Choosing a Cutting Suface

March 2, 2011 at 2:59 am  |   Vacuum Table,

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Whether you purchase a Phillocraft vacuum table from Carlson Design or build your own vacuum table, you will need to place a disposable cutting surface to prevent cutting into your table top.  There are a variety of different cutting surfaces that range in price and application.  We will go over those in this post.

How to pick?

Cutting surface is determined by your application.  Rolling blades require a hard cutting, drag blades need a softer rubber cutting surface the blade can cut into without destroying the blade or cutting surface.  Both surfaces are affordable from Carlson Design and also usually available locally.   Certain custom applications require specialty cutting surfaces — we will get into these later in the post.

Rotary Blades:

To start, most applications require a steel rotary blade, which will use an inexpensive plastic cutting surface.  We recommend 1/16″ polypropylene or polyethylene.  Both of these materials are typically locally available and tend to come in 4’x8′ sheets.  We recommend having your supplier cut them to width (about 3.5″ less than your table width).  Polypropylene is more translucent, allowing you to easily see where to drill your vacuum holes.  Polyethylene is slightly harder — harder material provides a cleaner cut with less vacuum pressure (really hard materials — glass/metal — dull blades very quickly).  You can order just material from Carlson Design or have the surface pre-drilled.

Phillocraft uses a standard 3″x2.5″ vacuum hole pattern.  Using PMaker, you can design and mark your vacuum hole layout — see video above.  This is convenient if you have multiple sheets to drill — mark one, stack, and drill multiple sheets at once.  If your vacuum holes do not align, place mesh screen or mosquito netting between the vacuum table and cutting surface.  You can drill plastic yourself with a cordless drill or  handheld drimmel.

As your surface becomes grooved from repeated cutting, flip the cutting surface for a fresh cutting side.  Try also swapping table ends, since the start of the table tends to get much more use than then end.  If rotated, cutting surface can last 2-4 years depending on usage.

Drag Blades:

When using a drag blade, best practice is to set the blade to the minimum depth required to cut your material.  Even so, you will still likely cut into your cutting surface.  For this, our .25″ porous rubber cutting surface is a great solution that is easy on the blade and long lasting.

Specialty applications:

Fine or high thread count material like 100% polyester may require even harder material for cut with a rotary blade.  Our customers, like New England Casket Co, reports Formica cutting surface is an easy to find and easy to drill solution.

For applications where your where vacuum holes in your cutting plastic surface can cause “hangers”  and the porous rubber cutting surface is too soft for cutting your material, try the micro-perf laser drilled cutting surface.  This self-healing surface has extremely small laser drilled holes and can be used with both rotary and drag blades.  The micro-perf is more expensive, and typically only used when production times are critical (furniture production) or the product is very sensitive (medical applications).

When using a Hot Knife it is necessary to use a cutting surface that doesn’t melt.  We recommend our galvanized sheet metal cutting surface.

Remember — for all cutting surfaces, these are not hard-fast rules — these are only suggested best practices from our in-house trials and customer feedback.  If you have any questions for your material or application, please do not hesitate to contact Carlson Design.