Start Here November '21

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Page 71 of 102 67 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 2 1 need to determine what specialty items they want to produce before deciding whether they need to purchase a full-size industrial CNC router or a smaller CNC digital finishing system. Basic Features Both CNC routers and CNC digital finishing systems have "knife cutting capabilities and routing capabilities," says Russell Boudria, Multicam. Shops wanting to get into this side of the business should look at the types of substrates they want to cut before making their decision. If the shop wants to cut sheet material, dense, hard, or raw materials, they will want to purchase a CNC router machine. If the bulk of the shop's intended applications involve knife cutting materials, especially roll-to-roll, textiles, vinyl, and banner material, they should purchase a digital finishing machine, Boudria advises. Chuck Donaldson, Antares Inc., agrees, saying that it is "the materials driving the industry more than the equipment." Antares manufactures cutting tools that are used for engraving, sign, and mold making on both CNC machines and engravers. The biggest difference between engraving tools and tools for a CNC is length of tool. "CNCs have better spindles than engraving machines, a tighter hold, and they turn faster," says Donaldson. "CNCs have become higher in precision, in speed, and volume and output than engraving machines — that is why people are spending three times more for a CNC than an engraver." The material on the machine dictates what tool is used to cut it or what the customer wants the end product to look like. "If a customer wants bigger products, larger format, or multiple copies … a CNC is certainly going to make life easier," Donaldson says. A business must balance what it wants to use a CNC for versus the space available in their shop. Another consideration is that CNCs use a higher voltage than smaller engravers or digital fin- ishing systems. Digital Finishing Systems vs. CNC Routers Digital finishing systems can produce point-of-purchase displays and outdoor signage, but there has been "tremendous growth in interior design with wallpaper, pillows, and upholstery," says Mark Packman, also of Multicam. ADA signage, clothing, and textiles CNC routers have been around forever, but these days graphics shops are getting more creative in how they use them. (Image courtesy AXYZ International) Most CNC routers can cut a variety of different materials from plastics like acrylic, polypropylene, and polyethylene to materials like foam, aluminum, non-ferrous metals, wood, and composites. (Image courtesy CAMaster) Customers today expect to be able to go to one shop to get all of their graphic needs fulfilled. CNC routers and digital finishing systems help meet that demand. (Image courtesy Vision Engraving & Routing Systems)

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