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It’s all in the finish

It’s all in the finish

Cutting, routing and laminating remain key sign manufacturing paradigms but in addition have now enabled diversification from core manufacturing activities into new markets. These include the thriving digital print and cut, print wear and promotional products, labelling and packaging sectors that help create new revenue streams and lead to increased business and commensurate profitability for sign and display companies. Mike Connolly reports on some of the more impressive applications for cutting, routing and finishing systems as well as reviewing the latest product innovations.

Boosting business growth at B2B

axyz new machine

Following installation of an AXYZ 6010 CNC router, Waltham Abbey, Essex-based B2B Exhibitions has been able to take on a huge amount of additional work that has contributed significantly to the company’s future growth prospects.

Established seven years ago as a single-person business by owner Greg Shire operating initially out of his garage, the rapid development of the company led toits relocation at a 3,500 square feet facility employing a full-time staff of five and using 20 additional part-time employees as business grew. B2B Exhibitions specialises in the bespoke production of exhibition stands, special event promotional signs and displays and shop fitting units. The AXYZ router is used for virtually all of the company’s output that includes, for example, melamine-faced boards for high-end exhibition stand elements and fabricated acrylic sheets for signs and displays.

Greg Shire commented: “Since installation of the AXYZ router we have been able to increase considerably the volume of work undertaken to the extent that it has been possible to set up a separate company to fully maximise the router’s huge potential.”

The AXYZ 6010 router has a processing area of 2159mm (width) x 3048mm (length). It incorporates the AXYZ Automatic Tool Change (ATC) facility and AXYZ Vision System (AVS) for optimum routing/cutting accuracy. Greg Shire added: “The router also includes special pop up pins on either side of the machine bed to ensure that successive sheets of material are always located in the same position on the bed.”

In common with all AXYZ routers, the 6010 can be supplied with additional machining options. These include the AXYZ Auto Zone Management facility that ensures the material being processed is always held securely during the routing/cutting cycle and the latest A2MC machine control system. The A2MC has a massive 16GB of memory for program storage as well as providing network connectivity for error-free program transfer. A further optional production tool enhancement is the latest helical rack and pinion drive system featuring a multiple gear teeth configuration. This helps spread the workload more evenly and leads to greater cutting accuracy, faster throughput speeds, reduced material wastage and, ultimately, a longer than normal machine life.

Included in a number of high-end projects for which the AXYZ 6010 router played a major part was the construction of a special pop-up shop created for optics specialist Leica. Greg Shire concluded: “The entire structure was made from plywood cut by the router and featured a MDF-based frontage painted to simulate the appearance of brick. The router was also used to build the B2B Exhibitions’ main office that is also made of wood. It involved the processing of 150 sheets of 18mm hardwood ply over a period of five days.”

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The ace performer

zund machines montage

Having installed a Zund S3 digital cutting table at its Northampton facility, Nene Packaging has greatly speeded up production with a commensurate increase in business growth and profitability.

The company is an approved supplier of point-of-sale and floor display material to major supermarketssuch as Tesco and other retail outlets.

Commenting on the reason for installing the Zund digital cutting table, Nene Packaging’s owner Rob Lugmayer said: “Our two existing CAD tables were slow and antiquated and limited to cutting out plain cardboard. To produce low-volume runs our customers needed to spend up to £200 on tooling costs, which made it impossible for smaller businesses.

“We needed to upgrade in order to drive the company forward in the marketplace and, in March of this year, Zund UK distributor CMYUK supplied an ex-demonstration Zund S3 to replace one of the CAD tables. We also installed a new EFI VUTEk wide-format printer. This investment alleviated prohibitive tooling costs as well as speeding up the sample-making process and enabling short production runs.”

The Zund S3 includes a camera system that reads registration marks outside the main printing area and helps reduce material wastage. Like all Zund cutting tables, the S3 offers a modular tooling facility that enables automated processing of a wide range of materials up to a thickness of 25mm. This makes the machine ideal for the company’s point-of-sale and display sample production and its general brown-box work for engineering parts.

According to Rob Lugmeyer, it is likely that at a future date the remaining CAD cutter will also be replaced with a second Zund digital cutting table.

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Making a stand

DYSS X7

A DYSS X7 digital cutting table supplied by AG/CAD has enabled exhibition stand construction specialist Stand Innovations to set up a separate large-format printing company, whichhas resulted in new business and increased profitability.

Called StandOut Graphics, the new company specialises in the provision of bespoke digitally printed graphics and advertising solutions to support the exhibition stand construction work undertaken by Stand Innovations. Director Tom Noon commented: “We weren’t geared upfor creating graphics for our stand designs so these had to be contracted out at some considerable cost. So to solve the problem, we invested over £350,000 in specialist equipment including a large-format Jetrix printer and the DYSS X7 2230T digital cutting table and refurbished an adjacent unit so that we could reclaim the business being contracted out and target the business we were losing because we did not have the capacity to handle it. A year later, both objectives have been achieved, thanks in no small part to the new kit.”

Having opted for this particular cutting table and the Jetrix printer, StandOut Graphics is now able to undertake large-scale printing and cutting of a wide range of materials, including MDF, foamed board, aluminium composite sheet, Perspex, vinyl and glass.

Tom Noon added: “The ability of the DYSS machine to precisely cut large non-uniform shapes with a perfect finish, based on a wide range of materials, has been a major benefit to both businesses.”

Key design features of the DYSS X7 include the K-Cut Vision system that intuitively identifies datum marks on each job and automatically calculates the required tool path. The machine claims 100 percent precision of cut on materials, even if their orientation to the machine bed is not parallel. Furthermore, the robust Superhead cutting head has the ability to accommodate six millimetre-diameter routing tools that can handle the thickest of materials. The cutting head also provides a threefold interchangeable production capability covering routing, knife cutting and creasing, thus reducing production and lead times on large projects.

