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Frequently Asked Questions

PURCHASING:

Why is the price of TLC's equipment only about half the cost of other comparable glass cutting/scribing equipment available in the world today?

Most expensive does not necessarily equate to most value. TLC has maintained the lowest price possible for to allow customers the opportunity to invest the same amount of money in several TLC machines rather than only one other make and model.

Because almost all parts are machined in-house, TLC can maintain lower production costs, as there are no middleman markup costs for parts from outsource suppliers. This also gives total control over production time, not having to be concerned with delays or extended lead-time from other vendors. TLC is a welcome option to buyers today.

Many industry professionals have told us the value of TLC's equipment far exceeds the price, and that the machines are worth much more. TLC maintains an active interest in each of our customers, helping them grow and gain profit in their business. Once that growth is sufficient to warrant acquisition of more glass cutting equipment, our desire is that they will contact TLC for additional units. This is a direct reflection on the quality and performance of TLC's equipment, service and technology - and, overall, TLC International as a whole. It's definitely a "Win-Win" situation.

What is the advantage in buying several TLC single-head machines rather than one multihead glass scriber?

Acquisition cost is about the same. But the diversity gained is quite advantageous. With several TLC  machines, differently configured parts can be processed at the same time, making production throughput equal to (and far more flexible) that which can be accomplished on one multihead machine. One of the key money-savings is that, in the possible occurrence of downtime on one machine, production does not come to a costly standstill.

Has industry acceptance and customer satisfaction of the Gen-3 TLC Phoenix-600® been proven?

Multiple purchases of TLC machines in a single customer location formerly standardized on other vendors' equipment certainly reflect customer satisfaction and confidence.

There is a limited number of computer-controlled mechanical glass cutting tool manufacturers in the world. Some have been established for decades. TLC builds mutually beneficial, long-term business partnerships with every customer. Prospective buyers are strongly encouraged to contact current TLC customers for their assessment of TLC's equipment and technology.

The highest compliment TLC receives is for multiple purchases to be made by one customer. Also, it is satisfying when a contract glass cutting customer refers TLC to their customers as an alternative to outsourcing. TLC treasures customer loyalty and makes every effort to assist in prototype projects customers develop long after the initial equipment sale. TLC customers include industry giants such as 3M, Corning, and DuPont and many avionic/aerospace facilities.

Do we have to purchase a spare parts package when we buy TLC equipment?

No. TLC stocks a complete inventory of spare parts, most of which are available to ship within 2-24 hours. TLC's equipment is designed for high reliability and long-term, dependable service. Off-the-shelf electronics are incorporated to allow fast, easy availability at local suppliers to avoid costly, middle-market proprietary pricing from TLC.

In nearly a decade, TLC has experienced very few field failures, proven by test and analysis to be a material, rather than design, flaw. TLC's goal is not to be in the spare parts business, other than to provide highest quality tungsten carbide, platinum, and diamond cutting wheels and other consumable tooling (axles, wheelholders, restrainers, conversion wheelholders, etc.).

Why does TLC not build custom machines?

Although many requests are received to build custom machines, TLC's solid commitment is to maintain dedication to "Do what we do best" without diversion. With every machine the same, service and support remain uniform. TLC concentrates total focus on the design and build of a standard configuration for a this reason, and it has been one of TLC's "secret formulas" for success.

Our initial intent was to provide a single head, close-tolerance glass cutting machine for R&D facilities and mid-level production lines that would cut circular, curvilinear, and rectilinear (X-Y) parts, Results have proven highly successful, given the strength of this strategy and TLC's resolve to maintain it.

This does not mean TLC will never build a customized configuration. But for the time being, we choose to provide the absolute best singulation tool possible in every standard model.

Considering TLC International is a relatively new company, being in the glass cutting machine building business only since 1999, how can we be assured you really know and understand high-tech glass cutting technology and how to build equipment suitable to fill our requirements?

