Why Choose Photopolymer Over Raster Braille For Interior Signage

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While both Raster Braille and photopolymer are proven methods to create ADA-compliant interior signs, photopolymer offers a number of unique benefits that make it a superior choice for interiors:

The traditional ADA-compliant signage across the industry is produced using the Raster Braille technique, which requires the drilling of holes to insert beads. However, over the last few years, designers have decisively shown preference for ADA-compliant photopolymer signs for interiors, which are manufactured by exposing UV rays to a photosensitive sheet.

Cutting-Edge Production Technique

Photopolymer is a light-sensitive resin that hardens when it is exposed to UV light. Over the years, photopolymers have come up as the new industry standard in this area. The resin’s unexposed sections dissolve in water in a washout process, which leaves behind raised elements in the form of Braille and text.

The latest photopolymer-based interior signs make use of digital technology to create graphics, based on which a film negative is produced. Thereafter, the material goes through processing with water and UV light. Following the material’s processing, the interior signage is fabricated and embellished using traditional methods, such as cutting, routing, and painting.

Enhanced Interior Accessibility and Wayfinding 

Accessibility signage is an integral part of the interior décor of any building. With the passage of time, as interior designs became more sophisticated, signs have evolved in their own right. Although their key role is wayfinding, an effective interior signage can also enhance the building’s design.

These advanced design needs can be successfully met with photopolymer substrates. Many of the clear PETG versions enable decoration of both first and second surfaces. Some of the thinner-gauge qualities can be flexed to match with the curved frame systems.

Most of the photopolymer substrates are specifically designed only for interior wayfinding signage systems. Design choices can include simulating organic and natural materials, solid colors, wood grain patterns, and marble finishes, among others. This design versatility is possible with photopolymers, as they can incorporate customized laminates as the base substrate.

Environmental Sustainability

While the topmost priority for accessibility sign materials is to comply with the applicable ADA code requirements and meet the specific design needs of the facility, they should also be environmentally sustainable. The latest qualities in photopolymer substrates comprehensively fulfill all of these purposes.

An increased consciousness to minimize environmental footprint and develop green buildings has led to more designers choosing photopolymer interior signs. With their minimal environmental impact, photopolymer signs can even contribute to a building’s goals of achieving a globally recognized LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating.

The process of manufacturing photopolymer signage is quite eco-friendly. The process involves the use of plain water, and no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are emitted during the process. The effluent is completely biodegradable. Around 40 percent or more of post-industrial recycled materials are typically used to create the PETG base.

Resilience and Durability

In case of photopolymer-based signage, unlike various other accessibility sign options, tactile elements such as Braille dots are bonded integrally with the base and the substrate for advanced durability and resilience. At the time of the exposure process, as the UV light cross links the substrate surface with the photopolymer molecules, it creates a bond that has a higher strength than the photopolymer itself.

Most other manufacturing processes involve the use of a ‘sheet’ adhesive that will attach the cut-out plastic parts on to the substrate. These processes typically tape the signs’ dots, letters, and pictograms to the surface. That makes it vulnerable to damage or vandalism.

Furthermore, the photopolymer process involves the use of a top coat of paint or a clear coat for graphics and patterns. This coated finish creates an extra protection layer for the sign, increasing its field durability. This is an advantage over Raster Braille signage.

With the top paint coating, the sign’s surface is virtually sealed off. This is specifically beneficial in medical and nursing home environments, where deep cleaning is regularly performed.

ADA-compliant photopolymer signs are an integrated one-piece sign, thus having greater resilience against vandalism than others. While nothing can be completely vandal-proof, and virtually any type of signage can get damaged, with photopolymer-fabricated interior signage, vandals will have to work really hard to cause damage.

These signs will stay intact on the wall under any conditions, ensuring that a business’ wayfinding is ADA compliant.

Detailed Tactile Elements

The photopolymer substrates are processed using a film negative and UV light exposure. Therefore, the sections that get exposed to the light will harden and turn into raised elements of the signage. With just a single step, it is possible to raise the Braille dots, text, logos, borders, accent bars, pictograms, and other features.

The tactile elements will achieve fine detailing with the exposure process. Even those elements that are often too intricate or tiny to cut with a CNC router or a laser can be created in fine detail with the photopolymer process.

Different types of photopolymer materials can be used to create different designs and looks. Different product types can change the overall look and design of the signage and the ability to create finely detailed raised elements and graphics.

The process offers another advantage in the sense that additional fabrication is not required. It is possible to create an interior sign with a room number and Braille, or a raised logo and an accent bar without requiring any significant additional labor. This means no additional overhead. The kind of detailed tactile that is possible with photopolymer is considerably superior to all other alternative processes. All substrates are created in the same way, producing raised elements at the correct, ADA-compliant height of the tactile character.

Scalability and Volume Production

The steps involved in the photopolymer signage production process are ideal for a high-volume workflow. In fact, a single photopolymer processing unit may produce as many as 400 signs of 8” x 8” size in one shift of eight hours.

When the signage required is more intricate, and the volume of pieces required is higher, the photopolymer process becomes more profitable than Raster Braille or other methods. This is possible to some extent because the processing of the material takes place in cycles, which can be repeated through the day, every day.

For any sign shop, labor is the most valuable resource. In a fabrication environment, the time taken and throughput achieved are vital. The photopolymer sign production process is faster than any other production method where only one individual is running the show. The earlier the signs are completed, the faster they can reach the client, and a faster turnover can be achieved.

Replication and Dependability

It is possible to replace all types of signs with the photopolymer production process. The process delivers consistent output, and the client will always have proper Braille and 1/32” tactile. All files are easily created or are readily available for future use. Film negatives can often be reused, which will save costs.

The failure rate of the photopolymer process in the field is minimal, and in the last 10 years, it has remained less than 0.5 percent. In the rare event that a replacement is required, a 100% compliant replacement can be ordered and installed with acumen and brevity.

Filed Under: ADA Signage

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