Paul Koch

Paul Koch

Working with profiles

When designing and developing sign systems for indoor usage, I usually try to avoid aluminum profiles. Not because I don’t like the material, on the contrary, aluminum is amazing. Brushed aluminum is gorgeous, and besides this, it is also affordable, light, and very environmentally friendly.

It is just the use of profiles, which is used for smaller signage (like indoor signage) that is not really very efficient, and it is hard to fit small parts neatly. There are other materials out there that are much easier to be manufactured and more precise in the assembly process, offering a higher quality of finishing.

There is however a turning point where it is more logical to make use of aluminum profiles. For larger signs, it is obvious that there is a need for aluminum profiles, as they can offer solid yet light constructions. These profiles can be invisible as they are just supporting the outer material or they can also be used to efficiently mount the signs. When they are visible the anodized versions of them are used, which offer a beautiful finish. Well-known examples of these are the totem profiles and also the textile profiles that have been very popular in the last few years.

The profiles that are visible though usually tend to look a bit the same. And there is a danger that the signmaker will use them again to “frame” ads or images as I talked about in my blog “To Frame or not to Frame”, but this time… in a larger size. This practice is limiting creativity and gives less opportunity to stand out from the competition. Apart from that, I have noticed that many signmakers are looking for a specific profile,  but yet a tiny bit different. Might be a bit different in shape, in the finishing, or just somehow different for the sake of being unique, but still keeping a similar functionality.

The development of your own profiles is much more accessible than ever before, with far lower minimum order quantities.

So, why not do it yourself? You don’t need to be stuck with the standard available profiles. The development of your own profiles is much more accessible than ever before, with far lower minimum order quantities. And let’s be honest: the shape of the profile is not really rocket science.

Even though the design might not look complex, it is definitely recommended to hire a professional designer for this. Especially if you are using the profiles for larger installations and you need separate profiles or parts to fit perfectly well. Parameters like material-tolerance, strength, stability, and many other details will be too difficult to cope with by yourself. But when you look for a designer, make sure they have sufficient experience with profiles and preferably with signage, as it will save you a lot of time. Be aware that extrusion companies can very often offer a great deal of advice and expertise.

So is it worth to design and develop your own profiles? Of course, this depends on the quantity you are using. Many signmakers I know, use only a few profiles, mostly for hanging lightboxes, totems, and textile profiles. However, it can be profitable to develop your own profiles when the estimated amount of material is around 1000kg of aluminum, including the extrusion tools and design. Well, this might look like a lot, but if you take 1000 meters of a standard profile (1kg/m), you need to manufacture around 160 lightboxes of 2x1m to make it more profitable than buying standard profiles. For the larger signmakers, this could be just one major assignment.

Plus, it will be YOUR profile, and an exciting step in creating a more unique product and opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

Last but not least… when looking for partners for your own extrusions, be aware of trading companies, that basically outsource the design, extrusion, and finishing. They usually offer stock for you but they will always try to push more than you need towards you. You can say that such companies will “release” you from the burden of developing your own profile and there is less to worry about. However, you will not learn the procedure yourself and you will eventually pay double the price, resulting in zero financial benefits from using those standard profiles.
Developing your own profiles will give you a big cost reduction in materials.