TLC cites several assurances of permanence, stability and longevity: Collectively, the TLC Team has nearly a century of combined experience in the field of high-accuracy mechanical glass scribing technology, design and machine build, technical service, training, marketing, global sales, process development and after-sales support. Our combined skills and expertise have made possible the ability to select optimum features and functionality for integration into the most dependable, accurate and versatile computer-controlled mechanical glass cutting equipment in the world. Many of the TLC Design/Build/Engineering Team have been employed in machining and fabrication business more than 25 years each, even providing equipment and machined parts to other mechanical and laser glass scribing equipment manufacturers, including VPI and Applied Photonics, as well as for semiconductor giants Motorola and Intel.

Since 1992, TLC has provided service, maintenance, training, consumable tooling, and process development consulting in high-tech glass cutting technology for many customers with other makes/models of scribing equipment, as well as TLC.  TLC's policy is to provide maximum assistance for the betterment of the customer, no matter what manufacturer's equipment they may be operating. Maximum production and ultimate yields remain paramount goals in every aspect of TLC's equipment, technology and service.

Why does TLC recommend that prospective buyers visit other glass scriber (mechanical and laser) manufacturers before visiting our manufacturing facility for a personal, hands-on demonstration of TLC's equipment?

TLC's prime intention is to assist prospective buyers to intelligently select equipment best suited for their glass/substrate singuation requirements.  In 1992, there were four comparable computerized, close tolerance glass cutting/scribing  machine manufacturers in the world.  All four had manufacturing facilities in the "Valley of the Sun." Visiting all or most of them during one trip was cost effective, in both timesaving and travel expense.  Today, TLC is the only one still in business here.  TLC purchased the last of VPI's inventory in October 2010 at public auction, Mitsuboshi closed it's facility, and Applied Photonics (laser) is no longer in business.  So, this question no longer is pertinent.   We still recommend prospective buyers visit their prospective vendors, however. 

Once buyers spend time at local companies for demonstrations of each respective equipment/technology and gain an overall "feel" for the company, its products, technology, business philosophy, management style and people, their final choice should be far less difficult, as a genuinely "smart" real-time, comparative analysis can be easily made. The overall result is that, having made several visits in the same timeframe, fresh analysis data can more readily be disseminated to allow buyers to make a qualified, sound choice of which equipment/technology offers the best solution to their glass cutting needs.

Is it possible to expedite delivery of TLC's equipment to less than 90 days ARO?

Generally, yes. As almost all of the parts for TLC's equipment build are manufactured in-house rather than a variety of parts purchased from many suppliers, we are not limited by long lead-times. Total control of the build process is maintained internally from inception to delivery. This allows TLC to ensure timely delivery - even to expedite shipment whenever possible, depending on current supply and demand.

TLC's experience, however, is that most buyers require 60-90 days to prepare their production department and personnel, install utilities, and to arrange payment. When this is not the case, we make every effort to ship according to the buyer's schedule. TLC has maintained a 100% on-time shipment/installation record for more than 10 years.

Why does TLC remain inflexible on price and payment terms?

Fewer mistakes occur when everything remains the same with each sale. TLC maintains a "One Price Worldwide Policy" as our pledge to treat every customer with equal fairness.

Because TLC offers quality, feature-rich equipment and specialized service at fair prices, most buyers purchase TLC equipment without questioning payments terms. If equipment is priced fairly in the beginning, there should never be the thought of overcharging. TLC's price remains approximately half the price of comparable equipment.

Can TLC's equipment be used in a cleanroom environment?

Yes, the TLC's equipment is easily adapted into a cleanroom facility. Since a cleanroom environment controls airborne particulates through an exchange of highly filtered air using an air (HEPA) filtering system, minimization of activities that generate particles should be heeded to ensure removal of particle contaminants inherent in the glass scribing process.

What is the return on investment (ROI) with TLC's equipment?

There is no one, simple answer. Some TLC customers report ROI in 6-18 months, some a year, some two years. One Gen-3 TLC customer reported they paid for their machine in total the day it was installed, due to being able to accept a large contract they would have had to refuse without the TLC. 

