such as brushed aluminum acrylic.
But before we dive into the advantages of brushed aluminum acrylic, let’s first take an in-depth look at metal and plastic signs—specifically, the benefits and drawbacks of each.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of metal signs?
- Variety- There are a number of subtypes of metal signs. Stainless steel, bronze, brass, and aluminum all fall under the umbrella of metal signs; however, the most common type of metal used for signage is aluminum.
- Durability- Metal signs are fairly durable and usually last about 3 years outside—even longer if the sign is installed inside. If a specialized type of metal is chosen, that outdoor life span can be extended to 6-10 years.
- Flexibility- Though metal signs are more rigid than their plastic counterparts, they do have some give. As a result, metal signs can typically flex as needed.
- Appearance- Metal itself is an attractive material that fits perfectly in modern and industrial spaces. Further, since there are many subtypes and finishes available, it’s easy to find a material option that will complement a client’s existing décor.
- Weight- Some types of metal, such as stainless steel and brass, are particularly heavy. This can make transporting and installing signs more difficult.
- Rust Potential- Though aluminum is praised for its resistance to corrosion, the same can’t be said for all types of metal signs. This can be an issue if a client plans to install their signage outdoors.
- Workability- Given the weight and strength of metal, it can be harder to work with than other sign materials. Additionally, more specialized tools are needed to cut metal such as stainless steel and brass.
- Expense- Pricing varies from one sign material to the next, but in most cases, metal tends to be more expensive than other options.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of plastic signs?
- Variety- As with metal signs, plastic signs include a number of variations. Acrylic, PVC, and corrugated plastic are often used for sign fabrication purposes, with corrugated plastic being best suited for short-term use.
- Versatility- Plastic signs can be made in a number of sizes and shapes to fit a client’s desired look. Additionally, they’re highly customizable, which is helpful when a client wants a completely unique sign.
- Durability- Hard plastic materials such as acrylic are extremely durable and can last for long periods of time. This makes plastic a great choice for clients wanting to install ADA signs that don’t have to be replaced for quite a few years.
- Weight- Since plastic signs are fairly lightweight, they’re easy to cut, shape, transport, and install.
- Fade Potential- Plastic signs aren’t ideal for outdoor use because fading can occur with long-term exposure to UV light.
- Flexibility- Though plastic’s flexibility makes it easy to work with, some subtypes aren’t suited for outdoor use because of their flexibility.
- Damage Potential- Despite the fact that plastic is very durable, some subtypes scratch easily and can shatter if not handled with care.
- Environmental Impact- Some plastic sign materials, such as PVC, aren’t environmentally friendly. This is something worth noting for sign shops that strive to reduce their environmental impact, as well as clients who feel strongly about “going green.”
Why is brushed aluminum acrylic a good choice for signage?
One of the greatest advantages of using brushed aluminum acrylic is that a client can get the best of both metal signs and plastic signs…
- It’s an aesthetically pleasing option for those who like the look of aluminum signage but want something lighter, smoother, and easier to install.
- Since it’s made of acrylic, it’s a cost-effective option for those who want something durable that doesn’t come with a hefty price tag.
- Typically manufactured out of high-impact acrylic, brushed aluminum acrylic lasts significantly longer than other types of plastic and doesn’t run the same risk of damage.
- Though brushed aluminum acrylic offers the same shiny, attractive look as metal, it will still meet basic ADA compliance.
While not the most frequently used sign material on the market, brushed aluminum acrylic is quickly gaining popularity as a sophisticated, long-lasting, practical alternative to both metal and traditional plastic.
As with any sign material, there are pros and cons to both metal and plastic signs. But if a client is still struggling to decide between the two, it may be worth introducing brushed aluminum acrylic as an alternative.
Of course, sign shops that don’t have the space or budget to invest in another type of material can always outsource orders to a third party. This is a particularly wise choice if the client in question wants aluminum brushed acrylic signage that’s ADA compliant.
At Erie Custom Signs, for example, brushed aluminum acrylic is available by taking advantage of our Houghton Series. Learn more about becoming a partner here. We’d be happy to provide additional information about our Houghton Series.