When Bolton Sign won a prestigious contract to manufacture the signage for the Superdry brand of clothing, the company had to acquire new cutting tools to ensure its surface finishes were up to the remarkably high standard demanded by point-of-sale and shop window display units. As one of the UK's leading signmaking manufacturers, Bolton Sign always invests in the latest technology. This has resulted in the recent acquisition of an AXYZ router and for the Superdry project, specialist cutting tools from Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC) of Tamworth.
Commenting upon the change in cutting tools for the Superdry project, Managing Director of Bolton Sign, Mr Andrew Knowles, comments: "Historically, we have been cutting materials from 3 to 5mm thick and you don't generally notice any imperfections. With the Superdry project, the lettering is manufactured from 15mm thick acrylic in various colours. Machining this with our previous cutting tools, we found that the surface finishes were poor and the letter edges on display had imperfections that required considerable sanding prior to flame polishing. This hand finishing was very time consuming. Furthermore, it was difficult to sand in between some letters because of the profile of the letters."
Whilst Bolton Sign identified the surface finish issue, it was the shop floor staff polishing the parts that instigated the change. "Our staff were spending increasing amounts of time polishing letters. This was on an ever increasing order book for a global brand that is continually opening new stores worldwide. Our staff asked if we could improve the surface finishes on the router to reduce the excessive polishing times. We invited ITC Technical Sales Engineer, Sally Hunt to review the situation and she solved the issue with ITC's Clearcut range of cutting tools," continues Mr Knowles.
ITC's technical engineer reviewed the process, machine tool, material type and existing problems and then introduced the ClearCut 180 Series of solid carbide cutting tools. The ITC technical engineer identified that the previous cutting tools were re-cutting the waste material and this was chipping the surface of the acrylic and creating imperfections in the surface finish. Furthermore, the previous cutting tools would wear relatively quickly and lose the edge sharpness that ensures burrs on the edges of the acrylic are minimised.
The ITC cutters achieved such exceptional results for Bolton Sign that the hand finishing for each Superdry acrylic sign had been reduced from 90 minutes to 20 minutes for each sign. The ITC Clearcut range delivered such exceptional surface finishes by efficiently removing the swarf from the channels to prevent re-cutting of the chips. This is credit to the high helix angle on the single flute cutting tools and the highly polished finish on the cutting flutes that rapidly remove chips from the machining area. Additionally, with the Clearcut series being produced from high quality micro-grain solid carbide, the tool life has been extended considerably.
"The ITC Clearcut range is delivering huge time savings on the post-machining hand finishing. This is not only the case for the ongoing Superdry project but also a lot of our other work. The tool life has been extended and the one thing we appreciate is the expertise afforded us by the ITC engineer. When a machine shop is full of experienced machinists like our facility, bad habits can be a common occurrence. Sally from ITC has altered speeds, feeds and machining methods to help our machinists eradicate these 'bad habits' and improve our productivity.
From a cost perspective, the ITC tools have superior tool life that makes them more cost effective and efficient. Additionally, ITC has a UK manufacturing facility that can re-grind our cutting tools to minimise our expenditure. This service is extremely rapid and the technical support has also been second to none. We are delighted with the overall package from the ITC team," concludes Mr Knowles.