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Carlson Design

Litania Sports Group, the parent company of  two of the most respected names in the sports equipment industry, Gil and Porter, has been manufacturing Athletic equipment in America for almost 100 years.  As the largest producer of track and field equipment in the world, they know the importance of continually improving their manufacturing processes to provide their customers with the best product, at the best price, with the faster turnaround.  This is why we were excited when they decided to add the Carlson Design plotter/cutter to their Champaign Il, facility to automate cutting their protective vinyl gym wall and goal post pads.

Thanks to the help from everyone at Litania, this was a great install with great results.  Our very first run reduced cut times by a factor of 10 from 30 minutes to 3!

Here’s a quick video of that innageral run:

They are cutting 14oz vinyl with a 28mm steel rotary blade.

After running for 4 months here’s what the production manager had to say:


Sorry for the late response.  We have hit our busy season and emails are flying in and out.  Slipped through the cracks.

Everything is going great.  We did have a air solenoid go out, but that was a pretty easy fix, and it was in the spare parts kit.   We also broke off the step down air nipple off the compressor (stole from the bad solenoid).

I would certainly like to give you some feedback on the cutter, just don’t know where to start or what to say.

Watching patterns being cut before the Carlson Designs cutter was installed was a painful process.  It was like watching a caveman cut the first animal skins with sharp stones!  Definitely required skill and an eye for detail to ensure everything was correct.  Since the cutter was installed, I have taught three people to cut patterns.  Can you move a mouse and click a few things?  Yep, you’re trained too!  As stated before, we are now cutting jobs in 3 minutes that took us 45 to 60 minutes to cut.  This has freed up valuable resources to help in other areas.  But, what is best is that we are turning out consistent product.  Cut pattern number 1 is exactly the same as cut pattern number 400!  Moving a sew line with a hard template required rebuilding the template.  Cutting something out was left up to the person sewing.  Now?  Give me five minutes and I will update the drawing for you.  We are systematically reducing the extra steps that a seamstress would have to take in trimming, clipping, cutting…..  We haven’t even scratched the surface of where the Carlson Designs machine is going to take us.

One other thing.  I am now looking at everything differently based on one thing you said several times when you were here to install…..  When I look at a part that looks like we are having trouble with, I always remember what you said, “It can be more complicated”.  This reminds me to stop and think that KISS is so true!  Why do we sew this part this way?  Easier stitches make faster pads, which means more volume….and more $$$.


Justin M. Vecchio”

OK let’s see how the got started:

We arrive to a framed table with the tops already inserted. The Electrician is busy wiring the motor starter for the blower.

Litania purchased a 6’x16′ long Phillocraft vacuum table.  This is an endless frame comprised of 4′ long sections, allowing them to extend the table later by adding more sections.  Our vacuum tables are typically ready to ship ahead of the plotter/cutter and can be assembled before we arrive.  During onsite commissioning, we like to spend as much time training as possible, however training cannot begin until the installs complete.  Having the table screwed together will shave 2-3 hours off the install and is a great way to ensure training can begin on the first day.

Before tightening all the nuts and blots, it is import to square and level the table. A level table is a fast table. We are using the production manager, Justin's, car jack to level the table.
Once level, attach one side of your track.
Use the plotter/cutter to ensure the other side is parallel.
For the second side, move the plotter/cutter down the track, drilling and securing each track hole as you go.
To advance the plotter/cutter, push from the center. Check the machine is still square before securing the next track section.
Once the track is installed, cover your table with vacuum breather. You need to create an air channel between your table top and cutting surface.
Woven breather is much more effective than molded, and the thicker the better. This is bar mat and can be found at your local restaurant supply store. We chose "Electric Green".
Add plastic sheeting. This is 1/16" thick polyethylene with a 3"x3" hole pattern. Cut your plastic sheets at least 4 inches narrower than your table width. When the sheets start to wear, you can flip and/or rotate them to prolong their life.
Attache the plumbing. Smaller blowers can use flexible dust collection hose. Larger blowers need rigid PVC plumbing. We are using 4" PVC pipe.
Caulk or silicone the face of each flange before attaching to the bottom of the table. This will help prevent leaks. Wrapping joints with plastic stretch wrap will also help. Once the plumbing is installed, wafting smoke under the tables can help you identify any leaks.
Install the blower. This is a 5HP, 3phase, radial blower. It is low pressure, high volume and great for securing vinyl. Many customers will build an insulated box around their blower to reduce noise.
Have your local electricain wire a motor starter near the operator's workstation. The starter can be mounted to the table.
Hook up your air. You can use shop air or a standalone air compressor. You need at least 90psi and 1 CFM. It's not a bad idea to add an oilier and water separator to the line. Your tool box comes standard with a quick disconnect fitting and 1/4"NPT fitting.
Run your cabling. You can run it on the side or over head, depending on your shop layout. Use one pulley for every 4-6' of cable. Side mount is most common in large facilities where there are no close walls to mount the overhead cable. Keep drape to a minimum.
Plug the USB controller into any Windows PC. If you need help, we can provide a Windows7 PC preloaded and tested.
Setup your computer. Install Plotmaster USB (PMU) software. We encourage PMU users to have their system connected to the internet. Here they are using the the table near the plotter as their operator's workstation. Once they understand their work flow they will create a more permanent work area.
You're now ready to calibrate, square, and configure your plotter/cutter!
You also need to select a pattern for your first job. If you do not have a CAD program or any patterns already made, use the T-Bar digitizer to trace an existing hard pattern.
Once you have a pattern, the machine configured, and plotter/cutter installed, pause for one moment to admire a job well done. Good Work! It's now time for your first cut!
After your first cut, it's always a good idea to check the pattern against your original hard pattern. At Litania, Eldon discovered one of the lines in the CAD drawing provided by their engineering department was different from his sewers pattern. We moved the line and cut 6 more sets.


Once parts look good, nest them together to maximize material yield.
Precision cutting typically yields 10-20% material savings.


The team examines their second job's nest. This part set typically takes 45 minutes to complete -- here it was cut in less about 3 minutes.
They placed their own roll rack at the end of the table. this makes switching between colors quick and easy.
Thumbs up! Thanks Litania!

It was exciting to watch 20-40 minute manual cuts finish in less than 2 minutes start-to-finish.   We cut 6 full pattern sets in a half hour — this would have normally taken a full day.  The parts being delivered at the sewers station are now more accurate and much more repeatable.  Having a computer controlled cutter also allowed the engineering department to get involved.  They can now make changes and improvements to patterns in real time.

A big thanks to Justin, Eldon, and Ralph for making this a great install!

Litania selected Carlson Design because they were able to send us sample patterns and material that we digitized, cut, and returned the next day: .  If you would like to see your material and patterns test cut, please do not hesitate to send something our way:

  • Carlson Design
  • 539 S Trenon Ave
  • Tulsa, OK 74120