Start Here October '18

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23 O ne of the most game-changing pieces of equip- ment a sign shop can own is a CNC router. A CNC router is an automated piece of equipment used for dimensional work or two-dimensional cutouts. Routers can cut woods, plastics, foam, cardboard, non- ferrous materials such as aluminum, brass and bronze and even steel. A router will allow the operator to cut or carve into materials of all shapes and sizes to create a limitless variety of products. Josh Hooley, digital marketing specialist for AXYZ International, says that CNC routers are very versatile. The material to be cut is placed on the bed of the machine, and it is usually held in place by a vacuum. "This is important to prevent movement or vibration while it is being cut. A cutting head, usually a routing spindle or a knife, is mounted on a carriage that runs on a gantry and can be driven in horizontal X and Y directions and also in the vertical Z direction. The motion of the tool is determined by the machine controller which reads a program created by a CAD/CAM system. The end result is that anything you can draw on a computer can be cut on a CNC router," he says. CAD stands for computer-aided design and CAM stands for computer- aided manufacturing. An object is drawn in a CAD program, like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, or a 3D drawing package like Rhino-NC or Silo. "Once that vector image has been established about what you want to cut out, it has to be tool pathed in the CAM software," says Russell Boudria, router product manager for Multicam. "Once it is tool pathed—which is teaching the machine the path to cut out with certain speeds, depths and passes, rpms and things of this nature—once that has been taught the CAM software will export XYZ information for the machine to obey." Nick LeRoy, marketing manager for Laguna Tools Inc. in Irvine, California, says that if a shop adds a multi-tool capability it can operate on multiple materials at the same time. "The possibilities are endless for CNC machines. The user usually runs out of creativity before the machine reaches its limits," he says. S T A R T H E R E 2 0 1 8

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