Written by James Cross, VP Sign Making Division, SDS Automation
Signage manufacturers are under more pressure than ever to be efficient in order to be profitable.
Solid, reliable fabrication equipment is a major contributor to sign companies’ efficiency, profitability and, ultimately, their survival. A handful of innovations have been so paramount that nearly all sign manufacturers adopted them to help their business thrive. Old-school fabrication was a time consuming, cumbersome process, nearly all of which was done by hand or with manually operated power tools. Automated bending was introduced about 18 years ago, but recently, channel letter fabricators have found that the antiquated bending machines that served them well for almost 20 years are comparatively slow, grossly inaccurate, and substantially less efficient than the newest generation channel letter forming machines. Machines like the SDS Super ChannelBender XP use current technologies, highly customized software and precision engineering to overcome the many shortfalls of older, less advanced equipment.
Prior to the introduction of the SDS ChannelBender Series, channel letters were formed on machines that wasted about 10 in. of material per letter segment. That’s as much as 30 in. of waste for a single capital letter “B.” ChannelBender machines have reduced waste by 97% percent or more, from a whopping 10 in. to only ¼ in. For companies producing 50, 100, or even more letters every day, the cost savings is substantial. Anywhere from $1.00-1.50 in waste material is eliminated on each letter.
Older equipment also left several tedious procedures that needed to be done manually before final assembly. Flanged channel letters had to have holes drilled or punched into each side of the seam overlap so both ends could be riveted together. One side of the flange would then be hand sheared to remove the double thickness of aluminum at the flange overlap. Finally, drain holes were punched or drilled into letter returns to allow moisture to escape.
These operations are now incorporated into the forming process on the ChannelBender Series’ flagship XP model from SDS/AdamsTech. As material feeds through the machine, 1/8-in. rivet holes are hydraulically punched on each side of the seam overlap. The holes align perfectly, which makes final riveting a snap, and 1/8-in. holes can also serve as pilot holes for screws. The holes can be positioned anywhere in the sidewall of the letter or even in the flange. This patented punching unit punches ¼-in. diameter drain holes as well. Lastly, the XP’s new software allows the machine to automatically create a slight relief bend at the letter’s seam, which essentially conceals the seam from view.
Trimless® LetterForm® channel letter coil also eliminates the need for trim cap, allowing sign companies to produce cleaner-looking letters faster and more efficiently. By eliminating relatively slow hydraulic functions such as notching and flanging by using this Trimless coil, machine output capacity is increased by 40-60%. The real winning hand for manufacturers is that Trimless letters are a premium product and therefore command a premium price.
As a wise person once said, “Buy the best and only cry once.”