Wood working09.06.2015

Plywood gives shape to traffic signs

The adhesives are made by cutting the desired background from a roll of adhesive film and then gluing text, images and other colour elements on top of it.

The adhesives are made by cutting the desired background from a roll of adhesive film and then gluing text, images and other colour elements on top of it.

Mäntsälä-based company Liikennetuotteet Oy’s product catalogue looks like something straight out of a driving school manual: it contains hundreds of different signs. The manufacturing of the signs has been fine-tuned into an efficient and sensible process by keeping standard sizes of the backgrounds in storage and producing the adhesive films on order.

Liikennetuotteet has been making traffic and guide signs for Finnish municipalities, cities, companies and private customers for the past 25 years. The company has 15 employees and a turnover of EUR 2.5 million. In one year, the plant churns out several thousand signs for delivery throughout Finland. Seppo Weckman, owner and CEO of the company, speaks from a depth of experience gained from more than 35 years in the industry.

Seppo Weckman goes through the steps of how guide signs are made.

Seppo Weckman goes through the steps of how guide signs are made.

What is a traffic sign made of?

The most visible part of a traffic sign is an adhesive film that contains instructions on how to proceed in traffic. The film must be affixed to a strong material that is highly resistant to wear and tear. Such background materials are plywood, aluminium and composite sheets. The sign is then attached to a post that raises the sign to the required height.

“The choice of background material is determined by the customer and the manufacturer’s production technology,” explains Weckman, adding that plywood is the material of choice due to its durability and lower price tag.

“Spray-painting the backgrounds, like we do here, is an excellent method for all background materials and makes it easy to meet the customers’ requests,” he says.

A strong and long-lasting background with plywood

The reflectiveness and dimensions of traffic and guide signs are carefully regulated by the Finnish Transport Agency, but for other characteristics, such as the background material used for the signs and the method of fixing them to posts, only guidelines are given, which means customers can choose according to their preferences and needs.

Customers have opted for plywood for its durability and affordability. Liikennetuotteet uses KoskiPaint plywood, which is overlaid with a special painting film.

“In winter conditions, plywood is the best background option, as it does not bend from the impacts of snow ploughing and wind, which large guide signs are particularly vulnerable to,” says Weckman.

“In addition, crosswalk signs affixed atop a post are often used as chin-up bars by night-time passers-by – and with lighter pedestrians, plywood can take even this kind of stress without bending.”

Crosswalk signs are affixed atop a post using three screws.

Crosswalk signs are affixed atop a post using three screws.

Affixing and recycling

The useful life of a traffic sign is 7 to 12 years on average. Of course, older signs that have stood the test of time and the elements reasonably well can also be seen on the roads. Weckman recommends always using the same fixing method for signs in each municipality and city:

“This keeps the costs of renewing the signs reasonable, as the old posts can be reused.”

A plywood traffic sign that has reached the end of its useful life is recycled as regular wood waste, meaning it is incinerated at a sufficiently high temperature at a waste processing plant.

How about a personalised traffic sign?

Liikennetuotteet Oy also sells individual signs. A fun gift for someone celebrating a special birthday is their own traffic sign wishing them a happy birthday. The idea of a traffic sign to commemorate one’s 50th birthday erected on the road to one’s cottage is undoubtedly tempting, especially considering it costs less than 100 euros. 

The product used: KoskiPaint birch plywood overlaid with a special painting film

  • 9 mm thick for triangular warning signs and round traffic sig
  • 12 mm thick for larger guide signs and additional plates

More information on Koskisen's web page.

KoskiPaint plywood is overlaid with a special painting film

KoskiPaint plywood is overlaid with a special painting film