We began our exploration into the top tips and pitfalls to avoid when staging a cutting table demo in part 1 of this article. In this second part of our Do’s and Don’ts series, we’ll dive into even more points to consider during your journey through the flatbed cutter market. Check out the information below to see what areas you need consider before making your next purchase.
Ask About Consumables
There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a cutting table. Before you commit to a specific manufacturer, make sure to learn about the different types of blades, bits, and mats that are compatible with a particular cutting table. For instance, consider flat-stock or round stock blades. Some systems can only use one or the other, while other systems are compatible with both. Make sure to question the potential of such scenarios, as well as inquire what various applications support. To get the most out of your cutting table, it’s crucial that you also have a trusted resource available to help you choose the proper tools and consumables for cutting materials that are new to you.
Speak to a Service Manager About the Service and Support Offerings
After your demo, take time to communicate with a service manager regarding the companies service and support offerings. Gather a firm understanding of the machine’s warranty and common breakdowns that the machine experiences or the parts that have failed in the past. If a service manager claims that their machines never require service calls or replacement parts, this should raise a red flag. Even if you think a demo was thorough and your resulting knowledge-base sufficient, there’s no harm in asking for a general rundown of the machine or inquiring about common maintenance techniques.
Ask About the Different Tools and Capabilities of the Machine
To futureproof your business and your machine, it’s wise to choose a versatile and modular system. Doing so will allow you the agility to cut new materials without having to expend an inordinate amount of effort or make an additional investment of substantial equipment, time or other resources, and potentially further space needs.
Walk Through the Production Facility
If you want to get a comprehensive perspective of the build quality of the manufacturer’s systems, taking a facility walkthrough can be extremely beneficial. Make sure to incorporate a tech-minded team member, such as your maintenance manager, so they can ask some of the more detailed, technical questions and also discover more about the system’s composition.
Don’t Bring Jobs or Files that Aren’t Representative of Your Real Work
Finding a solution based on your real needs requires conscientious planning and accurate documentation. At your demo, bring only pre-reviewed jobs or files that you have the intention and bandwidth to cut. Don’t waste your demo time. Highly-complex files take a longer time to produce, and if those file types aren’t truly representative of the type of work you plan to do, you could walk out of the demo frustrated and without a clear understanding of what the cutting table is capable of producing for you.
Don’t Rely Solely on Speed
Be aware that some machines have a specific demo mode in their software that allows them to perform at speeds deemed relatively unattainable in regular production. Think about the intricacies of your projects. If the cutting table demo shows you that the machine can cut out a rectangle foam board at top speed, think about what it can maintain if you threw a variant into the mix, like rounded corners. How fast would it perform to accommodate the minor change? How will the change affect overall productivity of the system?
Speed in itself is not the most important deciding factor when it comes to making a purchase decision. The top speed of the cutting table isn’t necessarily what’s written on the spec sheet. Instead, it’s the speed at which the machine can still produce quality parts efficiently. Consider other components, such as acrylic materials, where you CAN route faster than what is recommended, but doing so might risk damaging your router, lessening edge quality, or creating a mess of debris.
Sometimes, it’s more important to obtain a high-quality cut and finish than focus on production speed. Especially if a piece or product is being made for a customer, slowing down your process can mitigate the risk of an unsatisfied client and redoing the job, which will ultimately increase your throughput and productivity in the long-run, more than speed ever could.
Don’t Go Into a Demo Underprepared
Choosing a cutting table for your organization isn’t a decision to come by lightly or easily. As such, you want to make sure you are as thorough as possible. Ask as many questions as is needed for you to make an informed decision. Bring along the materials and jobs that you are likely to use the machine for and make sure that your questions and concerns are addressed to your satisfaction before committing to any one manufacturer.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Difficult
Don’t be afraid of being “that person” who asks a lot of questions. Cutting tables are a substantial investment that will impact several facets of your business. Ask questions that will entirely resolve or address your potential concerns, and if you must, request multiple demos to see what you need to before making a final choice.
You have several choices when it comes to large format digital cutting tables. What truly matters most is that you select the right table, one that will optimize your company needs and objectives. The right table should have the best software to meet your requirements, should be easy to use, have the service and support that you desire, and employ all of the specialized tooling and automation capabilities you need today and might want in the future. Always think about what your next customer may want you to produce and try to ensure full compatibility with the cutter you choose to buy. Don’t rely on reputation alone, use the ideas provided in parts one and two of this article series to best prepare your company for cutting table demos in the future – ones that will get you the finishing capabilities that are best for your plant.