A ton of intricate design work, detailed planning, and frequent correspondence went into the design, fabrication, and installation of the monster-sized DSV sign.
A ton of intricate design work, detailed planning, and frequent correspondence went into the design, fabrication, and installation of the monster-sized DSV sign by Gregory Signs & Engraving Ltd., in Vaughan, Ont., which is celebrating its 40th year in business in 2021. From the planning stage to bringing it home at DSV’s Milton, Ont., plant on June 12, 2020, there were twists, turns, challenges, and ‘aha’ moments along the way for the seasoned signmaking team.
DSV’s sign was destined to make a powerful first impression. It had to be modern in design and seamlessly fabricated as one giant sign. Originally, the company wanted an illuminated sign. However, that type of sign would have visible seams—a non-negotiable design detail that meant other options needed to be explored. Trusting the expert advice of the Gregory Signs team, DSV settled on a custom fabricated, aluminum channel letter sign with top and bottom recessed lights to illuminate it.
The next major task was to finalize the drawings and to map out the fabrication of the sign within the shop space. Thought also had to be given as to how the final 1814.4-kg (4000-lb), 3.96- x 12.8-m (13- x 42-ft) sign—the largest ground sign of its kind to be produced by the signmaker to date—would be transported in one piece more than 45 km (28 miles) away. Ultimately, the success of this project would hinge on the signmaker’s ability to identify challenges, make sound decisions, and work as a team to deliver DSV’s ‘big’ vision.
No challenge too big
The project took six weeks from planning to installation with a lot of detailed thinking going into the design, engineering, and transportation of DSV’s sign. Questions as to how to build the sign with hidden components so it could withstand significant wind impacts without collapsing; how to move it from the shop floor to the transport vehicle; and, finally, how to transport and install it in a tight space under an overhang had to be precisely answered before fabrication could begin.
A thorough site check, meticulous calculations, and plenty of collaboration provided the necessary details required to design the sign to fit on top of a 12.2-m (40-ft) foundation built to withstand significant environmental stresses and the massive weight of the sign.
Due to the sign’s size and weight, the team decided to build it in one spot on the shop floor. Completing the entire project in one area presented a number of new obstacles.
To tackle these challenges, the team began with the construction of the face, followed by the back, and lastly by the steel structure that would support the sign. To ensure the greatest structural integrity, the fabricator built the hidden steel support underneath the face so the seams would be over a solid base and easier to sand and buff out. Once the pieces were put together, the full weight of the sign had to be lifted and put on its back so the face could be painted over a four-day period.
Every department worked closely together to build the sign and execute the first phase of the plan perfectly. With the fabrication completed, it was now time to face the challenges of transporting the sign to its new home in Milton.
The team began with the construction of the face, followed by the back and, lastly, the steel structure that would support the sign.
One of the neat engineering parts of the DSV sign structure, was how to move it out of the shop on the day of installation. The team had to make sure the sign would fit out the shop door, and then tackle how to transport it (vertically or laid flat). There was a lot of measuring, calculating, and conversing between the teams to accomplish this.
Due to the sign’s size and weight, the team decided to build it in one spot on the shop floor.
The fabricator designed and built three sets of temporary wheels for the sign so it could be wheeled out of the shop standing straight up. It rolled easily—almost too easily—and great care had to be taken not to push the sign too hard or it would speed away. Moving such a large and heavy sign with such ease was, at the same time, both stressful and impressive.
The team knew the sign was over height and too high for the trailer, and transporting it on an angle would have required a special frame. In the end, it was decided the best way to ship the sign was to lay it flat. This presented challenges, however, as it had to be laid down on its face because of the steel structure on its back. Further, the sign had to be packed properly and the weight distributed precisely so there would be no damage to the face and fresh paint. It took three hours to pack the sign, and the install team worked closely with the fabricator to make sure all the hook up points were strong enough to lift the sign onto the trailer.
On the day of the install (June 12, 2020), there were high winds and the wide-load had to travel 45 km (28 miles) to the site. As long as the sign was properly positioned, the wind would blow it downward and help keep it secured in place. Once the sign was out the door, the team hooked the cranes to four points and lifted it so it could be laid down flat on its face on the trailer. The temporary wheels where then removed so the sign could be transported.
Upon reaching the DSV plant there were a couple of sharp turns and a gate that had to be navigated. To make these manoeuvres, a boom truck was used to pick up the back-end of the trailer to swing it over about 3.04 m (10 ft) to avoid damaging the concrete curves of the driveway. This was planned in advance of the install, and everything went according to plan.
Finally, the sign arrived at the installation location. The winds were still high, and the team had to be extra careful unpacking the load to avoid scratching or damaging the sign face. To do so, it was picked up flat off the trailer and placed carefully on the ground.
To place it upright, the rigging was adjusted to two points to lift it vertically. Seeing the sign being lifted to its full height was exciting to watch. Gregory Signs & Engraving Ltd., had never completed a project this big, this heavy, and this continuous.
There was one final challenge to overcome. Where the sign was being installed there was an overhang that left the installation crew about 0.762 m (2.5 ft) of clearance. Further, the height of the canopy created huge limitations that made the installation process complicated. Normally, a sign is lifted up and dropped into place. In this case, it had to be tilted to let the base plates on the structure fall into place on four posts on the foundation. This left no room for error. Even the smallest deviation would result in a disastrous outcome. That said, everything lined up perfectly.
Every department worked closely together to build the sign and execute the first phase of the plan perfectly.
Never stop learning
Even as seasoned professionals in the sign industry, the company strives to continually learn and evolve. As many of the sign shop’s products are custom made, each project is unique in its design and challenges, which offer team members unlimited opportunities to develop new skills and gain more experience.
Building the foundation for the 1814.4-kg (4000-lb), 3.96- x 12.8-m (13- x 42-ft) one-piece DSV sign.
The sign was designed and fabricated to fit on top of a 12.2-m (40-ft) foundation.
It was decided the best way to ship the sign was to lay it flat.
Moving such a large and heavy sign with such ease was, at the same time, both stressful and impressive.
The project took six weeks from planning to installation.
This sign was no exception, and the company thanks DSV for putting its trust in their team. The success of this project validated the sign shop’s confidence, knowledge, and capacity to build very large custom fabricated ground signs. It also highlighted the company’s employees who, driven by a strong desire to be a part of a winning team, spent hours collaborating, planning, and at times challenging their own abilities. As Gregory Signs & Engraving Ltd., looks to its strategy for 2021 and beyond, the company is confident with enough knowledge, time, and desire, it can achieve anything.