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What equipment can you not live without? When to buy it

Discussion in 'General Chit-Chat' started by equippaint, Apr 25, 2019.

  1. equippaint

    equippaint Very Active Member

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    There's lots of different machines for production but its not feasible for most to go out and purchase whatever they want. So, I've been wondering what motivates everyone into purchasing. Here's a couple of questions to start a discussion.
    Out of all of the major equipment that you have in the shop what one has provided the best bang for the buck?
    Is there anything in particular that you wish you would have bit the bullet and purchased sooner?
    What is your favorite one to operate? Were any of these bought more as a toy like a cnc router and ended up opening opportunities? Anything that was a total waste of money?
     
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  2. TimToad

    TimToad Very Active Member

    The core of our large format printing like most shops is done on our 54" Roland VP-540. It is our workhorse and without it or a similar printer, we'd be at the mercy of becoming print brokers and not actual craftspeople plying our trade every day. The laminator is the other most used tool. We do so much Print_cut projects that we like the simplicity of printing, laminating and cutting on the same machine and same software guiding the process. Our 48" plotter handles all the other standard cut vinyl projects.

    We do so many project with dimensional letters and mixed mediums that I'd like more tools in the fabrication part of the business than the printing part.

    When we purchased the business we inherited a 5'x10' UV flatbed printer and while it has made the business tons of money, I'm not sure we're in the best market to justify the cost of replacing it now that it's nearing the end of its life. I'd rather purchase another inkjet, laminator and a laser cutter than replace the flatbed.

    While a decent tool, I find the Fletcher cutter we have to not be as accurate as I'd like even after replacing all the bushings, guides, cutters, etc. I'd like a panel saw, but don't like the mess they create even with a good vacuum attached.

    Our next purchase will be a more robust rotary hammer drill and with a dimensional letter project that consists of around 500 6 1/2" threaded stud letters to do this weekend, that purchase will likely occur between now and Friday afternoon.
     
  3. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Back when I was starting out, I would hafta say, the circular saw, so I could cut my duraply down to size. That's what enabled me to grow. Remember now, back in the late 60s and early 70s, there were only wooden signs, sheet metal, canvas signs, paper and shocard. Only the huge commercial shops had welders and metal cutting machines. Way over my head when starting. Of course, there were only about 8 shops in the whole county. Now there's over 125 shops in our little cit alone. Times have changed along with needs.
     
  4. Billct2

    Billct2 Major Contributor

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    Best bang for the buck...Gerber Edge/Plotter. Seemed like a big expense back in the 90s but has proven to be a real workhorse.
     
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  5. equippaint

    equippaint Very Active Member

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    Did you get a good one to start out with? I bought a worm gear saw about 8 years ago after burning up a couple cheapies. It's a horse
     
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  6. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Thought I did. Got a Sears Craftsman and some old guy told me, can't you smell that..... you're burning out the motor (it was still relatively, new). Those things are not for professional use, just hobbyists. So I got a Makita with like a 14 amp motor and I still have it. I became a Makita man back in the 70's. They had the first cordless tools, also.
     
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  7. ProColorGraphics

    ProColorGraphics Very Active Member

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    There is NO WAY I would give up my Summa F! It has easily been the equivalent to 1-2 employees!!
     
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  8. rjssigns

    rjssigns Premium Subscriber

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    Buying a 54" Summa for contour cuts would be the recent best bang for the buck. I no longer cringe when getting a large job with contour cuts. Load it and walk away. Blood pressure went way down.

    Once my new 64" printer gets here that could be the next best bang for the buck.

    4'x4' CNC is on the wish list along with a laser.

    Just thought of something. Best ever bang for the buck are my mechanics tools. Doing my own work has saved me a lot of money over the years. Plus I know the job is done right with good parts.
     
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  9. particleman

    particleman Member

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    I work with a lot of specialty films so I'd say my Gerber edge setup. Most of these films are a huge headache to feed through a latex machine. No overlays and you can cut super long runs on the plotter without issues. The only thing that I'm noticing more and more though is that 15" punched material is becoming less and less available.
     
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  10. RPM

    RPM Member

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    Probably the 2 best purchases I feel gave me the best "bang for the buck" was our sewing machine for hemming banners and our HP750FB. Both have easily paid for themselves in very short order. The sewing machine paid for itself in a month and the FB in one year.
     
  11. zspace

    zspace Member

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    The tool that has the biggest impact on my shop is Control Software. Our sales were limited to the number of prospects, customers and jobs that we could manage on paper. Our follow up with prospects was hit and miss. Keeping up with production schedules was sometimes overwhelming. Today we couldn’t operate at current levels without the right software to hold all the moving parts together.

    It’s not as sexy or exciting as a flatbed or cnc router, but in my shop it’s responsible for more revenue growth than any other single tool.
     
