Last Updated: 10/19/2023
The pursuit for precision fabrication introduces national sign company to laser cutting
Founded in 1986, Springfield Sign began as a small garage-based shop focused on screen printing and vinyl signs. As technology advanced and customer requests shifted, leaders at the company adapted their business model accordingly. Today, Springfield Sign is a full-service national sign company. The Springfield, Missouri-based company does everything from designing and building to installation and service.
The company’s success is best exemplified by its clients. Some of the most recognized brands, including Culver’s, Walmart, Bass Pro Shop, and Plaza Tire Service, trust Springfield Sign.
With extensive experience creating signs for major players in the restaurant, foodservice, and retail industries, leaders at Springfield Sign understand the importance of preserving a brand’s image. However, the CNC router they were using to construct signs was not meeting their expectations—as it was limited in its ability to make precise cuts. The CNC router’s imprecisions and inability to keep up with demand drove leaders at the company to look for an alternative solution.
All Signs Point to Mazak
The search for new equipment resulted in several leads. However, Mazak was favored over other laser manufacturers. While some laser offerings did not compete at the same level of quality as Mazak, others did not provide the human connection leaders at Springfield Sign valued. Additionally, the versatility of Mazak’s laser and automation solutions validated the company’s decision to choose Mazak as their partner for innovation. “A big evaluation on our part when purchasing a machine of this magnitude was the ecosystem of the manufacturer for current systems and future growth,” shares Khaley Watts, Brand Marketing Manager at Springfield Sign.
With the help of Mazak Optonics and Gladwin Machinery, Springfield Sign successfully improved its fabrication process. By upgrading to Mazak’s OPTIPLEX NEXUS 3015 FIBER 6kW laser-cutting machine and LASER FLEX automation system, the company has experienced several advantages.
Notably, Mazak’s laser and automation has secured new business ventures for Springfield Sign. The precision of Mazak’s laser has removed the need to make compromises. This has helped ensure that customers’ brands are recreated exactly as requested. “With our business, one of the biggest details is a customer’s image,” says Watts. “Mazak’s laser has allowed us to recreate vectors on the machine and cut profiles down to tolerances that hold a customer’s image to the highest standard. When using a CNC Router, compromises had to be made based on bit sizing. The laser has removed that.”
The additional time savings created with laser cutting has resulted in an efficient manufacturing process where other departments no longer need to wait on parts. Comparing the performance of a CNC router with a laser-cutting machine, Springfield Sign’s team found that the Mazak laser system replaces seven to eight CNC routers for the same processing times. “Time studies completed on Mazak’s OPTIPLEX NEXUS 3015 FIBER 6kW to this point has created a cutting department where no one is waiting on parts,” Watts explains. “We can cut and store 10-15 jobs (or more) ahead of the fabrication team, and they are ready for the next station once a fabricator can take it.”
Using a laser has also reduced the need for some secondary processes, further streamlining the company’s production process. “The laser has removed a contaminant that is introduced during the routing process such as oil/lubricant on our parts that require additional handwork and cleaning time for the station next in line, before we can paint or process,” shares Watts.
Furthermore, Mazak’s OPTIPLEX NEXUS FIBER 6kW has given Springfield Sign more autonomy—as the fabricator no longer needs to rely on outside vendors for steel cutting. Bringing this process in-house has proven to be advantageous for the company. “Mazak’s laser let us bring steel cutting in-house rather than outsourcing this function,” says Watts. “We now process all of our steel plates in-house for steel structures and base plate mounted components.”
Signing Off on A Tube Laser
A new project request from one of their clients set in motion the process of designing and processing a high volume of structural aluminum. Having had great success with Mazak on their sheet laser, Springfield Sign’s team turned to Mazak for their tube cutting needs as well. After considering Mazak’s FG and FT tube series, the team landed on the FT-150 FIBER for its speed.
The decision to stay with Mazak was rooted in the delivery of the last purchase. A positive first-hand experience with Mazak’s product, service, and support instilled confidence within the team when purchasing a tube laser. Mazak’s willingness to work and adapt with Springfield Sign’s specific cutting needs was evident during the FT-150 FIBER purchasing process.
When the Springfield Sign team required bundle loading material in a particular direction, they sent samples of their material to Mazak. Mazak’s application team tested the material and customized machine software to ensure the part would autodetect and autorotate to Springfield Sign’s specific requirements. Implementing the tailored solution has resulted in successful execution every time.
A Sign of Things to Come
Flexibility of system configurations on the OPTIPLEX NEXUS laser with automation and installation ease has given leaders at Springfield Sign reason to partner with Mazak for future additions. “This is the best experience for the most complicated system we have installed to date,” shares Watts. “We have bought machines at ¼ the magnitude in cost and ⅛ less complicated with rougher installs than the Mazak ecosystem.”
The addition of automation has created endless possibilities for Springfield Sign. With Mazak’s LASER FLEX automation system, the company implemented a 28-pallet tower to store raw material. Because the tower utilizes vertical space, shop floor constraints are minimized. Having successfully ran their OPTIPLEX NEXUS laser and automation unmonitored for 55 consecutive hours, the Springfield Sign team recognizes the value of having the capability to run lights out.
Looking ahead, leaders at Springfield Sign would like to expand their storage by maximizing their automation capabilities with an additional 28-pallet tower. “The decreased footprint, easy access, and prompt availability of material in the tower is such a value gain for the floor footprint and efficiency,” says Watts. “We are looking at expanding to two towers at 28 pallets.” The fabricator is even considering the addition of another laser to further increase volume and maximize production capabilities.