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AXYZ’s Eye for Accuracy

A good mix: The Millennium and the cutting system

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We believe all digital printers need an intelligent, interface cutting system to "finish cut" flat, digitally printed pieces and take them to a more merchandisable level. We're not talking about laminating — although it's a good idea — or adding grommets. No, we think it's the 3-D aspect that takes an image off the wall.

Surely, you've seen a life-sized, foamboard, digitally printed cutout of Michael Jordon selling basketball shoes in the mall? How about the cut-out, POP displays at the cash register? Traditionally, special screenprinting or offset presses printed such images, and either die- or hand-cutting shaped the outlines. Back then, only a mountain of such images could justify the per-item cost.

Slowly, we've seen such processes change. UV-cure printers now allow moderate-sized shops to image full color on virtually anything. Contour cutting the printed images, however, often presents a new set of problems. Recently, AXYZ Intl. made everything easier.

In the past few years, we've seen computerized cameras bolted to the tool holders of numerous CNC routers. When special registration marks are printed with the image, the software, using the camera, can precisely contour-cut the piece, even if it's not perfectly loaded onto the table. The combination of such an equipped CNC router and a UV-cure printer makes your shop a source for full-color, digital cutouts.

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Last year, we reviewed several top-notch AXYZ CNC routers (Fig. 1); further, the company will build one to fit virtually anyone's needs. At ISA's Sign Expo 2006, AXYZ introduced its Intelligent Cutting System (ICS), with its proven i-cut® control technology. I-cut includes i-script® workflow communication that connects it to industry-leading RIPs and printers including: 3M Industrial Adhesives & Tapes Div., Durst U.S., Wasatch, Amiable Technologies, Caldera, Colorburst®/|2324|®, Ergosoft, Hewlett-Packard Indigo and Onyx Graphics Inc.®.

Before looking at the ICS system, we'd like to discuss the AXYZ product line. Even if your interest is primarily CNC routing, and you're in the market for a router, you'll be interested in their products.

Millennium

For more than 20 years, AXYZ has helped revolutionize the CNC industry. It offers what the customer wants, while providing additional tools, so its customers could grow along with the company. The product line starts with the Millennium router, and, although it has the line's smallest table size, it's a high-quality, industrial-grade, routing machine that can cut materials measuring up to 39 in. sq.

The Millennium is equipped with AXYZ's Controller (with more than 75 operator-programmable functions); rack-and-pinion transmissions; double drive on the x axis and single drive on the y axis; an extruded, vacuum-chamber bed with an integrated, T-slot clamping system; THK-brand, high-tolerance, linear ways and bearings; and high-speed, high-torque drive motors. The Millennium comes standard with a 3HP high-speed spindle. You may add the ICS system, as well as a mister for cutting aluminum, and a vacuum hold-down system.

The Millennium is great for a size-challenged signshop. Its general applications are large-format engraving, plastic fabrication, moldmaking, signmaking, metalworking and more.

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4000/5000/6000/8000 Series

You'll find a more traditional product line as you move upward. AXYZ CNC routers often share functionality and parts. The most noticeable differences are the table sizes. The 4004 router, for example, comes with a 60-in.-wide x 73-in.-long table. The 4024, on the other hand, has a 60-in.-wide table that's 312 in. long. That's 26 ft.

All AXYZ routers are equipped with its ToolPath table-interface software that's compatible with DXF, HPGL and G-Code file formats. Multiple tooling configurations are also available, including drills, saws and automatic tool changers (with eight-position carousels). The table comes with a user-friendly sub-console.

Options, include an extended z-axis height, multiple carriages, and custom fixture and hold-down systems, including integrated, pop-up, material-locating pins; plus multiple-horsepower spindle options, including quick-release tooling.

All AXYZ routers ship with the company's ToolPath™. This post-processing software package lets you interface with any architectural or graphic-design software. ToolPath's Universal Import features can easily transfer files from your design software to the CNC system. You'll be up and running in no time.

ToolPath offers many features, including automatic correction of cutting direction, sequence errors and open shapes. Also, features such as 3-D engraving, island-fill engraving, and multi-pass, lead-in/out and corner fillets are standard.

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Intelligent cutting

Now we'll discuss the newest addition to the AXYZ family, the i-cut ICS system. As we stated, we're seeing a convergence of graphic arts and industrialization. AXYZ's engineers recognized this trend and envisioned a good fit for such an emerging market. They already offered highly configurable and upgradeable cutting products, so adding one more option, which opened up numerous new avenues, was natural. The result is the ICS system.

To appreciate ICS, you need to see it in action. Basically, you print a digital image on a flat, durable substrate as thick as 6 in. Next, place the printed media on the router table. Here the lack of ICS can cost you time and money. Without it, you'd have to precisely register the image, while hoping the printing, storing and handling of the media didn't distort it.

Assuming those factors are okay, you'd send the cutting command to the router and hope for the best. Oh yes, if you had 200 boards to rout, you may have to do this 200 times. To avoid trouble or significant waste, you'd need to assign significant bleed (image to edge) to the edges.

I-cut adds two components to the process. First, the gantry-mounted camera, enclosed in a heavy-duty housing, has an automatic, camera-delivery and refraction system that retracts the i-cut behind a protective lens cover. Along with the camera, you'll ask your print software to place the identifying, registration marks on the media, to register the outline.

This done, print the digital image as usual. You'll see a series of dots that defines the contour-cut pattern. Next, load the printed media onto the router table; don't worry about registration. The camera system, in conjunction with the software's geometry, will determine the image orientation, then cut the outline precisely. Substrate variations won't make a difference. Additionally, you can gang multiple images (Fig. 2) on a sheet of material. With ICS, you can crank out cut-outs without a sweat.

Conclusion

AXYZ builds innovative CNC routers that can handle virtually any cutting process. You can load wood, metal, plastics and much more on these machines. The new, eye-opening ICS option lets you create attractive, POP signs, including those imaged on a digital printer. The $16,000 option can retrofit existing AXYZ routers. Just add a UV-cure printer, and new markets will open up in the blink of an eye.

Key Information
AXYZ Automation Inc.
5330 South Service Rd
Burlington, Ontario, L7L SL1, Canada
(800) 361-3408
Fax: (905) 634-4966
www.axyz.com

Contact: Greg Jenkins, product development manager
gjenkins@axyz.com

Company Profile:

AXYZ Automation Inc., since 1990, has provided a wide range of cost-effective automation solutions in the CNC environment — solid-surface and plastic fabrication, wood and metal work. With machines customized for every customer, AXYZ's innovations have fueled rapid growth for both the company and its customers.

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