Start Here November '21

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68 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 2 1 are also in huge demand, so it's important that shops that want to get into these markets invest in the right cutting system for their product line. "For digital finishing, styrene, foam core, thin paper products, corrugate for packaging, rubber, or foam insulation board — if you are doing all that — the majority of your business should be digital finishing," says Packman. "The speed of knife cutting Video: 10 Tips for Starting a CNC Business Ryan Drapela, the owner of Texas-based Drapela Works, talks about competitive advantage, knowing your equipment and competitors, and more. Tune in at is faster on a digital finishing system." To cut through wood, non-ferrous metals, thicker aluminum, and com- posite materials, shops should look at a CNC with a larger spindle on it, he adds. "The beauty of the grand format and CNC marketplace has to do with invention — daily invention of new sub- strates," continues Packman. "That allows you to be much more creative with what you can manufacture. There is daily new product development for our industry. It is fantastic." Technological advances in the grand-format printing industry have put some pressure on shops' ability to keep up when it comes to cutting. Instead of the print side of the shop being the bottle- neck, now it is the cutting side. That's why Multicam believes it's seeing more customers purchasing more than one cutting system. Many are buying CNC routers and digital finishing systems or more than one of each type of machine to keep up with the speed of the printers. "There are so many markets out there, it is amazing to see what our customers bring to us to help them with," says Bou- dria. "We've seen everything from making train batteries to ship building, (and) cabinet shops to channel letters. It is amazing the products we're involved with and get to help make." CAMaster's industrial CNC router can also act as a digital fin- isher, says Cody Smith of CAMaster. "We provide versatility for the customer. They can do aluminum dimensional letters but then on the same machine could direct print vinyl and cut out decals with the oscillating knife." Cesare Magnani, Biesse, adds that most CNC routers can cut a variety of different materials from typical plastics like acrylic, polypropylene, and polyethylene to more dense materials like foam, aluminum, non-ferrous metals like bronze, wood, and composites. That means that shops can use their routers to cut out small com- ponents, machinery parts, covers or tops, and structural elements. CNC machines have drag knives and oscillating knives as well as routing bits for carving. "We can not only work with a 3-axis machine carving vertically, but we have 4- and 5-axis solutions they can take to a different level of carving. They not only work vertically but inclined also. It has been a revolution. The machines today are not only more powerful but more affordable than they used to be. They have more capabilities and many different sizes," Magnani says. In the past, routers came with a 4' X 4' table, then 4' X 8', and then 5' X 12'. Now there are huge machines — up to 7' X 40' — depending on the application. Specialty Items Made With A CNC In looking at projects that are a bit outside the box, many CNC machines can produce specialty items. For example, Biesse's 5-axis machines can make intricate components for aerospace and automotive applications, says Magnani. Many CNC machines come with a vision system that can detect reference points on a print so it knows exactly where to cut. These systems work with just about any design software. "When we talk about quality of Cool CNC Projects By Cody Smith, CAMaster One of the most unusual items a customer made with one of CAMaster's CNC routers was a life-size chess set, which is on display in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. Each chess piece is six feet tall and two feet thick. Shadow boxes are another unique thing, which are per- fect for active-duty military or military members who are retiring but want to display their medals or branch insignia. They can make traditional boxes or get creative. One of CAMaster's clients made a shadow box in the shape of the Star Wars characters Mandalorian and Baby Yoda. CNC routers are also in big demand in the marine and mobile fabrication industry. Car audio shops use their routers to make custom subwoofer boxes, instrument panels, and speaker boxes. Custom boat shops use their CNC to make consoles, instrument panels, and custom foam flooring for boat decks that are soft and waterproof. From three-dimensional signage and point-of-purchase displays to custom items for the home, companies are finding that the number of specialty items they can create with a CNC machine is only limited by their imagination. (Image courtesy Multicam)

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