Sign & Digital Graphics

Start Here October '18

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28 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 1 8 "The helical rack and pinion system, coupled with high-performance servo motors, provides high speed, great accuracy, smoother cutting and quieter running," he says. Automatic tool changers are another easy and convenient method of running jobs requiring multiple routing tools and can provide a great boost to productiv- ity. A vision system allows the machine to cut pre-printed graphics accurately and consistently. He also recommends both oscillating and tangential knife units to allow sign makers to process a variety of materials. "The oscillating knife is good for cut- ting flexible materials like foam core, Gatorfoam, corrugated plastic or card- board. The tangential knife is a robust unit, intended for heavier, thicker and harder material," Hooley says. AXYZ offers additional options such as pop-up location pins for fast, repeatable locating of sheet material on the machine bed and misting units for the automatic application of coolant or lubrication while cutting. Boudria recommends that shops buy some vertical shelf roller tables to organize all the parts coming off the router. These also allow operators to move parts or proj- ects easily to second process or construc- tion tables elsewhere in the facility. He also recommends shops purchase a good shop vac with an extended hose so they can do vacuum cleanup on any leftover particulate. An air compressor is also key to handle blowing off the table. "You want to have clean dry air. Not just an air compressor from Home Depot but you need accessory equipment to make sure you're not putting water into your CNC router," he adds. A shop also needs a nice set of trash cans or a dumpster for the skeletons of cut material and particulate that need to be thrown away. A motorized Z-lift table allows an operator to have a bank of several sheets of 4´x8´ or 5´x10´ material that they can easily load onto the router for cutting, he says. Ken Rock, sales manager at Multicam, says that training is an integral part of any CNC purchase. "A new customer that has factory-pro- vided training will normally find instant productivity from the machine investment within a day or two of delivery," he says. The shop also needs to decide which staff member will have responsibility for the operation and maintenance of their machine. It is a good idea to have at least two employees who know how to operate and maintain the machine, Rock says. CNC routers are fairly easy to operate. It helps if the sign shop already has experience with CAD/CAM design software. Warner says that existing businesses with established clientele "will likely experi- ence a fast track to profit growth. It only takes a few large sign jobs to pay off a full- size tool. For those just getting started, it will take longer because you'll need to get the word out." That could mean setting up a booth at a local arts and crafts fair, talking to other businesses, starting a website or posting pic- tures of your work on social media, he says. "Turning a profit with your new CNC router is all about getting the word out and working at it. Get in the habit of taking pictures of your work to build a portfolio you can show customers," Warner says. "A CNC router is always a great invest- ment, even if it doesn't pay off after your first project," says Hooley. "Remember, a CNC is automation. Automation allows businesses to cut their costs and reduce human error. A CNC allows businesses to compete for contracts they never would have been able to go for and undertake many different types of work." Along with signs, shops can get into some interesting niche businesses with their CNC routers, including ice carving, 3D sculptures, set making for movie or theater production, embossing for designer hand- bags and precision cutting for the aerospace industry, says Hooley. The Multicam 3000 Series router, effective for cutting foam, com- posite materials, and marine fab- rication. The Smart Shop II router from Laguna Tools. If a shop adds a router with multi-tool capability, it can operate on multiple materials at the same time. CNC

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