Hidden Bay Graphics: Growing the Team
July 24, 2015 at 10:45 pm | Systems, Travel, Vacuum Table, What you can do with your plotter/cutter,
Hidden Bay Graphics, located in the northern vacation town of Hayward, Wisconsin, makes specialty printed sports apparel. Like many successful small businesses they believe in a simple mantra, “supply our customers with quality products for a fair price while giving them superior customer service.” Unfortunately, the small seasonal town of Hayward only has a consistent population of ~2000, which means it can be very difficult to find good cut-and-sew help to live up to their mandate and growing production volume.
In February 2015 we installed our PT-72″ Plotter/Cutter and T-Bar Digitizer to help them automate their patterning, marking, and cutting. Vice President, Dan Rusch, said “a summer intern can run us $20/hr without any experience”. With the Carlson Plotter/Cutter they are “buying the labor [they] can’t find.” A simple, affordable, and reliable cutting solution, that shows up everyday and makes the same great marks and cuts every time. They are also getting a solution that will pay for itself in the first year!
Below we explore how Hidden Bay integrated the Carlson PT-72″ Plotter/Cutter and T-Bar Pattern Digitizer into production and the advantages that follow:
- Cutting single and multi-ply jersey, nylon, lycra, and felt materials
- Improving their throughput through automation
- Improving product quality and consistency
- Turning cutting into an entry level position
- Building a digital pattern library using our T-Bar Digitizer
Hidden Bay Graphics makes a wide variety of sports apparel — including custom, medium and large volume production runs of bike jerseys, race jerseys, hats, beanie bands, throat coats, and more. These items are popularly used in races like the Birkie — a famous international cross country ski race held annually in Hayward. They cut a wide variety of materials and needed a system capable of cutting small and large jobs, out of single-ply and low-ply material stacks.
Hidden Bay purchased a complete Carlson Design plotting/cutting and digitizing system. This includes a vacuum table, our Plotmaster software suite, and T-Bar Pattern Digitizer. Before you can begin automating the marking and cutting of your patterns, you need to get them into the computer. Hidden Bay’s standard product lines consist of many different patterns — this includes graded patterns that are made up of many different sizes.
We trained Malinda, one of their head sewers and pattern makers, to digitize existing paper patterns, and then nest those into single or multiple sets to meet order demand. Malinda has limited CAD experience, so the T-Bar Digitizer is the perfect tool to help her trace existing patterns. Especially complex patterns that would be difficult for even the most expert CAD designer to draw on the computer.
The operator traces a pattern with the T-Bar Digitizer, recording significant nodes. This occurs in real scale and in real time. However, unlike a photo-based digitizing system, the T-Bar allows Malinda to clean up her patterns as she traces them. She can straighten lines, clean up torn corners, and adapt to changes drawn directly on the pattern. Anyone who has a large collection of paper patterns knows how important it is to correctly interpret old patterns.
When digitizing it is important to correctly and clearly name patterns. Once digitized, Malinda nests the patterns together to maximize material yield. They are using our manual nesting software to quickly layout parts per their job requirements.
Once the pattern is digitized and nested, anyone in the cutting room can quickly cut accurate patterns.
The Carlson Design PT-72″ Plotter/Cutter is capable of cutting up to five ply of certain materials. Hidden Bay works with jersey, nylon, thin meshes, felts, and more. Dan reports, “Lycra we can cut one ply at a time. Jersey fabric is three ply.” The more ply you cut the faster your blade dulls, and the harder it is to prevent material shift, so it is important that you test each material to determine the number of layers you can cut.
The Carlson Design PT-72″ Plotter/Cutter is designed as a fast, single, or low ply Plotter/Cutter. It uses rolling or drag blades to cut material, which, in addition to vacuum table type, fabric type, and the style of the pattern, will dictate the number of layers you can cut at one time. Hidden Bay Graphics is able to cut multiple layers of Jersey, Nylon, and Lycra blends using our High-Lift 28mm steel rolling blade holder, which allows 10mm of exposed blade. Their material is secured during cutting using a thin-mil .0075″ plastic, two 5HP radial vacuum blowers, and material spreading is aided by an existing spreader that rides between our track system.
Thicker materials, like felt, are too “slippery” for multi-ply cutting on the Plotter/Cutter or with their hand-held high ply reciprocating cutter. It is difficult to spread, secure, and cut through more than one layer using a rotary blade cutter. We “vacuum bagged” their felt to cut “Beanie Bands” one ply at a time. This was still considerably faster than hand cutting, and much more accurate.
They purchased a PT-72″ Plotter/Cutter and mounted it to their existing static (non-vacuum) Phillocraft steel frame table. The original table had non-vacuum tops, which we replaced with Phillocraft vacuum tops. They are using two 5HP rotary vacuum blowers to secure their material during cutting — sometimes with and sometimes without vacuum bagging. To reduce blower noise, they installed them on the other side of the wall and plumbed across.
Our Phillocraft vacuum tables are available in endless 4′ long sections. We provided six new vacuum tops for Hidden Bay to drop into their existing frame. This allowed them to keep the cost of implementation down, as well as help them visualize where the Plotter/Cutter would be integrated into their work flow.
Below, we walk through the steps taken to install and train them on their new Plotter/Cutter.