Milling for signs

Photo courtesy Esko

Photo courtesy Esko

By Bill Hartman
One of the advantages of finishing machines is they can be quite versatile, cutting, creasing, milling (routing) and cutting v-notches into a wide variety of materials, such as corrugated boards, folding cartons, solid boards, wood, foamboards and a long list of plastics. They have been very helpful for shops that produce point-of-purchase (POP) displays and other signage.

In the past, finishing tables have been equipped with milling spindles that rotate at up to 60,000 revolutions per minute (r.p.m.), offering compatibility with a wide range of tool insert options. They have typically come with a switch-operated bit exchange, to eliminate the need for hand tools.

One of the central issues for signmakers is the speed of the equipment’s throughput, i.e. how fast it can finish a job. While it has been relatively easy to achieve high throughput when dealing with lightweight materials, it has always been a challenge for finishing tables to carry out heavy-duty milling on very dense materials, such as acrylics.

Fortunately, new higher-power milling technologies have now been introduced. With exceptionally strong, water-cooled milling spindles, these 3-kW tools can deliver milling speeds up to three times faster than in the past.

High-power spindles are well-suited for sign shops that need extended milling duty cycles and/or that work extensively with heavy-duty materials, including thick acrylic sheets, wood, medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and aluminum composites. They are designed not only to process materials that in the past were the most challenging, but also to keep a consistent, productive speed and protect the bits at the same time.

Bill Hartman is the vice-president (VP) of digital finishing business development for Esko, which supplies hardware and software for the sign, display, commercial printing, packaging and publishing industries. For more information, visit

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