If a TLC machine is operating at full production capacity 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, ROI should be well within 6 months to a year. This, of course, is determined by several factors: production time, material/labor costs, yield loss, and price/profit of end products, just to name a few. As the equipment supplier, TLC has no control over production variables. We, therefore, would be amiss to generate false expectations or give claims based on unknown factors.

Why should we buy TLC equipment rather than outsourcing glass cutting projects?

The best answer is that it will, in the long run, save a company thousands of dollars to have in-house glass cutting capabilities. Gaining full control over production time and product quality is equally beneficial. Eliminating long lead times and the uncertainly of knowing whether or not the parts ordered from another supplier will meet your standards to make your end-product/s the best it/they can be, rids much stress and aggravation. With a TLC machine in-house, new products can be easily developed without costly prototype services from an outside source. The ability to cut curvilinear parts also serves a definite advantage in today's marketplace.

We hasten to mention, however, that TLC customers provide excellent outsource glass cutting services and TLC is pleased to refer them whenever possible.

Do we have to purchase consumable tooling and wheels for TLC's equipment from TLC?

Although we strongly recommend consumable tooling to be purchased from TLC, it is not a requirement to ensure optimum production.  TLC stocks a full complement of consumable tooling including a wide variety of axles, wheelholders, bushings, restrainers, wheelholders, and tungsten carbide, platinum and diamond wheels.  Pricing is competitive, with shipping within 1-4 days for in-house stock.

Custom wheels are available in lots of 100. Lead-time is 6-8 weeks.

Other wheel manufacturers' products will fit TLC wheelholders. TLC manufactures conversion wheelholders to fit other manufacturers' equipment.  In like manner, TLC wheels will fit most glass scribing machines on the market today, generally without a conversion wheelholder.

To purchase close-tolerance, precision wheels from TLC, a customer does not have to own TLC equipment.

Would a laser glass cutter be a better investment than TLC equipment?

Mechanical scribing has been the proven method of glass singulation for countless years. A laser glass cutting system can range in price from US$250,000 to well over US$1.75M. Until lasers are more highly developed for technical glass cutting applications, especially for lpatterned, laminated, circular or curvilinear parts, mechanical scribing has several advantages. TLC's equipment can scribe over an existing scribe line. A laser must re-propagate the fissure each time a line is crossed. TLC's equipment can cut tight-radius circles. Lasers are limited to wider arcs. TLC's equipment provides fast, clean and dry scribe operation. A laser requires coolant gases and liquid in some cases, adding an additional cleaning process to production time and expense.

Does TLC have authorized sales and service agents in other parts of the world?

All equipment, service and consumable tooling sales are handled through TLC's World Headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona USA.

Why is it necessary to have Installation/Training/Process Development Sessions when TLC's equipment is purchased?

Because TLC's equipment is simple-to-operate does not make glass cutting totally intuitive and easy. Experience has proven it takes 3-5 days to adequately train personnel in all phases of working with and maintaining a TLC machine. Comparable equipment requires 5-10 days of training, due in part to the complexity of the machines.

The first day is spent uncrating the machine, hooking up utilities, on-site qualification and training in basic operation and maintenance procedures. The remaining days are utilized for process development training on the customer's products, to ensure the machine can be fully utilized to maximum capacity the very first day it is placed in production.

The majority of TLC's training time is spent in teaching operators how to "read" glass (distinguish between good and bad scribes), vent analysis, breakout techniques, wheel choice/exchange, AutoCAD® drawing tips, etc. It cannot be stressed enough that as many people as possible should attend all installation and training sessions with undivided attention.

Does TLC offer an automatic breaking machine?

Automatic breakers contribute to a high degree of wasted time and materials, as they cannot judge the quality of a scribe, nor can they change scribing parameters to correct a bad scribe.

