Signs by Van

Signs by Van pioneers Fusion 360 for sign making, reducing material waste to 3%


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For family-owned Signs by Van, staying relevant in the massive signage market is more important than ever. The company has been owned by sign craftsman Phil Vander Kraats since 1981, who now partners with his son Jeremy. Signs by Van focuses on creating handcrafted, unique, three-dimensional works of art for its customers.

After the stock market crash in 2008, Signs by Van faced serious economic challenges. Many customers could no longer afford handcrafted signs. After managing to keep the company afloat, Phil and Jeremy made a major investment in a 5-axis CNC routing machine from SCM Group. But for four months, the CNC router was nearly unusable, due to communication snags between the router and Signs by Van's software. To accurately translate digital designs into a physical sign, the CNC router needed a robust software program that was compatible with the machine's sophisticated capabilities. Signs by Van turned to Autodesk® Fusion 360®.

Photo courtesy of Autodesk Customer Success Stories.

Developing a seamless workflow

As part of the Product Design & Manufacturing Collection, Signs by Van has access to Autodesk support benefits that streamline Fusion 360 adoption. A phone call with a customer success specialist at Autodesk helped highlight these benefits—key resources the team may not have otherwise leveraged. Thanks to these strategic partnerships, the team developed a post-processor that allowed for seamless communication—from design to router table.

Photo courtesy of Autodesk Customer Success Stories.

Fewer waste with Fusion 360

Signs by Van describes Fusion 360's way of functioning with the CNC router as a “closed loop.” The router self-checks for errors, with Fusion acting as a thorough failsafe. Any human errors are flagged by the software with the router working in sync. Because of this, Signs by Van avoids many potential flaws or errors in the sign routing process and wastes far fewer materials. As a result, they can create highly detailed designs with total confidence that the details will appear exactly as the artist envisioned.


Signs by Van can now make beautiful signs with complete accuracy on the first attempt. The team now sees only 3 percent material loss, compared to 20 percent in a previous year. The company has also cut labor costs by up to 30 percent across the board. In one instance with Fusion 360, Signs by Van routed out 54 individual letterforms in just one day—a process that would have taken up to three days with its previous software. The CNC router, working with compatible software, can create full 3D sculptures in only a few hours—a task that previously lasted weeks.

For Signs by Van, this improved way of working has driven tremendous growth in just six months. The signs the company now creates are unlike anything else in the business, and companies seeking signage are starting to notice. Signs by Van has won work with Google, Lyft, LinkedIn, Walmart, and several other major companies. During one competitive project pitch, it took the team only five minutes to convince the client that Signs by Van was the right choice for the business. The project was worth $400,000—and Signs by Van demonstrated that its signs were truly unique.

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