San York Sign

Robert Bagby     |     2020     |     D105


I NEEDED to create a sign that would allow others to know about me. I brainstormed places, people, and events that describe me that I could incorporate into my sign. I narrowed it down to a three part icon consisting of architecture that I love

1. Transamerican Pyramid – The pyramid is located in San Francisco. California is where I want to live and work

2. Lincoln Financial Building – The building is located in Greensboro. North Carolina is where I grew up

3. One World Tower – The tower is located in Manhattan. New York is where my family is from, where my sister lives, and my favorite place to visit



I rendered an exact scale model in Solidworks

I uploaded the file to Rhino and had a CNC machine cut it into MDF. I chose MDF because it is durable and can handle the heat of the vacuum press 

I drilled air holes through the mold to ensure accurate and form fitting details in the polystyrene cast sign

Using the vacuum mold it took me three tries to get a successful sign.

Test one was using 1/32″ polystyrene at 250 degrees Fahrenheit . Durability was good but the details got lost and it cooled a bit fast. I then drilled more holes to allow a more precise form.

Test two was using a thinner polystyrene and i heated it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The details were stronger and it came off easier. However, the thinner sheet overstretched and burned. 

For my final I used a 1/32″ polystyrene sheet with a slight sheen. I set the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I let it sit slightly before molding to gain strength. Then, before it cooled completely I puffed air into the machine to help a clean removal of the sign from the mold.

I learned that every detail and moment matter; Time, Temperature, and Thickness all create a very different piece.

To improve i would study the heat and chemical process more and make sure all my pieces were sanded and carved accurately. I would also add a taper to the edges of my mold to allow for easier removal.