Are you planning to buy a Computerised Routing System? A good router is a piece of equipment your shop will use for a long time and because of just one mistake, it can turn into a very expensive piece of sculpture. Following are a set of issues that need to be examined before procuring such a system.
There is a growing market for dimensional signage. A market that can diversify your business and produce several types of dimensional work, architectural, commercial, or electrical. These systems can produce almost all-dimensional work faster, cost effective and with more consistency than manual methods, thus allowing the sign designer to concentrate on the creative design process instead of the routine manufacturing process.
But, adding a Computerised Routing System to your business is a serious undertaking. The following are some important issues to be examined before you settle on one manufacturer or a particular model.
When purchasing a piece of capital equipment like a computerised router, the best place to start with is the company that manufactures the product. Be sure to review such things as how long the company has been in business, its technological capabilities, and support programmes. These issues can affect you in several ways. A manufacturer’s length of time in business can be a direct reflection of its talents. Computerised signmaking is a fast-paced industry, and it is important to choose a manufacturer that has a proven record of technological innovation and a talent for adapting to the changing needs of customers. New businesses are born everyday, but not manyÂ live tomorrow. When your investment can be up to $75000, you should be absolutely sure that the company you choose will till be in business after a few years. Many shops have found themselves stranded without service or support when its manufacturer’s business folded. Technological capabilities and depth of product line are also a good indication of a company’s expertise. A company that develops and manufactures a wide variety of related products demonstrates that its knowledge of the industry runs deep. On the other hand, a company manufacturing one machine or several unrelated ones may only have knowledge of one segment of the business. This is not something you want to discover after you have made the purchase.
It’s important to gather this information from varying sources, so don’t rely entirely on the manufacturer for inputs. Talk to some of their customers. Make sure they are completely satisfied with the product and the support. Call them to test their services. Your business may depend on the company you keep.
Once you have identified a manufacturer with history in the computerised routing industry, and all the applications important to your business, the next consideration is the equipment itself – specifically, the CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software and the router.
Features such as ease of use need to be considered. You need a system that will allow you to create tool paths simply and quickly, with a wide assortment of computerised tools and simple commands. You need not be a computer expert to use your system, and nothing slows down productivity like hunting through a manual for complicated instructions. You should also look for a system that is compatible with other CAS (Computer Aided Signmaking) programmes.
Productivity also means making the most of your materials. Make sure to choose a computerised routing system that contains the following valuable features:
1) Paneling – output jobs longer than your table.
2) Nesting – arrange jobs together to maximise material use.
3) Repeat – quickly and easily produce repetitive work.
4) Lead In/Lead Out – eliminates plunge dimples for the best quality edges.
5) Inlay – precisely cut artwork that fits together every time.
6) Auto-Carve 3D Sign Carving – produce signs with three dimensional incised carved letters, symbols, graphics, and borders.
7) DA Signage – create quality Braille and raised letters.
Another consideration is the time savings of templates. If you own a manual or hand router, you know the value of a template or pattern. The computerised router uses templates of a different type. A good system will be able to store all the parameters of a job, including depths and feed rates for specific materials. This removes the need for you to remember all the factors that are normally part of routing. The system should ship with generic templates and allow you to create your own customisedÂ templates. One productivity feature that is often offered by router manufacturers is the throughput of the system. Throughput refers to theÂ entire production process, from the design of a job to the completion of the actual finished product. Consider only the companies that can meet your shop’s needs in all aspects of throughput.
When considering a computerised router for your business, return on investment (ROI) is one of the most important issues to investigate. The workmanship and features of the router are only important if they can increase your profit margin to quickly recoup your investment. A right computerised router can pay for itself and bring a whole new cash flow to your shop. It should have a fast job turnaround, with a capacity to produce repeat jobs with minimal labour. A computerised production means lower labour costs, less material waste, no more time-consuming patterns, much less finishing time and elimination of the need for outside production. A right router can enhance the business if it delivers higher quality and offer more services to existing customers as well as attract new customers with new services.
Remember to keep your specific needs in mind when examining the ROI for different routing systems. In other words, if you don’t need it, don’t buy it.
Work holding is a fundamental element of computerised router performance. As with any machine tool, the systems work holding methods define its overall flexibility. There are various types of material hold down methods in the market, and each provides a different level of flexibility. Some of the better types include slotted tables for top and side clamping and vacuum tables for quick set-up.
In addition, your table should have a precisely mislabel surface and chip pick-up for removing debris from the area surrounding the routing bit. With a milled table and high-performance holding system, you will have the precision to cut-to-mask, eliminating the waste of sacrificial material, double-sided tapes, and spray adhesive. This will save both time and money.
Overall construction is the final concern. After all, you want to make signs, not to become a maintenance technician. Look for systems that were specially designed from the ground up to sign making routers, and look out for laser, plasma or torch CNC systems retrofitted with a router spindle. These types of retrofits were not designed to handle the forces and load involved in rotational cutting.
Examine the drive train of the machine. Look for components that can withstand the harsh process of routing. Avoid systems with exposed gears or racks that can be easily damaged by cutting debris. One of the simplest ways to get an impression of the quality of a machine is the appearance. Does it look a prototype or something that has been hastily put together? Looks are often a good indication of the engineering behind the machine.
As you can see, there are many important factors to consider when choosing a computerised router. Take out your time and review what is out there. Many systems on the market today are little more than prototypes, with only limited research and testing behind them. There are many companies looking for a quick buck instead of building a long relationship. Some of these concerns may seem unimportant or trivial now, but they all play a part in the long package.
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