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Maximise the potential of CNC software

Sign-makers already have a tough task when it comes to selecting CNC hardware for their work, but it is equally important to ensure that software is also up to scratch, according to EJ Nodurft of SAi.

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SAi says investment in quality CNC software is just as important as hardware

Nodurft, who serves as product director at the software solutions provider, says if a company has a “well-defined niche”, then the decision may be easier. But, for those just starting up, it is no easy task.

“To begin with, there are two parts to the equation: designing and cutting,” he says, adding: “CNC routing differs from other cutting operations. In CNC routing, unlike plasma, knife and waterjet, not only is the kerf taken into account, but the depth of cut and the profile of the cutting tools also must be considered. The right choice of software for the applications undertaken is therefore crucial to ensuring operational efficiency.

“The type of materials to be cut are important, too, because they will determine the feed rate, the direction of cut, the number of passes needed and other factors. Controlling these accurately will be important to some businesses to minimise time while still achieving a cut with good edge quality.”

For this reason, Nodurft says production flexibility is a major factor. Finding a software  solution that will allow businesses to address a wide range of applications, each of which is a potential revenue stream, will give users a bigger market.

He explains: “Most programs have limitations of some type and understanding what they are before investing in one can make a huge difference.

Most programs have limitations of some type and understanding what they are before investing in one can make a huge difference

“Users want software that is easy to learn and to have good training and support. They want the ability to apply accurate and reliable toolpaths that will result in good parts being cut. Control over the toolpath output to help with material hold-down and cutting efficiency is another preference.

“Also, they want good nesting capabilities to reduce cut times and material waste. Not all options out there actually offer this, so I would always encourage users to thoroughly research what’s available to ensure it offers the right level of functionality.”

So, what are the principal tools and why are they important to users? Nodurft says sign-makers should look out for one that give the best results, such as a clean-up tool as it allows users to optimise the shapes they are cutting.

SAi counts EnRoute as one of its key sign-making software solutions. Nodurft says versatility is “one of EnRoute’s best qualities”, explaining that it provides tools for both 2D and 3D work.

“EnRoute is primarily suited for three-axis CNC routers. EnRoute Fabrication can be used for plasma, waterjet and laser cutter. However, about 90 percent of EnRoute sales are for CNC routers.

CNC routers are becoming more and more prevalent in both the woodworking and sign-making industries

“One factor that differentiates EnRoute is the association between contours and toolpaths. When a toolpath is applied to a contour in EnRoute, the two are bound together. If the part is moved or resized, the toolpath will adjust accordingly.

“This means that making changes after a toolpath has been applied is much easier and allows for better nesting because parts can be toolpathed before nesting is applied. Other programs require toolpaths to be manually removed and reapplied after changes have been made.”

Nodurft adds: “CNC routers are becoming more and more prevalent in both the woodworking and sign-making industries. Different regions have different growth potentials.

“In North America, textured signs are a growing trend. In Europe and Asia, most of the work done is 2D cutting, so developing a more advanced toolpathing ability will be an area of focus. No lift toolpaths and more efficient ways to remove material are other areas we will focus on for future features for EnRoute.”

If you have an interesting story or a view on this news, then please e-mail news@signlink.co.uk

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