Founded in 1876, Oshkosh Tent and Awning has been around only 100 fewer years than the United States. A lot has changed at OTA over the last 138 years, but not their commitment to providing quality custom canvas products. The company has a diverse product offering ranging from agricultural canvas to awnings to athletic gear, as well as many other contract canvas goods.
Current owner Brian Hegner is the 3rd generation of Hegners to own and operate the company since 1967. Brian’s first paystub with OTA was at age 12, but he’s pretty sure he started working there earlier. His story is familiar to many established canvas shops. For the last decade, Brian has continued to get more and more business through large commercial jobs — however, he still remembers the hard times and refuses to say “no” to any job that comes through the door. “We make it happen and get it all done, even if that means I have to jump behind a sewing machine.”
In the last couple of years, OTA has received several orders large enough to easily justify purchasing an automated Plotter/Cutter. Unfortunately, in the classic chicken-and-egg problem – by the time the received the job they were too busy filling the order to think about improving their manufacturing processes. With several big contracts out for quote and the recent success of their programmable sewing machine, they decided 2014 was the year to automate their Plotting and Cutting!
Brian decided to automate his marking and cutting with the Carlson PT-108″ Plotter/Cutter. He selected our 108′ wide system because it can plot and cut up to 98″ wide material – allowing them to cut all of their traditional width material, as well as two 48″ wide barn curtain panels laid side-by-side and 96″ wide shade cloth.
To save cost and reduce implementation time, they chose to convert their existing cutting table to a vacuum table by building a plenum (box) on top.
After the first month, their operator, Rick, reports they have run their Plotter/Cutter over 16 miles, running it almost all day, everyday.
In this blog we will review how OTA integrated our Plotter/Cutter into their operation and review ten starter projects we successfully cut right away!
Best of the Best from this Install:
- OTA built their own vacuum table on top of an existing table
- OTA are digitizing and CADing their patterns
- The variety of projects plot and cut, with videos and pictures
- The time and material saved on each project
- Step-by-step pictures from their installation
We begin by looking at their setup: a Carlson PT-108″ Plotter/Cutter on a home-built 9’x40′ vacuum table, operator”s workstation and monitor. Next we’ll walk through cutting 10 different applications with pictures and videos. Finally, we end with a detailed step-by-step look at their installation.
Now let’s look at their projects.
For the first project we plotted and cut a radiator cover for a military vehicle. For practice and comparison, OTA digitized the original cardboard pattern, even though they had already had it drawn in AutoCAD. This is a time consuming pattern to cut by hand, so they were very excited to have all of the pieces for the job digitized, nested, in a folder labeled with the job name and ready to cut. When OTA gets a new order, they simply spread material, select the nest, and click “GO”.
Project #2: Vinyl Gymnasium Pads
OTA built a 40′ long vacuum table to accommodate their 38′ long nested vinyl wall pad patterns in one cut. Cutting pads is now as easy as 1. spread material, 2. Select the pattern, 3. Click “Plot”. Pads are quickly plot and cut.
Project #3: Kiss Cutting Logos on Vinyl
Many of OTA’s vinyl gymnasium pads have custom logos or lettering stenciled and painted. This tedious and time-consuming process required covering the vinyl in a paste and hand cutting the outline of the desired logo with a razor blade. Using the Plotter/Cutter’s depth-adjustable drag blade OR our kiss-cut Swivel Sign Knife, the Plotter/Cutter makes quick work of this job.
Project #4: Canvas Bags
These custom tool bags are built to order. They might look simple, but it is necessary to mark every sew line so the seamstress can make the right size custom fitting pockets. Once digitized, these marks are made with a soap stone mounted in the Plotter/Cutter’s pen holder. This way it is easy to erase.
Project #5: Shade Sail
OTA recently began cutting shade sails — a perfect application for the Plotter/Cutter. Using their 9′ wide Carlson Plotter/Cutter, it’s now as easy as importing their client-supplied CAD drawing and pushing the “Go” button. A perfect sail cuts in minutes. Shade cloth, at wider widths, is relatively heavy and therefore does not need to be vacuum bagged during cutting to prevent material shift. However, it is a good idea to slow the cut down to prevent any movement. Even a slowed Plotter/Cutter will still cut 5-10 timers faster than hand cutting.
Project #6: Reinforcement Patches
Every one of OTA’s shade sails need reinforcement patches for the corners made out of vinyl. We quickly draw their patches in Sketchup and then nest them to fill a piece of scrap vinyl. A full table of patches could be cut in one hour — something that would take over a day to cut by hand.
Project #7: Bagged Mesh
Some of their mesh fabrics are very difficult to cut by hand due to their stretch and weave. The last time they cut this material by hand they cut over 1000 pieces wrong. With their Carlson they cut 120 squares in less than 2 minutes. Our first test runs taught us that it is better to bag-and-cut smaller sections of this mesh, than to try to cut an entire table all-at-once. The material is very hard to keep straight and cutting a large nest increased the chance for material to shift or get caught under the gantry.
Project #8: Mesh Bags for scuba diving
Cutting diving bags by hand is very difficult. It’s hard to measure on the fabric and impossible to mark. However, cutting using the Plotter/Cutter is a breeze. The material laid flat without us needing to vacuum bag during the cutting process, which allowed us to cut an entire order of bags in minutes, not hours.
Project #9: Urethane label sleeves
OTA cuts strips out of urethane to make sleeves to hold job tickets. This is a simple project to cut — it’s only rectangles — but Rick says using the Plotter/Cutter, “Saved a load of time”. That’s because it’s easy to design simple shapes in our Patterns tab and an entire table will cut in minutes with the click of a button. No measuring. No waste. Every cut is exactly the same. These square cuts make sewing faster too, because the sewer does not need to correct for any error.
Project #10: Printed product labels
They use their vinyl printer to print product labels that are sewn onto every product. These are easy to cut by hand, but it takes time and a watchful eye to make everyone cut square and clean. Using the patterns tab we made a grid of rectangles 3 x 51. The Plotter/Cutter cut these 153 labels in less than three minutes!
Projeect #11: Foam
Using a high-lift rotary blade holder they can cut up to 1/2″ thick foam.
That’s a lot of projects covered in our three days of training. Before we go, let’s take a quick look at how they setup their machine.
Big thanks to Brian, Rick, and Chris for helping make this a great installation! We can wait to see how many more projects they tackle with their Plotter/Cutter.