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Taking Centre Stage

Taking Centre Stage
Located north of Stockholm in Taby, Signcraft AB is a sign manufacturer that is celebrating its 30th year in business. The Swedish company, which offers a comprehensive service that ranges from the manufacture of corporate signage and displays to 3D scanning, vehicle decoration and decals, through to digitally printed banners and roll-ups, has been purchasing its cutting tools from Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC) for the last 20 years.

The company was first established in 1992 when founder Henry Barker was asked to sign-write two Dodge vans. Despite having no experience, Henry undertook the task and soon purchased a Gerber Sprint plotting machine. The business was initially a hobby for Henry, who was driving HGVs around the world at the time, touring with the world’s largest rock stars including the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Jon Bon Jovi, the Eagles and countless others. It was actually during a Roxette tour in the late 90s and a chance conversation with a stage carpenter that landed Henry the contract to help produce the stage floor for the ‘Mamma Mia’ stage show. Throwing himself in at the deep end, Henry bought an AXYZ router and machined the plywood and birch stage flooring, as well as all of the acrylic stones and decorations used on the stage to simulate a Greek island.

On a trip to the Sign & Digital Exhibition in 2002 Signcraft AB first encountered the Tamworth cutting tool manufacturer, ITC. As Henry recalled: “At the time, we only had our routing machine for a couple of years and we were using tools from another supplier, but the range was quite limited and that made some jobs quite challenging. We didn’t know how limited the tools were until we met Sally Hunt from ITC, who introduced us to the ITC range, which encompassed everything from square and ball nose tools to tapered tools, long series tools and much more besides. We could certainly see the potential benefits of implementing this bounty on our shop floor and over the next couple of years, we bought more and more from ITC. Of course, it wasn’t just the diversity of the ITC range that we loved – it was also the outstanding quality. The tools were almost impossible to break and the service and technical support from Sally has been outstanding. If we have a particular challenge or need a special tool, the technical support from Sally and the ITC team has been exemplary.”

Recalling some of the jobs where ITC’s technical support, as well as its ability to manufacture bespoke tools with a fast turnaround, has helped Signcraft AB, Henry confided: “We had to produce three-metre high hands as stage props for a popular Swedish TV programme, which required us to layer 105 35mm sheets of Styrofoam that were then machined on our router using ITC tools. To machine the thicker 100mm Styrofoam sheets, ITC supplied a 150mm long solid carbide tool with an 8mm diameter that had been necked for 105mm of its length to prevent the shank from rubbing against the component. To further improve rigidity, the flute length was just 40mm – perfect for machining the 100mm thick Styrofoam boards.”

More recently, the company has manufactured 3.4m high stage prop ‘hands’ for the Swedish version of ‘The Voice’ TV programme. On this occasion, Signcraft AB applied the 20mm diameter ball nose tools from ITC to cut more than 20 cubic metres of Styrofoam.

Henry continued: “We use a lot of the ITC LG Series of single flute tools for machining all of our plastic materials and the STA Series for machining aluminium or similar materials. Upon occasion, we also use special ITC tools for machining stainless or other more challenging materials too.”

In Sweden, the government has allocated a percentage of its infrastructure and new buildings budget for creating artworks. This means that all new public sector buildings will have sculptures or other artistic features. One artist, who was commissioned to create sculptures for highway roundabouts, asked Signcraft AB to manufacture Selectric Typeballs from 1970’s typewriters. Standing at 2.5m high, they had to be constructed from 22 cast aluminium sections measuring 1m by 750mm that were welded together. The respective aluminium sheets had to be cast in a foundry, with Signcraft AB making the mould tools from high-density polyurethane sheets. The 3D forms were rough machined on the company’s Kimla CNC routing machine with a 20mm diameter ball-nosed LG Series tool from ITC, while the finishing operations were undertaken with a 6mm diameter ball-nosed LG Series tool.

Henry concluded: “The quality of the ITC cutting tools is excellent and the tool life and performance is outstanding too. Downstream from the machining process, the surface finishes they generate also eliminate many secondary hand finishing operations. It is ITC’s technical expertise and Sally’s help that helps to ensure that we are fully optimising our machining parameters and maximising the potential of the cutting tools.”

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