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Best setup for high volume signs/decals

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by Signed Out, Nov 25, 2019.

  1. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    Lately we've been doing a lot more higher volume jobs. Small signs and stickers. For example 8"x4"" 040 aluminum warning signs, and 6"x4" warning or notice stickers. Currently we only have roll to roll printers (roland and epson s80) plotters, laminators. The stickers are straight forward, but for the signs we are mounting printed vinyl onto 8'x4' sheets. We then have to shear (stomp shear) round the corners and punch holes in the signs (hand presses) (1,000) 8x4 signs takes us about 20 hours after they come off the printer. So 20 hours to laminate, mount, shear, round, hole, and package. Which actually works out ok for us cost wise, but it's not a favorite type of job to perform in the shop.

    The biggest bottleneck for us now is shear/round/holes. How well do CNC tables like a multicam perform at cutting aluminum signs with round corners and holes in the corners? How long would it take to cut down a 8x4 sheet of (144) 8"x4" signs, (I realize you wont yield as many on cnc as you would with a shear) Would a flatbed cutter like the summa f series flatbed cutter do good at this type of job? Which machine would perform well at cutting the aluminum signs and also be able to finish decals? Are the flatbed cutters able to back slit as well ad kiss/die cut decals?

    I guess I'm having trouble wrapping my head around a fancy CNC or flatbed cutter to essentially cut out very basic rectangles with round corners and holes. Having not used one before I just picture it taking a lot of time to cut these on a CNC because they are small signs. Also wouldn't you need to cut all 4 sides of each sign compared to a shear where the signs can be butted up? Perhaps for this situation we'd be better off investing in some nicer, pneumatic shears and presses?

    Now that said, we could also use a CNC or flatbed cutter for a lot of other work around here and expand capabilities so we like that. But they can be a sizeable investment. As for a flatbed printer, that would really round out the package, but seems like the cutter should be the first piece of the puzzle for us?

    Any info/advice is welcomed.
     
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  2. player

    player Major Contributor

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    Have you looked at an ironworker?
     
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  3. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    We have an older piranha that I guess we could use. But punching holes would be much much slower on that than using the hole press, same for rounding corners. Unless newer iron workers are much different than what we have, I don't see how one would be useful?
     
  4. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    20 hours for one 4x8???
     
  5. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    No 20 hours for (1,000) 8"x4" 040 aluminum signs.
     
  6. iPrintStuff

    iPrintStuff Prints stuff

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    Would it be possible to buy these in pre cut? If it’s the same size all the time it may be worth just getting in blanks?

    that being said, even if a CNC takes a while to cut these out, it’s still pretty much automated. Load a sheet and off you go, leaving you time to do other jobs.
     
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  7. SIGNTIME

    SIGNTIME Active Member

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    Buying precut and punched wouldn't seem to save much time if you had to apply vinyl to them and trim.
     
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  8. CanuckSigns

    CanuckSigns Very Active Member

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    Buy the blanks precut with the holes and corners already done, than look into flatbed printing them using a jig, if they are all the same size it should be very easy to set up a jig for this.
     
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  9. Tyler Birch

    Tyler Birch New Member

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    Yeah, it's a much bigger investment but a flatbed printer and a good supplier that can get you sheets already finished will be the better "high volume" combination.

    The automation of the flatbed will allow one of your people to go between running sheets and other tasks in between.

    You just need to be aware that flatbed inks won't last as long as laminated vinyl (up to 3 years outdoors for most UV inks). Most of our clients are okay with this considering the price difference.
     
  10. LarryB

    LarryB Member

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    We make a lot of 3" x 7" plaques out of 3mm aluminum composite. We flatbed print them on 4' x 8' sheets and then put them on the Multicam router to cut out. Takes about 45 minutes a sheet to cut out.
     
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  11. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    I've thought of this as well and the short 3 year life wont work for us. Cant you print a clear uv coat with some flatbeds? Or does laminating the printed substrate get you up to the longevity of an eco solvent print/lam? What about latex flatbeds?

    If you cant get good outdoor life with a flatbed then would screen printing to blanks be the way to go?
     
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  12. ikarasu

    ikarasu Very Active Member

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    How many colors? If it's 1-3 colors screen printing is way quicker than roll to roll.
     
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  13. bowtievega

    bowtievega Member

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    Are most of these signs going inside or outside? Intermediate or cast vinyl and lam? In my opinion, if you think you could make use of a CNC router you absolutely could. It opens up all sorts of things for your shop. The machine doesn't care if you are cutting a square with sharp corners or a totally abstract shape with radius corners and mounting holes. We have a flat bed Mimaki printer and would print these on aluminum composite with registration marks, cut them on the CNC, put them on sticks and shoot urethane clearcoat on them if going outside. They would all be identical and have the same mounting holes with no vinyl to lift on the edges. If they were simple signs on white we might consider screen printing like ikarasu mentioned but would still be cutting blanks on our CNC. Its hard for us to screen print any more, takes up space with racks and making sure they stay clean while drying and we don't have any people with that experience any more other than supervisors. Sometimes its just easier to use the standard work flow even if its not the ideal setup.
     
  14. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    The signs and really mixed use and get installed both indoor and outdoor. We mainly use oracal 3551/290 and easily get 5-7+ year outdoor durability. We don't want to switch to a process that results in shorter outdoor life.

    What is the expected outdoor life printing with your Mimaki, with and without a urethane clearcoat? Why spray a clearcoat, wouldn't it be much faster to laminate your printed sheets before they go to the router? Is the urethane much less expensive or longer lasting?
     
  15. HulkSmash

    HulkSmash Major Contributor

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    Flatbed UV direct print will last just as long or longer. We direct print QTY 15 4x8 Sheets an HR, and it takes about 6 minutes per sheet to CNC out.
     
  16. 2CT Media

    2CT Media Major Contributor

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    Urethane will outlast any PVC product exposed to UV. With UV ink you have raised ink properties and it makes it harder to film laminate, so a self-leveling liquid is most ideal, plus with film laminate, you are dealing with multilayer products that have multiple failure points.
     
  17. Signed Out

    Signed Out Very Active Member

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    Is this with adding a clear coat or liquid laminate?
     
  18. HulkSmash

    HulkSmash Major Contributor

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    No it does not. We explain the life span and process, and sell the material as is, printed with UV inks that last a damn long time.
     
  19. bowtievega

    bowtievega Member

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    The urethane clearcoat is definitely a superior coating over laminate. I’m personally not a fan of vinyl and laminate for long term signage. Maybe because we are in Arizona and I can’t tell you how many brown burned delaminating signs we have replaced over the years lol. This is one of the harshest environments when it comes to printing materials with the year round UV. Also we are just recently getting into roll printing have haven’t seen the advantage of changing our techniques at this point.
     
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