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  12. signman315

    signman315 Signmaker

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    Our people are the best equipment we have. Good people can make excellent things happen with lesser tools, crappy people can't do anything good even with the best tools. But if that doesn't qualify then I'd say our FB550, it's like printing money. Followed by our Summa tangential plotter, it will roll to roll cut 150' logs unattended....at my last gig that was a day's work for an employee, now it's set it and forget it (as Ron Popeil used to say haha!)
     
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  13. ChaseO

    ChaseO Member

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    I think my dad would be better at answering, (his 42 years in business is a bit more than mine (son) but I have been around for a lot of the purchases, He had a bucket truck years ago and sold it and got out of any lighted sign work when I was probably 10. I picked up another truck a few years ago and the two buckets and material handler have been a big asset to the shop. I bought a cheap enough truck that I bought it outright with no payments, so that helps when it sits unused for a month. When it's not sitting, it's fantastic though. I too have a Makita circular saw that has sawed miles and miles of ACM. Dad had some of the first cordless Makita drills available, but we have been through a couple of series of DeWalt products since and have been very satisfied.

    I still use the first plotter (Ioline Studio 8) that dad bought in 1994 (for more money than a big quality plotter costs today), and while it hails in comparison to my Graphtec, I would call it a workhorse that has made us a lot of money.

    I still have our original printer, Roland SP-300V and it has had a lot of use and abuse and is still a fine machine. It sold me on Roland printers, so when I purchased another, I went with an XR-640 and it makes me money daily. I had a couple of minor issues with it initially, but it has virtually been trouble free.

    I bought a gas powered auger a long time ago, and within reason has saved me a lot of time digging small post holes. It's time for an upgrade, but it's definitely better than hand digging.

    I can name off some bad products, but not many bad tools. I always do my research when purchasing stuff so I think that has helped. A CNC router is on my to-buy list, but I currently sub it out to a friend in the business and he has made it hard to justify the expense when I know I will be getting a quality product when he delivers.
     
  14. jsmoritz2000

    jsmoritz2000 Very Active Member

    I couldn't live without our RollsRoller mounting/laminating table. Mounting a 4 x 8 print by hand can be stressful and costly if you botch up a print, but a mounting table takes away the stress and allows mounting a print in all of 2 or 3 minutes. Most of that time is lining the print up, the mounting part takes about 30-40 seconds. We have seventeen 96" x 40" signs to mount next week and I'd be a stressed out nervous wreck without that table. It saves us money because we don't have to use air release vinyl on flat panels either.
     
  15. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Mine isn't "in-shop" production, but because I mostly install onsite, this truck was the best thing I bought for my business ever. I used a van and SUV before and nothing compares to the storage space and ease of access as this thing has. I wish I didn't wait so long in buying a proper service-body work truck.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
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  16. equippaint

    equippaint Very Active Member

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    I remember when you were wanting to buy this, I didnt think you would and peer pressure was gonna get ya. Good choice, ours is whooped from being a site truck in larger jobs but cant beat them. I dont get working out of a van, what a pita.
     
  17. Texas_Signmaker

    Texas_Signmaker Very Active Signmaker

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    Van is a huge PITA. I slipped one too many times getting in and out of that thing. I got this truck last February and already put 60k miles on it. Only drawback besides 0-60 in 5 mins, is it getting 10mpg without towing...although I will admit I have a heavy foot and our speed limits are generous in TX.
     
  18. ikarasu

    ikarasu Very Active Member

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    As a production guy... The rolls roller is the best. A lot of shops can't justify the cost for a "table", but until you use one.. you don't know how great it is.

    We do lots of sign application... It takes seconds to align a panel and put it on. It's perfect for huge 4x8s... it makes doing multi colored vinyl a piece of cake, and it's great for laminating short runs too.

    Ever since we got the latex it's been print these 5 signs on diamond grade.. these 5 on EGP... these 5 on IJ35... these 5 on IJ 40... these 5 on 180... Lots of 6-10 FT prints on different materials. The thought of loading up 5 different overlams x all the different size medias we use makes me brain hurt... I just cut the overlam to size, roll it up.. and send it downstairs to our sign application. takes him minutes to laminate every sheet.... saves me hours of loading the laminator and wasting 12" of each overlam to get it loaded. Everytime I do a job without it, its nerve racking. I tried using our laminator to do a manual sheet laminate just like on the table... It took just as long as loading a roll would, and there was so much dust in the print due to it hanging near the floor... Never again! We're considering buying a second one for our print room, just to make all these shorter runs more doable. We have a guy at the table 8 hours a day applying vinyl to substrates... the thing has paid for itself a hundred times over.
     
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  19. Gene@mpls

    Gene@mpls Very Active Member

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    I bought a 72" tall Safety Speed panel saw twenty years ago and have never regretted it- it is used every day, resharpen blades is the only maintenance required. We all still have all the fingers we started with as a plus.
     
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  20. jsmoritz2000

    jsmoritz2000 Very Active Member

    I could not agree more with everything you've mentioned.
     
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