Tom Toon concluded “The flexibility of the combined DYSS and Jetrix machines has yielded a healthy year one profit and helped to bring in new business whilstalso reducing the amount of work contracted out by Stand Innovations. As a stand-alone operation, StandOut Graphics has a bright future and hasenabled us to enter new markets, such as the point-of-sale display sector.”

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Back in-house

versa tech cutter

Investment in a Versa Tech cutter has enabled retail design and printing specialist Practical Minds to bring in-house the cutting and finishing processes that previously were contracted out.

Established in 2008 by Managing Director Andy Winstanley, Practical Minds creates displays for the retail and exhibition markets, and serves leading brands including Harrods, Nike and Timberland. The company works collaboratively with brand owners, retailers, designers, architects and marketers, undertaking everything from initial design concepts through to development, manufacture and installation.

The Versa Tech cutter supplied by reseller Blackman and White features a 3000 x 2000mm processing bed and incorporates a multi-head cutter that can handle a wide range of disparate materials, including self-adhesive vinyl, foamed and aluminium composite sheets, acrylic and plastics, textiles, card and paper. The cutter is available in a choice of three different formats comprising flatbed, conveyor and laser-equipped models.

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A steep learning experience

KF16

Back in the late 1990’s, Peter Wilby and Max Wright, both seasoned professionals with vast experience in printing, were facing the realisation that, with advancing technology, their combined futures were looking extremely bleak.

Following a visit to the Franchise Show at the NEC, they decided to join a national franchise in the sign industry as this appeared to relate most closely to their past experience and enabled them to work out of a van and from home.

A couple of years later and with the franchisor unable to provide the promised support, Peter and Max opted to become independent and took up residence in their first unit on the present site. Peter Wilby explained: “In those early years, it was a steep learning curve but we have been able to build up sufficient local business and have never needed to advertise to secure this. Having seen a vertical panel saw in operation in one of the DIY sheds,our first machine acquisition was the new KF16 vertical panel saw from Sagetech that is designed primarily for the smaller business. The saw is used by the partnership to cut acrylic and aluminium composite sheets that hitherto would be on several days’ lead times from a sub-contractor, as well as timber-based materials.

The KF16 is just one of the four ranges of machines that are available from Sagetech. The Zapkut ZM range of saws is designed for lighter duties and starts with the budget-priced ZK8 portable unit. The saw handles a range of commonly used signmaking materials, while the heavier-duty Koolcut range of machines handle the thickest of materials, including the widely specified three by two-metre sheets.

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Increasing profits

x5

Creative cardboard engineering and print specialist, Anytech has recently installed a DYSS X5digital cutter, supplied by AG/CAD, at its Swindon headquarters in order to enhance its in-house capabilities and to expand the large format part of its business.

The new X5 machine is now working in-line with Anytech’s Xerox and Roland digital print devices to produce large format graphics and POS work, while also processing short-runs of digitally printed packaging without the need for the lengthy lead-times, set-up and other costs associated with conventional die-cutting. With innovative bespoke design a key part of its services, the company is also using the DYSS X5 to prototype new creations for its customers and to further extend its own product portfolio.

AG/CAD’s KASEMAKE CAD software was acquired as part of the same investment, enabling Anytech to produce imaginative structural designs speedily and efficiently and, in addition, the company has also found KASEMAKE’s 3D visualisation features to be invaluable when pitching to new clients and servicing existing customers, as, in a matter of moments, the software is able to render proposed designs as interactive 3D mock-ups, which can then be emailed for approval or proofing purposes.

Chin Williams, the owner of Anytech, considered a variety of flatbed cutters before selecting the DYSS X5, which, he declared, was the clear winner, with the KASEMAKE package also adding a host of extra benefits.

Anytech has been growing steadily since its formation and, following the arrival of the DYSS X5, all of the company’s print finishing is now being handled automatically in-house, providing it with a real competitive edge when it comes to turnaround times and price.

Chin Williams concluded: “I am confident that our investment in equipment and software will enable us to increase company profits substantially, and don’t think that it’s unreasonable to aim for at least doubling our turnover within the next 12 months.”

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Digital Deadline has it covered

easymount air

A specialist in signmaking, vehicle wrapping and wide-format digital printing, Leicestershire-based Digital Deadline has been in business since 2004. Included in the hardware installed at its premises is an Easymount Air laminator supplied by Vivid Laminating that replaced the previous GBC machine.

Having researched the marketplace for this replacement, Director Mark Brooks commented: “During research we were impressed by the frequent positive reviews of the Easymount Air laminator and the decision to purchase this particular machine was encouraged by our close links with Vivid Lamination. The GBC machine was not meeting our large-volume requirements and it needed to be replaced.”

In addition to the new laminator, Digital Deadline also installed two Mimaki JV33 printers to support its wide-format work and to partner with the Easymount Air laminator. Mark Brooks continued: “We were given a demonstration of the laminator by the team at Vivid Lamination and were impressed by its performance and, in particular, by the fact that the laminator’s rollers can automatically detect the amount of pressure required for the laminating process. In addition to this, the rollers also stay completely level, regardless of the type of substrate being laminated.”

Mark Brooks was also impressed by the Easymount’s faster speed of 10 metres per minute and this was also a deciding factor in the purchase. He concluded: “For much of the time, we are laminating with full rolls of vinyl. With our previous laminator this would be a much slower process, but because the Easymount Air has the extra roll-to-roll unit, the whole process has become much easier and quicker and this has helped increase both our production levels and our profitability.”

Click her for part 2

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