Sign & Digital Graphics

December '17

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S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S • December 2017 • 69 A CNC router is an automated, com- puter-controlled piece of equipment that cuts through or carves wood, composites, plastic, foams and urethane and harder, denser materials such as aluminum and other non-ferrous metals. The tool paths used for cutting are saved as a Computer Aided Machine, or CAM, file that moves the CNC tool to cut parts, bypassing needing to manually cut by hand. This provides more consistent and precise work that can be repeated over and over once the file is created. "Every shop will buy at least one of the accessories, or two to three of them, depending on the size of the shop," says Steve Alvarez, national sales director of Laguna Tools in Irvine, California. The Most Common Accessories One such crucial accessory is the vac- uum table, a perforated tabletop contain- ing a vacuum chamber and vacuum pump that creates pressure to keep the work pieces in place, Alvarez says. The pieces are held down by the pressure differential between the chamber and the outside air that results in a suctioning motion, while allowing complete access to the pieces. The vacuum table saves time, allow- ing the sign maker to immediately start cutting, Alvarez says. "If you have this router cutting out a part on a sheet, your part is probably going to shift," Alvarez says. "In the past, people had to drill (or clamp) the sheets down to a machine or use double-sided tape… or leave thin tabs to keep control of the parts and then do a final cut with a utility knife to clean up the parts." Another accessory sign shops use is the automatic tool changer, a timesaver for sign work that requires several router bits, Alvarez says. The sign maker does not have to man- ually change the bits, which are spun at high RPMs by a spindle, the main motor of the router, to cut through the mate- rial—the bits vary depending on the material's diameter and density and the work to be done. The tool changer, which can be expensive, consists of a rack with tool The gasket vacuum jig is an accessory for the CNC router offered by ShopBot Tools in Durham, North Carolina. Computerized Cutters, Inc., in Plano, Texas, offers a vision camera system for registering printed sheets before doing routing tasks by a CNC router. (Photo courtesy of Computerized Cutters)

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