Machines are everywhere, from calculators to cutting machines, but there’s a problem. Many of them struggle to understand us. We speak a different language. Ours is full of verbs and punctuation, theirs is composed of nothing but numbers, beeps and signals. See for yourself. Go to your kettle and order it to, ‘Make me coffee… And tuck your shirt in!’ and it will do nothing, except stare blankly into the middle distance, thinking of that beautiful cafetiere on the shelf next to him at Asda.

Thankfully, there’s a way to speak the language of machines that can make them do just what we want. With the help of CAD drawings, weird and wonderful shapes and designs can be transposed into cutting machines’ beloved beeps, so they can do what they do best.

Some customers have the software to create their own CAD drawings, which is great because it takes their idea straight to the computerised design phase. But, not everyone has this luxury. All they have is their product and a need to protect it. This is where digitising comes in. It takes your product’s shape, turns it to beeps that tells a cutting machine to do its business. Here are the benefits and limitations of the three best methods of digitising your product.

Table Digitiser

What is it?: A large flat surface with a stylus that looms over the surface on an X and Y axis.

Key benefits: Great for plotting out the shape of various pieces of equipment of multiple shapes and sizes in one sitting, such as an assortment of tools. As the stylus is fixed to the X and Y axis, it is also highly accurate as the stylus will always be at a right angle to the surface of the table.

Limitations: Non portable, so items must be sent in, and due to the height of the stylus it can only digitise products of a depth no greater than 95mm.

Tablet Digitiser

What is it?: An A3 sized surface on which a paper drawing of an item’s outline is placed on top of and a stylus is used to tracing over the lines of the drawing.

Key Benefits: If you have your own product, tracing that can be simply sent in and digitised very quickly. Size of an item is not as much as an issue as you may think as this method can be used on multiple parts of an item and then joined together in the design phase.

Limitations: This is a two-step process (i.e. original drawing then stylus tracing) which requires great care in both phases. If you have done your own drawing, be sure that your outline was drawn with your pen or pencil always at a right angle to the paper and as close to the real outline of the product as possible, this gives a true reflection of size and reduces the chance of your insert being incorrect.

3D Digitiser

What is it?: The most modern type of digitising, which uses a light source and a turntable to plot the three dimensional shape of an item.

Key Benefits: The 3D scanner is completely portable, so your items never have to leave your office or site. It’s also highly accurate and great for big, bulky or intricate equipment.

Limitations: As it uses a light source, this technique struggles with very shiny items, as the lights bounces back and gives a false reading – there are some ways to get around this problem, i.e. masking, but they are not always possible.

So there you have it. Although not always the case, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when looking to digitise a product is this… Single items are best for the Tablet Digitiser, multiple items work well for the Table Digitiser, and for the most complex of jobs the 3D Digitiser should do the job.

In short, with the help of any one of those three, the cutting machines will understand you and your product fluently.