Staying on the cutting edge
Advancements in computer numerical control (CNC) cutting technology have helped revolutionize the signmaking industry. Photos courtesy MultiCam Canada/Mikon Machinery
By Daniel Austin
Advancements in computer numerical control (CNC) cutting technology have helped revolutionize industries such as signmaking, woodworking, metalworking, and general fabrication. More recently, advancements in digital cutting have allowed operators to perform short-run die cutting jobs, as well as platemaking processes with flexo and corrugate materials. Signmakers who have implemented CNC routers with spindles, or with knives and camera options, are seeing gains in productivity and creativity, which can positively impact their bottom line in both the short- and long-term.
What is CNC cutting technology?
With increased accuracy and repeatability, CNC routers outfitted with spindles are ideal for creating intricate designs and shapes with precision—taking wood, aluminum, and plastic projects to the next level.
In recent years, improved tooling systems, advanced control systems, and better machine components have helped streamline cutting processes and boost automation. While new tooling systems allow for faster cutting speeds and higher accuracy by improving the cutting pressure of the tool, advanced control systems allow for more accurate cutting and greater control over the CNC router's speed, acceleration, and deceleration. Additionally, new components such as servomotors, spindles, and bearings have been developed to improve the overall performance of the machine—thus enabling less downtime, along with higher speed and efficiency.
Benefits for the print and sign industries
CNC cutting technologies provide a consistent product, in any volume. Shops can start with a prototype, then run short or large volumes with accuracy and consistency. They can also increase their speed by running multiple production steps at the same time. The amount of labour required to run a CNC router can be reduced to a single operator running complicated projects. Since the operator does not need to handle the substrates, the machine also vastly improves the safety in operations.
Project teams can cut mixed media for display and sign fabrication with precision, using multiple materials and producing perfectly fitting pieces, allowing more creativity with design and manufacturing. From simple countertop displays to complex product presentations, and larger millwork and metal projects—including product designs that feature inlaid metal, plastic, and wood components—CNC cutting technologies can help simplify any job. Further, large runs of components and detailed wall installations can become attainable by any operator.
Digital knife cutting
For signmakers and printers working with corrugate, card stock, and foam core, a CNC router with a camera and knife cutter can greatly expand in-house capabilities for producing prototypes, short-run pieces, and flexo plates and patches. These machines are built for versatility and designed to upgrade both speed and tooling as a business grows. Printers and signmakers have the flexibility to iterate and tweak designs based on feedback, improving customer satisfaction as well as their suite of services. Shops can control the entire process in-house, from start to finish, and save cutting programs from prototype to production, to streamline efficiencies on items that are reordered in short runs.
Signmakers who have implemented CNC routers with spindles, or with knives and camera options, are seeing gains in productivity and creativity, which can positively impact their bottom line in both the short- and long-term.
Another area of advancement in CNC cutting technology has been the development of more user-friendly software. For example, certain options allow users to create more complex designs with ease—controlling the experience from design to completion. The right software also makes it simpler to program the CNC router and set up jobs for production, as well as troubleshoot and identify potential problems with the machine.
On-board software solutions allow shops to predefine cutting settings and create profiles that will ensure accuracy when run by multiple operators. Bridging the gap between programming and fabrication makes it easier to run projects more efficiently and focus on refining production processes.
The flexibility of machine cutting can be seen in both short-run and larger projects. Compared to processes such as die cutting, savings can be seen from the onset—eliminating costly dies and allowing for a more tailored approach to design and production.By Daniel Austin What is CNC cutting technology? Benefits for the print and sign industries Digital knife cutting Easy-to-use software