TLC strongly recommends manual breakout. To achieve optimum afterbreak yields, there is no substitute for a well-trained personal eye, ear, and touch. Many automatic breakers have been designed and sold by various equipment manufacturers, but none of them are as fast and efficient as a skilled operator. They cannot detect when to change a wheel or parameter to effect higher yields. They cannot breakout circular or curvilinear parts.

What yield and afterbreak edge quality can be expected from TLC's equipment?

TLC's equipment is easily capable of producing yields upward to 100%. However, yield is highly dependent on the operator's experience and skill. If equal fulcrum pressure is applied to adjoining sides of a scribe, a more precise perpendicular break is accomplished, eliminating hooks and flares. This is another reason TLC strongly recommends manual breaking. Resultant TLC afterbreak edges, in most applications, are clean and require little or no polishing or grinding.

Will future software upgrades be made available to TLC customers?

Yes, software upgrades are provided to TLC customers free of charge, as long as there is no mechanical change required to the machine. Our programmers continually strive to make improvements, and have made several enhancements in the TLC software in response to customer input. TLC continues to increase the value of our equipment and technology in every way possible.

Why doesn't TLC quote machine delivery including shipping, insurance, taxes, customs and duties?

Quotes from freight forwarding companies are generally good for only a 24-hour period. Taxes, customs and duties vary from country to country, and many companies have umbrella insurance policies to cover freight. Most companies have established accounts with freight forwarders, which allow price incentives for shipping.

TECHNICAL:

What makes the TLC's equipment design and engineering so simple?

TLC's original goal to design and build easy-to-operate, simple-to-maintain equipment has been fully met.

The stage is stationary (does not rotate), equating to fewer moving parts and less maintenance/calibration time. Being fixed, the table remains absolutely flat over a long period of operation.

Additionally, the electronics drawer is compact and far less complex than in other mechanical scribers. Off-the-shelf components allow fast replacement , eliminating expensive sole-sourcing and needless down time.

The CCD camera incorporated in TLC's unique rotating cutting head eliminates gantry-positioned cameras, leaving the surface of the machine clear for easy load/unload and incorporation into an in-line production system. This also allows quick target setup, repeatable alignment and on-stage measurement/inspection.

Auto-calibrating wheel placement accuracy eliminates time-intensive re-setting of parameters.

Intuitive Graphical User Interface (GUI) is incorporated in the PC-Windows®-based operating system and seamless interface with AutoCAD® .dxf drawings.

TLC's equipment  is being identified throughout the global glass cutting industry as the premier choice for simplicity, ease of operation, flexibility and multifunctionality.

How difficult is it to learn to operate/maintain TLC's equipment?

A complete, step-by-step Operation/Maintenance Manual is provided with each TLC machine. Operation is simple and generally can be learned in 2-3 days. Maintenance, for the most part, is to simply keep the machine clean and free of substrate particulates.

How many people should attend the Installation/Training/Process Development Sessions?

Training is an investment often overlooked. The more people trained the better.

TLC strongly encourages attendance of at least three people, one being of administrative operation level. Most TLC customers have 4-5 people in the training sessions. Some people hear what others don't; some take notes and others don't. Working together after the TLC engineer has left the premises, a group who attended the training sessions is more readily able to recall certain steps and procedures than only one person. This also should eliminate the need for re-training sessions later on, if one of the trained operators leaves or moves to a different area in the company with other responsibilities.

How close are TLC's advertised scribe speed and accuracies?

TLC intentionally "understates" the full capability of itsequipment in the published accuracies and speed. As an operator gains expertise, tighter tolerance and accuracy can be achieved. Speed varies according to part configuration, substrate type and thickness, coating, etc. TLC prefers to state an "average" rather than the "possible" or "exceptional."

How long does a wheel last?  (Most frequently asked question.)

"How long will the tires on a car last?" The answers are as varied as the contributing factors of driving - speed, pressure, road condition, length of use, etc. Such factors apply to carbide wheel wear. Some of the factors that affect wheel life are glass type, glass thickness, coatings, part configuration, speed, penetration, pressure, etc.

It is impossible to formulate exact wheel life. