March '23

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6 0 G R A P H I C S P R O • M A R C H 2 0 2 3 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M S I G N A G E & P R I N T I N G A business must balance what it wants to use a CNC for versus the space avail- able in their shop. Another consider- ation is that CNCs use a higher voltage than smaller engravers or digital finish- ing systems. Digital finishing systems versus CNC routers Digital finishing systems can produce point-of-purchase displays and outdoor signage, but there has been "tremendous growth in interior design with wallpa- per, pillows, and upholstery," says Mark Packman, also of Multicam. ADA signage, clothing, and textiles 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 prod- uct 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 digi- tal finishing," says Packman. "e speed of knife cutting is faster on a digital fin- ishing system." To cut through wood, non-ferrous metals, thicker aluminum, and composite materials, shops should look at a CNC with a larger spindle on it, he adds. "e beauty of the grand-format and CNC marketplace has to do with inven- tion — daily invention of new substrates," continues Packman. "at allows you to be much more creative with what you can manufacture. ere is daily new prod- uct development for our industry. It is fantastic." Technological advances in the grand-for- mat printing industry have put some W e got the chance to talk to Buddy Warner, a member of the sales team at ShopBot Tools, Inc., about the capabil- ities, industry updates, and general things to know about CNC routing in 2023. What are the most reliable substrates for outdoor dimen- sional signage that won't break the bank? For the substrate material you mount to, it could be vinyl posts for smaller signs, but is often concrete or brick columns or struc- tures. For the signs themselves, one of the less expensive materials for outdoor signs is Extira (Exterior Grade MDF). is material is very dense and heavy and must be painted with the proper primer and paints. Sign foam is particularly good for thicker dimensional signs (3D signage with more depth) but is more expensive. I per- sonally love working with Sintra (Expanded PVC foam board) as it is less expensive than HDU (sign foam). It may not be practical for every application, but if painted and mounted properly, it's a great material. Color Core (two-color HDPE) is also a great material for park signs or applications where two colors are all you need. When it comes to router bit longevity, what popular sub- strates put the most stress on router bits? Denser or more abrasive materials like Alumacore or Extira would create more bit ware than Sintra, HDU, or HDPE. If a shop is looking into purchasing a new router in 2023, what features are a must-haves? WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT CNC Routers 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) at's a hard question, because it depends on the type of signs or letters the shop wants to produce. If lots of bit profiles will be used, then an automatic tool changer is a must, but not all sign shops really need an ATC, especially if they're stopping to mask or paint between bit changes. If channel letters will be cut, the shop will need a way to hold those letters during machining. If cut-to- print is involved, such as cutting-to-dye-sublimation, the shop will want manual or optical registration. For dimensional signs, a good selection of bits such as various degree V-bits, straight bits, soft spiral low helix bits, and ball nose bits will be invaluable. What are the most important factors someone should consider when looking for an accompanying dust-collec- tion system for their router? at depends on the material being cut. If it's very dusty (MDF) or more toxic dust, they should get a collector with a lower micron rating or even a HEPA filter. Two-stage or cyclone collectors can help separate larger chips from finer dust. Be careful about mix- ing wood or plastic dust with metal shavings. is could create a fire hazard. Make sure the dust duct work or hose is grounded from the machine (the tool itself ) to the dust collector. I've seen folks use PVC pipe, which can create a huge static charge if not properly grounded. It's recommended to run a bare copper wire inside the pipe and/or wrap the outside from tool to collector. B Y N A T H A N S T R O M B E R G

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