Signs of the Times - May 2017 - 40
Alan Hubbard cut a familiar path when he decided to
purchase a router for his sign shop, Pro Image Design in
Rapid City, MI. He wasn't sure if Pro Image Design could
justify the investment with the amount of work needed to
offset the cost.
But this was a path Hubbard had beaten before when
purchasing equipment for his company; once Pro Image
Design has the machinery under its roof, it designs around
the equipment's abilities, and eventually the shop discovers
new processes and fabrication techniques. Hubbard qualifies
this approach for acquiring a router with one caveat: "Just
make sure you can afford it even if you are not using it,
especially given the learning curve." However, Hubbard
reiterated the need for a business to take an occasional
leap of faith: "If you wait until all the lights are green,
you'll never get to town."
LIFTING THE ROUTING LID
Hubbard and his co-workers put their MultiCam 1000
router to work when fabricating a project for Riemer Eye
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Center's fourth location in Cadillac, MI: a custom-routed,
aluminum-faced sign cabinet with Principal LEDs illuminating push-through acrylic lettering on a steel base and
an aluminum composite pole shield. The monument
also features a Sign*Foam® 4 HDU icon with LEDs and
push-through acrylic elements.
Pro Image Design used Gerber Omega software to set up
the routing process; start-up of the actual router requires a
30-minute procedure, which allows for the spindle to warm
up and the substrate surfaced to be indexed. According to
Hubbard, Pro Image Design routes aluminum whenever the
shape of the face has "anything but square corners or lettering
routed out of the face." The odd shape of the Riemer Eye
Center sign's cabinet and push-through lettering were the
determining factors in the decision to use the MultiCam
1000, according to Hubbard. "You can cut an offset leap on the
acrylic, allowing it to be 'pushed through' on an internally
lit sign that can create some pretty unique effects," he said.
"No other machine will allow for this type of fabrication in 3D."
Hubbard, who opened Pro Image Design in the spare
bedroom of his house 18 years ago, estimated that 20-30%
of a job - and occasionally as much as 70% - that involves
routing is dedicated to the routing itself, including preparation, cutting and cleanup. He routinely sees a series of
common mistakes from beginners, including not turning
on the vacuum table prior to cutting and not being familiar enough with the proper speeds and feeds; the latter
leads to damaged materials, and broken bits and tools.
Hubbard advises other sign shops to do their fair share
of routing research: accumulate references, witness a few
practical applications and randomly call other shops to gauge
their satisfaction. But ultimately, Hubbard puts his full support behind routing signs. "If custom signs are the way you
are looking to grow your business," Hubbard said, "no other
piece of equipment will help you better than a router."
- Grant Freking