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AXYZ Innovator from AAG

Brian Sims dissects the AXYZ Innovator, the latest entry-level CNC router to be launched from AAG for the signage and related industries

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The AXYZ Innovator is the latest in AAG’s fleet

Innovation at its best

For signage, advertising and point-of-sale materials to be robust and durable, it is necessary to use materials such as wood and plastic. There was a time when the production of these materials would have required the services of very skilled carpenters or other complex and expensive production processes.

However, given advances in equipment and the ever-increasing use of computer numerical control (CNC) in production processes such as woodworking, the need for artisans to complete intricate work in wood, for example, is a thing of the past.

For the uninitiated, routing comes from the word rout which can be best explained as the high-speed process of cutting, trimming and shaping of wood, metal, plastic and a variety of other materials.  The routing (or cutting) head has a rotating blade that extends down from the base of the electrically driven cutter head. By lowering the cutter into the substrate you can profile the shape you need by moving the blade in predetermined directions.

The blades themselves can have profiles and shapes on them which, depending on the profile, give a corresponding but mirrored shape of the blade in the material.

A large number of traditional routers are hand held and replace the use of chisels and gouges a carpenter would use. For the purpose of using the router in a production environment in the graphics industry, the router head is attached to a gantry system over a large flat-bed. The router head itself is moved by a CNC controller and software system.

Now that the graphic industry covers such a large range of substrates and products, a CNC router is a useful addition for a number of markets

The two main reasons for the addition of a CNC system is to allow for accurate reproduction of shapes or profiles from a digital design and the speed as to which the product can be produced. Now that the graphic industry covers such a large range of substrates and products, a CNC router is a useful addition for a number of markets.

A route into sign

AAG has just launched an entry-level CNC router which has been designed specifically for the sign-making market called the AXYZ Innovator.

The entry-level machine has been designed with the sign industry in mind

AAG has a large number of CNC routers that have a tried and trusted reputation based on the quality of the machinery. They are robust, highly productive and suitable for prototype or high volume production.

The AXYZ Innovator has been specifically designed with the prototype, education and graphic industries in mind. It builds on the legacy of other CNC routers but comes in a small-format size with a reduced  price to make it easily placed on the floor of even the most modest printers.

The AXYZ Innovator has been specifically designed with the prototype, education and graphic industries in mind

At the heart of the router is the router head itself which is capable of industrial cutting capability. This is due to the design of it being taken from the other fully industrial designs in the AXYZ range. The tool holders are industry standard BT/CAT which means they locate firmly and accurately in the router head, greatly contributing to accurate profiles time after time.

Additionally, the AXYZ Innovator comes with a three-tool automatic tool changer (ATC) as a very desirable option. ATCs are universally used on all CNC machinery that requires high volume production. The main benefit of this is that the downtime to change between each tool is greatly reduced. In the AXYZ Innovator, the standing tools are all held in a small box on the front of the machine.

When a tool change is required, the ATC moves away from the work to the tool change position where the exchange of tools takes place automatically. Once completed, the lid closes on the tools keeping any dust or particles away from the tapers on the tool holders.

The tools themselves need to be set with more concern for the depth of which they extend from the cutter head. We do not overly concern ourselves with the depth of printed materials, but a router is producing a three-dimensional product so the Z axis position (depth) is very important. To accomplish this on the AXYZ Innovator there is a sensor the tool moves over, drops to and triggers, registering the extent of tool that is protruding from the router head.

A sturdy machine

Moving to the machine's superstructure, the base of the CNC router is of very sturdy, welded construction. This is imperative as it’s important to remember that this device is not an upscaled printing device but an industry standard heavy-duty CNC router which has been designed to suit the graphics industry, but only in size.

The AXYZ Innovator comes in two sizes. The beds are 1.2m x 1.3m and on the larger machine they are 1.5m x 2.4m. This means the list of substrates the CNC router can process is significant as the sheet size and weight can be easily accommodated on whichever machine you choose. The maximum height of the substrate is either 150mm or 190mm.

The other key design element is that of the gantry and the mechanism that drives the head. In order to produce a quality product, the head needs to place itself in the correct position time after time.

To ensure this happens, the AXYZ Innovator has a helical rack and pinion system to control the movement of the head in the X and Y axis. For the Z axis there is a ball screw. These are important details as any clearance in the movement of the head will reproduce itself in the product in the form of poor quality profiles.

To drive all three axes the AXYZ Innovator has a CNC controller called A2MC. The purpose of this new and upgraded controller is to accelerate the router head around the workspace as smooth and as fast as possible. This means that both bounce and vibration caused by rapid acceleration and deceleration is reduced.

Unlike printers and other graphics equipment, the AXYZ Innovator needs to be able to communicate with file manipulation software known as computer aided design (CAD) or computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software. The A2MC machine controller is able to link up with virtually all of the common software packages such as Vectric, Artcam, Type 3, Enroute, Mastercam and Alphacam to name but a few.

There are plenty of other standard pieces of equipment such as SmartConsole which gives fully flexible machine control on a small hand-held panel. Other options such as dust collection, camera registration, spray misters and spindle options are all part of a large range of upgrade equipment that AAG can supply for the AXYZ Innovator.

Brian Sims Principal Consultant, Metis Print Consultancy, www.metis-uk.eu

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