CNC Routers – A Simple Guide to Selecting the Right Configuration for Sign Making

Did you know that automation plays a distinctive role in the competitive nature of your sign making business, especially as demand exceeds supply? Opposed to extending your workforce or acquiring more production space, consider what benefits automation offers. What if automation could help to improve production quality, increase material efficiency, and improve your delivery time, with something as simple as a CNC Router? Wouldn’t that be worth serious consideration?

Specifically designed for the Signmaking industry, this “Educational Guide” provides information about the most common machine selection, process types, machine options and best practice techniques. This guide will help you gain a better understanding of what can be done with automation.

Application Differentiation for Signmaking

Sign making will typically require the ability to process a wide variety of materials from aluminum, brass and aluminum composites to all sorts of plastics, natural woods and softer foam based substrates. Designed to handle such diverse requirements, the AXYZ Series CNC Router is one of the most popular solutions. With standard processing widths of up to 10.5-feet and the ability to provide length to go beyond 40-feet, emphasizes the machine’s capabilities. Combining these process areas with a vast array of system options means total versatility that dramatically increases productivity and profitability.

Aluminum Composite Material (ACM)

The configuration of a CNC Router that will be used to machine ACM is much more specific than most applications. With the potential of three or more different processes: V-grooving, profile cutting and drilling, the manufacturer has a number of machine configurations to choose from. The first and most popular option is a triple head with two routing spindles and a drill. This allows very fast changeover between cutting heads and is often the most productive for processing high volumes of ACM. Alternatively a twin head configuration with two spindles or even a single head with an automatic tool change system are both viable alternatives for this application.

If productivity is your main priority, the long process areas up to 40-feet and triple routing heads designed to allow pendulum processing for continuous machine operation and maximum high-speed throughput, is a great choice.

V-grooving of ACM requires an exact and consistent depth of cut throughout the sheet. Here, the exclusive AXYZ Nose Rider accessory, used in conjunction with the high capacity pressure foot, will compensate automatically for any variations in bed flatness and ensure a constant cut depth over the whole sheet.


When cutting non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, it is vital to configure your machine correctly and purchase the best aftercare to ensure you receive your desired result. Firstly, a Unist Mister is an essential secondary option for your CNC Router that allows for more precision and reliability than any other dispensing systems. The automatic pulse generator continuously lubricates the tool, resulting in a reduction of heat, extended tool life, and a better quality of cut. For reliability and ease of use, the mister should be activated and deactivated automatically when required by the machine controller. This is conveniently built in to the latest generation AXYZ A2MC Controller.

Secondly, the introduction of the high capacity pressure foot with bellows offers excellent chip extraction to minimize surface damage and reduce potential hazards for employees. The great thing about the Unist Mister and pressure foot is they are designed to be used simultaneously to make the process quicker and easier.


The combination of the helical rack and servo drive options are commonly used where speed, precision, and the smoothest of motion is required; machining of plastic materials is an example of this. When done correctly, with the right equipment, it is easy to achieve a smooth and polished cut edge that requires no secondary finishing operation. The helical rack and pinions are designed for higher speeds and accelerations and will deliver greater accuracy, smooth motion, and quieter running. When combined with the direct drive servomotors, the higher torque used by the precision gearhead transmission helps boost productivity.

Secure workholding is also critical to maintaining the best edge finish. Most CNC Routers have a vacuum system for holding the workpiece; only AXYZ machines offer the “live deck” system that allows fully customizable and automatic vacuum operation. It optimizes the hold down by switching vacuum zones on-and-off according to the current position of the machine’s cutting head. This eliminates errors caused by the incorrect setting of manual zone valves or just forgetting to switch the vacuum system on. Where quality of cut and productivity comes together, the live deck ensures that material is always held as securely as possible for best cutting results.

Print to Cut

These days, modern UV based flatbed printers are able to print on such a wide variety of materials, from standard cardboard to composites such as Xanita and ACM, wood, and even acrylic. Cutting these materials after printing requires a versatile machine with multiple cutting heads and tooling options.  In particular, knife systems – both tangential and oscillating – may be required as well as a heavy-duty router for the harder materials. A tangential knife allows full directional control and a choice of different blades for various materials. Look for a knife system that allows longer blades up to 4” long for maximum versatility. With print to cut, accuracy is key, so the addition of the AXYZ Vision System, a fully integrated camera and software solution is vital for quickly and easily locating printed registration marks and adjusting the machine’s cutting path to achieve exact alignment on the material.

To take your application to the next level, the universal 5Y pressure foot enables flawless results with its manual adjustment setting. The main purpose of the pressure foot is to provide exceptional chip and dust extraction, however this can sometimes cause unwanted scratching of the surface. Because of the unique internal cyclonic design, the 5Y can be set to a height of within 0.5-1mm above the material surface to perform the same excellent swarf extraction without touching the finished product.

Tooling, Feeds and Speeds

Adapting your tooling, feeds, and speeds per application is absolutely essential to getting the best out of your investment. As each material differs in thickness, texture, and usability, tooling and machine settings must reflect what you are trying to achieve.

There is an enormous and sometimes bewildering choice of CNC Router tooling available. You’ve got bits such as straight fluted, spiral fluted, right and left hand spirals, compression bits, single, twin, triple and more flutes. There are even special coatings that can be applied. Selecting the right tool for the job can make the difference between a perfectly smooth and clean cut, or something that looks like it’s been hacked out with a saw. In the worst cases, an incorrect tool may simply break before hardly any cutting has been done.  AXYZ provides guides and catalogues to help you select the right tooling and run it at the best speeds. AXYZ also has application specialists who are always available to advise you or provide in-depth training courses.

When operating on either aluminum or plastic, a high quality router bit is essential. The Belin Single Flute Upward Spiral is a popular choice. As one of the leading manufacturers in router tooling, Belin provides a solid carbide TiALN coated router bit that offers high temperature resistance, excellent wear resistance, and continuous high quality. The upward geometry provides a smooth and consistent finish that helps ensure optimal swarf extraction.

With three or more differing processes in routing, grooving, and drilling, processing ACM materials requires a range of tools. A V-tool or ballnose design is used for the grooving operation at speeds up to 1,000ipm, whereas the profile cutting would normally run a little slower using a tool with an upward spiral geometry.

In combination with your tool selection, our application engineers may sometimes recommend splitting the cutting process into two: roughing cut and finishing cut. The roughing cutter does the majority of the work to reduce the load on the finishing cutter. This technique is most often used to get the best possible cut finish.

Automated, Sustainable, Productive Success

Configuring your CNC Router and producing the best-finished product go hand-in-hand. Learning from others in the industry, especially those who manufacture the machine, is always beneficial.

Whether it is sales, support, or servicing, you need to have total confidence in your choice of supplier.

AXYZ has the experience, competitive innovation, and outstanding support services to ensure your complete satisfaction. As proven by our numerous testimonials, many successful businesses continue to benefit from a customized CNC Router solution that specifically addresses the diverse needs of their organization and the clients they serve. Contact AXYZ to learn more about the extensive options that could benefit your business.