Start Here October '22

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Page 60 of 103 55 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 2 2 easy to damage substrates if you are not taking care of the CNC or paying attention to the CNC," Lokpez argues. e downside of putting the CNC in Signarama's back bay is that the shop lost its bay for vehicle wraps. However, Lokpez says it's been a wonderful change. "It saved our business. Without the router in COVID, we would have had to close. We were not equipped to handle COVID. We still do vinyl, but we don't actively pursue vinyl." Since adding the CNC, Lokpez's shop has started working with property managers and construction companies to create cus- tomized wayfinding signs. "We creatively design signs in unique formats to fit their needs. e router brings an extra layer of cre- ativity we can do to sell to customers," he says. His shop is out of space in its current configuration, but in the fall, Lokpez says he plans to knock down a wall and reduce the size of his showroom so he can add a laser engraver and a small ADA router, so the "big router and ADA don't compete against each other for business." e shop is also taking in routing work from another Signarama franchise and a nearby FastSigns business for wholesale work. "It is not the most profitable work, but it keeps the router running when regular projects are not coming in," he says. Signarama also spent about $2,500 on spindles and tools and $6,000 on an arm attachment to place the braille beads into ADA signage. However, Lokpez stopped using it because it always missed beads. Now, his employees place the beads by hand. SPACE Adding a CNC, dust collector, vacuum, and air compressor to a shop means they all need somewhere to go. If a machine says it has a 4' × 4' cutting area, you are not planning for a 4' × 4' machine. It will be more like 6' × 7' in your shop, and then you also need space to work around it and load material, Smith says. "When you get the actual measurements for the machine you are considering, plan for at least a two-foot perimeter around the machine. We do totally understand that it is not always possible. Sometimes you have to put one side of the machine against a wall, but, ideally, a two-foot perimeter is minimum," Smith says. Space is also needed for the machine's controller or interface and someplace to keep router bits. Looking for specialty items you can make with your CNC router? Explore your creative side. Most commercial shops will buy 4' × 8' or 5' × 10' routers. e difference between those two machines isn't so much about the size but the "speed with which it can do jobs that makes a dif- ference," he adds. Another thing shops may overlook is that they must get the CNC into their building, which means they need a large enough door to bring it in. Most shops will have a rollup door, but shops with typical 6' double doors may struggle to bring in bigger equipment. Routers are heavy as well, so the shop owner will need to con- tract with a rigging company to help them or rent a forklift to bring the machine into the shop, which is an additional cost. Purchasing the right software to run a CNC router is an impor- tant step. Most shops already use Adobe, CorelDR AW, or Flexi. All of those will interface with CAMaster's CNC router, lighten- ing the learning curve for new shops, Smith says. "CNCs are all capable of the same things. Every CNC router can cut the same materials and do the same things. e quality with which they do it and the speed is what separates different machines in the industry," he says. "I tell everybody, look for a product made in America so you can call a person on the phone to source components." After that, he says, shops should look at what is realistic. Many shops have an idea of what they want to spend, but sometimes what they want to spend and their reality aren't the same thing. Just don't waste money on a machine that is too small or can't handle the work you've already got. HIGH DEMAND & SUPPLY CHAIN PROBLEMS As a manufacturer of CNC routers, CAMaster has been sur- prised by the increase in demand for its products since COVID hit. "Demand has been crazy, and it has been for 2.5 years. Before COVID started, we were pretty busy with lead times of seven to 10 weeks," Smith says. Recently, lead times have gotten longer, between 16 and 20 weeks. It has been "hard to keep up and source the components we need. It is an industry-wide challenge. ose chips go in a lot of things." He added that CAMaster's sourcing team spends most of its time sourcing alternative vendors to complete its products. CAMaster builds everything in Cartersville, Georgia, except for variable frequency drives — the things that regulate power in your machine, and there has been a shortage of those, mak- ing it a challenge. "Now we have to find alternates, but then we have to make sure the alternates work to the same ability as the originals did, more testing and more time. It is a whole different animal," Smith says.

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