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History of Channel Letters
Georges Claude displayed the first neon lamp to the public in 1910. (See "Brighter Signs™" neon below.)
In 1933 Rohm & Haas invented Plexiglas® acrylic. Cyro®, now Evonik Industries, improved the product into impact-resistant Acrylite® Resist SG translucent acrylic, the best possible plastic to use for channel letter faces. This is the acrylic Signs Manufacturing™ uses.
Introduced in the early 1970’s, by the very late 70’s internally-illuminated, 3-Dimensional, plastic-faced “Channel Letters” began becoming the modern storefront look. Originally they were hand-made; early renditions in Texas even included letters with wooden backs. Because neon was formed to light the letters from inside, the only way to light these letters evenly at the time, fires were not uncommon. Neon operates on voltages as high as 15,000 volts. (Since then wood has been banned from electrical signs, and ground-fault transformers are required for neon, eliminating the fire hazard. See “State of Texas” below.)
In 1983 Gerber® (3M®) introduced a computer-controlled plotter that would cut vinyl lettering, and draw letter fonts with precision. The most modern storefront signs now began to have signage in recognizable letter styles. Signs Manufacturing™ had one of the very first Gerber® Signmakers®.
In 1984 Akzo® introduced computerized mixing stations for their automotive-style polyurethane paints to the sign industries larger users. Signs Manufacturing™ had one of the very first ones. No longer were signs restricted to standard colors, or expensive custom formulating, in quality paints. Years of industry-wide improvements have led to the Signlux™ Automotive+ 2-part paints, epoxy primers, and the intermix systems Signs Manufacturing™ now uses. Later improvements also include the clear SolarGuard™ U.V. protection for plastics, and the Lumabrite™ optical brighteners Signs Manufacturing™ uses on every channel-letter sign. Signs retain their quality much longer now.
In 1988 Signs Manufacturing™ introduced the first-ever moving channel-letter sign, the Trembler™.
In 1989 MultiCam® introduced CNC Routers, manufactured in Dallas. One of the key ingredients of CNC equipment is the computer program creating the CNC instructions. Signs Manufacturing™ has one of MultiCam’s very first CNC Routers. It has been upgraded many times, but still works daily. It produces the aluminum backs of a channel letter, and the plastic faces, so that they fit together perfectly.
In 1989 Signs Manufacturing™ introduced Brighter Signs™ neon. Channel-letter signs could now be twice as bright, using no additional electricity. Signs Manufacturing™ began manufacturing our own neon in 1986.
About 1993 a paint product was introduced which increased the apparent light output of neon and later LEDs in channel letters by 100%, and evened the lights dispersion, but did not affect the lifetime nor increase the energy consumption of the lighting. Signs Manufacturing™ uses Solar Finishes™ "Bright Reflective White" paint inside every set of channel letters we produce.
In 1994 Computerized Cutters™, a Plano-based, newer CNC Router manufacturer, proposed the idea of making a CNC channel-letter-forming machine, later to be called Accu-Bend®, that would bend and form the side walls (returns) for channel letters that exactly matched the CNC routed letter backs, and faces. The very first, Beta, Accu-Bend® machine was installed at Signs Manufacturing™ and the concept proved plausible. However, it took more than a year of constant equipment and software modifications to get the exactness correct when using the same CNC program created to route the letter backs and faces. The effort was worth it, our customer’s channel-letter signs are beautifully perfect. They are made with thicker, harder aluminum than ever before. They are made faster and cost less.
At the same time Signs Manufacturing™ became aware of a mechanical fastening punch used in the automotive industry to fasten car parts together. Signs Manufacturing™ uses the technology for fastening the sides of the channel letter to the backs. One piece of aluminum is pushed thru the other piece, and mushroomed so that the two pieces are inseparable. Computerized Cutters™ as well as others now manufacture this equipment.
In 1997, using their Accu-Bend® concept, Computerized Cutters™ created a CNC machine called Accu-Trim® that forms the channel-letter plastic face’s trim-cap sides to exactly match the plastic face, and the CNC-formed channel-letter returns. Machine #1 resides at Signs Manufacturing™.
In 1995 Aries Graphics created Neon Wizard®. This software program created neon-forming printed patterns. The neon we manufactured now automatically fit perfectly inside the channel letters formed by the CNC Accu-Bend®. Until now we had to hand draw our patterns.
In 1999 Signs Manufacturing™ created the first CNC-formed back-plate behind channel letters. We proudly displayed this new idea on our then-newly-created website, signsmanufacturing.com, which was quickly becoming the bible of the sign industry. Now it seems that almost every sign manufacturer copies them. The appearance of channel-letter signs were improved immensely.
In 2000 the State of Texas began requiring that all electrical contractors and their people, including sign contractors, be licensed by the State, meeting minimum experience, insurance, and financial requirements. Signs Manufacturing™ and all our installation personnel are properly licensed.
Beginning in 2002 the State of Texas finally required that all electrical signage meet National Electrical Code standards (first published 1897 and revised every 3 years.) NEC standards require that ALL electrical signs be “Listed” – meet UL standards. Underwriters Laboratory (UL) began electrically and structurally testing and approving, or “Listing”, electrical sign products in 1920. Signs Manufacturing™ is the 9th oldest UL Listed sign manufacturer in North Texas; and the 3rd oldest ETL Listed (Intertek® - another OSHA approved testing and Listing company) sign manufacturer in all of Texas.
LED lights became a potential lighting source for signs about 1990, the year Signs Manufacturing™ installed our first LED-lighted sign. Only Red LEDs were available then. Next Yellow, then Green LEDs were invented. The Blue LED became available in the late 1990’s, allowing for multi-color and color-changing signs (RGB.)
In 2011 LetterLites™ first-surface LEDs received UL approval, necessary so that they could be incorporated into channel-letter designs. Signs Manufacturing™ created them, along with their sister PinLights™ product. They are the only wet-location exposed-LEDs approved by UL.
Signs Manufacturing™ has been using SolarBrite™ LEDs since 2002, The 2018 SolarBrite™ LongLife™ LED System is 5 times brighter than the LEDs used by any other sign company in channel-letter signs.
FOR ORDERING OR ASSISTANCE CALL:
214-339-2227 254-582-7446 817-861-1234 903-561-5959 940-365-3433 972-850-3300