New York Manufacturer Expands Business With CNC Routers

A Techno CNC router paid for itself on the first job by producing an order of aluminum signs with acrylic letters for a bookstore chain in about one-tenth the time that would have been required to produce them by hand.

A Techno CNC router paid for itself on the first job by producing an order of aluminum signs with acrylic letters for a bookstore chain in about one-tenth the time that would have been required to produce them by hand. The push-through acrylic letters had to be produced to demanding tolerances that would have been difficult or impossible to meet by hand. The Techno CNC router has helped the company enter new markets by producing signs and related specialty items from a range of materials including plastics, aluminum, wood and other materials in one-fifth to one-tenth of the time that would have been required by hand. Creative Accessories is a 25-employee company that is constantly seeking new niche markets for its products. The company's primary product is signs and displays but it also produces a range of specialty items, most of which are made from a variety of acrylic plastics and woods. For example, the company has recently begun producing carved wood signs and marketing them through sign stores and catalogs. In the past, the company produced these items using traditional hand and power tools including bandsaws, shapers, and routers. This meant that a considerable amount of time was required to produce each piece and that accuracy was dependent on the skill of the person doing the work.

The difficulty of producing these products by hand came to a head recently when the company had the opportunity to bid on a large order for display signs to be used by a bookstore chain in their coffee shops. The displays each consist of a rectangular aluminum display cut out in order to insert acrylic letters. Each of the letters is flanged so they are retained in the sign. Creative Accessories management realized that the cost of producing the job with manual methods would have been too high to get the order and the accuracy that could have been achieved would probably not be up to the customer's demanding standards.

The company examined several CNC routers and selected the Gantry System from Techno-Isel, New Hyde Park, New York because of its accuracy, relatively low cost and its ability to interface with popular software packages. It then submitted a bid for the bookstore displays stating that it would purchase the machine if it received the order. When it got the order, Creative Accessories immediately ordered the router and began work. Techno customer support was very helpful in providing guidance on the cutting speeds and type of bits required to machine aluminum and acrylics.

While the aluminum display was easily clamped to the machine table, attaching the softer acrylic letters without damaging them proved to be a bit more of a challenge. On this first project, Creative Accessories used double sided carpet tape which held the letters without difficulty but was somewhat time-consuming to remove them. Later, the company developed a universal vacuum deck with multiple chambers that can exert tons of clamp-down force. This deck is being used for all of the company's internal plastics work on the machine.

The first job covered the cost of the machine despite the fact that a fair amount of time was required for learning how to program, set up and run it. In general, the company has found that it can produce signs and other specialty products in about one-tenth the time previously required. Since then, Creative Accessories has significantly increased its business in a number of areas due largely to the increased productivity and accuracy.

Creative Accessories has picked up a considerable amount of wholesale work for other signmakers that still produce signs by hand. These include carved wood signs, plastic signs and electrified signs. Small, carved wood signs normally take three to four hours to produce by hand yet can be cut on the router in about 15 minutes. CASmate Pro has proven to be quite a valuable tool in this area. In particular, the program's "scan to cut" feature makes it possible to scan a logo or other design and create a vector image with square corners and sharp angles in no time at all. The program downloads quite easily to the Techno gantry system.

Quality of work produced by the company has also been greatly improved. The machine has a resolution of 0.0005 inch which is about 100 times the precision that can be achieved by hand. So the letters and specialized shapes produced on the router are far more precise than hand-cut, and any required copies are identical to the originals. The company trains its employees to achieve high standards all the way from design through production and finishing and the router makes it relatively easy to achieve these standards.

The strength and rigidity of the table was also important. The Techno machine is constructed from extruded aluminum profiles which can support all the materials that the company uses and provides easy clamping. The machine also has four ground and hardened steel shafts and eight recirculating bearings in each axis. This shaft and bearing system produces very smooth play free motion which produces high quality cuts.

The quality of the cuts produced on the Techno router is directly related to its design. Most sign routers use small diameter (less than 0.5 inch) acme screws and brass or plastic acme nuts while the Techno routers all use ballscrew system transfers over 90 percent of the motor power to produce cutting force while acme screw systems typically only transfer 35 percent of the motor power. The rolling action versus sliding also means less wear, longer life and greater rigidity, essential for producing clean cuts in plastics and metals. The patented anti-backlash ball nut on the Techno router also produces more accurate cuts for making inlays with clearances down to the machine resolution. MMS