ITC Tools Take Centre Stage at Signcraft
Located north of Stockholm in Taby, Signcraft AB is a sign manufacturer that is celebrating its 30th year in business. The Swedish business offers a comprehensive service that ranges from company signage and displays through to 3D scanning, vehicle decoration and decals through to digital print, banners and roll-ups – for 20 years, the company has been purchasing its cutting tools from Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC).
The company started in 1992 when company founder Henry Barker was asked to sign-write two Dodge vans. Despite having no experience, Henry undertook the task and soon purchased a Gerber Sprint plotting machine. The business was initially a hobby for Henry who was driving HGVs around the world at the time, touring with the world’s largest rock bands from Rolling Stones and David Bowie to Bon Jovi, the Eagles and countless others. It was a Roxette tour in the late 90s and a conversation with a stage carpenter that landed Henry the contract to help produce the stage floor for the ‘Mamma Mia’ stage show. Throwing himself in at the deep end, Henry bought an AXYZ router and machined the plywood and birch stage flooring, as well as all the acrylic stones and decorations used on the stage.
It was a trip to the Sign & Digital Exhibition in 2002 where Signcraft AB first encountered Tamworth cutting tool manufacturer, ITC. As Henry recalls: “At the time, we only had our routing machine a couple of years and we were using tools from another supplier. The range of tools was quite limited and made some jobs quite challenging. We didn’t know how limited the tools were until we met Sally from ITC. Sally introduced us to the ITC range and this encompassed everything from square and ball nose tools to tapered tools, long series tools and much more. We could certainly see the potential benefits of implementing these tools on our shop floor and over the next couple of years, we bought more and more from ITC. Of course, it wasn’t just the diversity of the range from ITC that kept us buying tools - it was the outstanding quality. The tools were almost impossible to break and the service and technical support from Sally has been outstanding. If we have a particular challenge or need a special tool, the technical support from Sally and the ITC team has been exemplary.”
Looking at some of the jobs where technical support from ITC as well as its ability to manufacture bespoke tools with a fast turnaround has helped Signcraft AB, Henry recalls: “We had to produce 3m high hands as stage props for a popular Swedish TV programme – this job was machined with ITC tools. The 3m high stage props were produced by layering 105 35mm sheets of Styrofoam that were all machined on our router with ITC tools. To machine the thicker 100mm Styrofoam sheets, ITC supplied a 150mm long solid carbide tool with an 8mm diameter that had been necked for 105mm of its length to prevent the shank from rubbing against the component. To further improve rigidity, the flute length was just 40mm – perfect for machining the 100mm thick Styrofoam boards.”
More recently, the company has manufactured 3.4m high stage prop ‘hands’ for the Swedish version of ‘The Voice’ TV programme. On this occasion, Signcraft AB applied the 20mm diameter ball nose tools from ITC to cut more than 20 cubic metres of Styrofoam. “We use a lot of the ITC LG Series of single flute tools for machining all our plastic materials and the STA Series for machining aluminium or similar materials. Upon occasions, we also use special ITC tools for machining stainless or other more challenging materials,” says Henry.
In Sweden, the government has committed a percentage of its infrastructure and new buildings budget to creating art. This means that all new public sector buildings will have sculptures or other artistic features. One artist commission for a project to create sculptures for highway roundabouts approached Signcraft AB to manufacture Selectric Typeballs from 1970’s typewriters. Standing at 2.5m high, the spherical Selectric Typeballs had to be constructed from 22 cast aluminium sections measuring 1m by 750mm that were welded together. The respective aluminium sheets had to be cast in a foundry – and making the mould tools from high density polyurethane sheets was Signcraft AB. The 3D forms were rough machined on the company’s Kimla CNC routing machine with a 20mm diameter ball nosed LG Series tool from ITC. The finishing operations were undertaken with a 6mm diameter ball nosed LG Series tool.
“What we have found with ITC is the quality of the cutting tools is exemplary. The tool life, quality and performance is outstanding. Downstream from the machining process, the quality of the tools and the surface finishes they generate also eliminates many secondary hand finishing operations. This is a combination of the quality of the cutting tools and also the technical support from Sally Hunt at ITC. It is this technical expertise that ensures we are optimising our machining parameters and maximising the potential of the cutting tools.”