Sign & Digital Graphics

December '14

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74 • December 2014 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL of its router cutting an intricate peacock plaque out of precision board. "You would think it is a piece of mar- ble. You can get it in different thicknesses and different densities. They do the den- sity level by poundage. So the 15-pound board doesn't give you the same look as a 70-pound board, which can give you more detail," he says. The 70-pound board is not as porous. CLN has cut things out of 2" precision board but the manufacturer is consider- ing a 6" thick product for even more three-dimensional capability, Kane says. "The amount of carving you can get out of that, you can put someone's face down," he says. Ryan Patterson, head of produc- tion support and custom applications at ShopBot Tools in Durham, N.C., says that the software used for routers is becoming easier to use and "is a lot less expensive for sign making." The company worked closely with Vectric to develop VCarve Pro, a design software that makes it easier for sign makers to get their product from the computer screen to the router. "We have been able to bridge that gap and show a complete solution from design to finished product," Patterson says. That makes the CNC router easier to use. The techniques you use will differ based on the type of cutter you use, Patterson says. "The cutter has to match the material you are going to be cutting and the feed rates. There is a whole science behind chip rate calculations. Every type of product has a size chip that needs to be achieved through RPM, feed rate and the number of cutting edges on that cutter," Patterson adds. One of the bigger challenges is find- ing ways to hold the product in place. "They are all CNC routers. They all do the same thing, but it is knowing how to use them. Where we stand out is in the support we provide and the help. Not only just technical support. We have a department called production support that's sole purpose is to provide guidance for manufacturers or hobbyists who need to cut a specific product," he says. AXYZ's Jenkins says that his com- pany meets with its customers upfront to determine what they want to accom- plish with their machine before they ever install it. Then they include a starter kit of bits to get the shop going on the front end. MultiCam Digital Express high- speed digital finishing system. (Photo courtesy MultiCam) If a company wants to cut Precision Board, AXYZ offers some longer tools and shape tools, like v-cutters, that can produce different effects. Jenkins agrees that software is the key to making routers a great tool for the sign industry. It is the software "that makes it sing and dance." "When our installers go in, they go in with years of experience installing machinery to help customers pick the right tools for the job they want to do. On the back side of that, we have an online shop, CNCroutershop.com, which has a full slate of consumables and tools split up by industries and materials," Jenkins says. Other Router Innovations AXYZ International has built a series of routers in the last eight months that are specifically for ice carving. The machines are small enough that they can fit inside an industrial freezer but can still cut out a 20-inch by 40-inch by 10-inch block of ice. For the sign business, AXYZ devel- oped a rotary access for its routers that allows shops to carve a post for wayfind- ing or to cut outside dimensional sig- nage. "We have a rotary access we can bolt a 4x4 or 4x6 block of wood to. We can make it round or carve all sides," says Jenkins. AXYZ offers a wide range of machin- ery from entry-level options to high specification routers. "It is really configurable. If custom- ers want to come in and do a lot of 3-D work, it is easy for us to customize and build a machine for them with extra high clearance and a nice and stiff Z access so there is no chatter or vibration," Jenkins says. "If they are looking to do high qual- ity P.O.P. work, semi-acrylic displays, that kind of work, we give them the option to go to a higher spec machine which gives them better cut quality and are faster machines. On the back side of that, it reduces the secondary labor. You don't have to spend time finishing parts, hand sanding or regrinding or doing the edges." SDG (Photo courtesy AXYZ International)

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