Thankfully, gone are the days when every trophy was a plastic gold person swinging a club or playing soccer. They all had a base of wood with a small engraved plate commemorating the achievement. At some point even the most sentimental person has to face the facts that the great tee ball championship of 1984 is overshadowed by the ugly and dated award used to memorialize it. Opened by Nick Fain in 2004, MX Trophies of Carson City, Nevada is upping the game for the next generation of awards.
Utilizing experience he gained from being involved in event promotion and racing, Nick branched out on his own to try something different. That difference has paid off when a customer helped MX to get involved with the AMA (American Motorcycle Association) manufacturing their plates. That garnered a lot of attention and bigger clients. What once was a one-man show has grown into a 15-person team and 10,000sq.ft. of manufacturing and assembly space. “We are a full-service awards and promotional item design and manufacturer,” tells MX Trophies’ design lead Rick Walker. “Our custom take on acrylic based awards is what really sets us apart.”
Awards hadn’t really changed in decades, but the early 2000’s saw a shift in how people competed. As the sports got more extreme the awards had to keep pace. Materials that used to be more exotic became readily available, and thanks to technology they were now easy to work with. Take ink jet printers for example. Think about how far they have come in the last 15 years. You never would have thought that printing a design on clear vinyl and sticking it to ABS would be something that could last forever. With new inks, and UV resistant materials you can expect a shelf life of that product to outlast your desire to have it on a shelf. “We started out with acrylic awards,” explains Rick. “Then six years ago we got our first Kern laser and began to experiment with metals like steel and aluminum. Standard steel rusted, but stainless worked out great. We began to incorporate metal items into our designs, giving a more polished and industrial look to the awards. Eighteen gauge stainless is our go to material, but our 400 watt Kern laser can cut a piece .250” thick if we needed to.”
Mixed material awards are where MX Trophies outclass the competition. A typical award for an event like the MXGP Euro motocross series will have elements made out of ABS, acrylic, metal, and printed vinyl. “We start with an acrylic base that is cut out on our CNC lasers,” explains Rick. “That gets paired with ABS framing and stainless steel design features that are also cut on the lasers. We add all sorts of graphics from printed material to die cut logos. All the graphics are overlaid with clear UV resistant material that helps protect the award from damage by the sun. There are plenty of elements that need to come together to give the award our unique look. Every part needs to fit together and the precision we get off the Kern lasers makes assembly a breeze.”
MX Trophies produce on average 4500 awards per week for customers worldwide. Most of the awards have seen multiple operations on the lasers. “We have two Kern lasers and a CNC router,” details Rick. “They are a key part of our production process. The people at Kern are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. We’ve got great service from them over the years.” The larger, less powerful laser is the Kern 52100-HSE with a work envelope of 52”x100”. The newest, and higher wattage model KT400 has a smaller work area of 52”x50” but packs a lot more of a punch. Both have a wraparound gantry that traverses the cutting bed. This allows for part removal from all sides of the machine as well as consistent beam power and quality over the entire work area. “We are not CNC programmers,” explains Rick. “And thankfully we don’t have to be. As designers we work in the popular vector based design software CorelDRAW. It ties in with the Kern laser, seamlessly taking our designs and converting them to the needed CAD file. This is a huge feature for us. Because we are a promotional items company as well it allows our designers to work in a single ecosystem. We can take a trophy design and send it to the laser then use the same files to do anything from t-shirts to vehicle wraps. It is really powerful software and to have it integrated with the lasers makes life a lot easier and production go a lot faster.”
As racers themselves they know how cool it is to win great awards. They also get how disappointing it is when you put in maximum effort to get a junky trophy right out of the 80’s. “We strive to make our customers happy, and in turn making their customers happy,” concludes Rick. “We are always evolving as a company and in our designs to stay ahead of the competition. We want our awards to be something that are displayed for a long time, and not stuffed in boxes or left in the garage. You should be as proud of your accomplishments as we are of making you that award.” There might not be a 1st place prize for best trophy and promotional items company, but if there was MX Trophies would probably win it……right after they designed it.