The automation equation
Much as digital inkjet printers have automated the process of graphic production, having all of the cutting options available on one CNC table, with an automatic tool changer to do the swapping out, is a good place to start in terms of automating the process of graphic finishing.
The less an operator has to get involved, the better, as there are fewer opportunities for human error and reduced downtime. Once the user presses the button, he/she can move on and select a different tool for the next material that needs to be cut.
CNC hybrids have been refined over the past decade with these purposes in mind. They have been redesigned based in large part on feedback from signmakers and other professionals who have needed to change cutting tools more efficiently than in the past.
With a manual tool change, there can easily be five to 10 minutes of downtime. Supposing there are eight to 10 tool changes a day for a typical sign shop, the time savings of a CNC hybrid will quickly add up over the course of a week.
In turn, more new jobs can be accepted and, for that matter, shorter lead times can be quoted to customers in the first place. In today’s market, shorter lead times can lead to more referrals and a stronger reputation as the ‘go-to’ shop in town.
Finding the right time
If CNC hybrid technology can be judged a viable choice, based on a sign shop’s workload and logistical factors, then there is no longer any reason to purchase two routers, one dedicated to standard bits and other using knife cutters.
It is a question of meeting customers’ needs. For the signmaker, this means doing the homework, keeping an eye on the future and determining which system is the best option.
Liam Hodson is a technical sales engineer for Axyz International, which manufactures CNC routers and knife systems in Burlington, Ont. For more information, visit www.axyz.com.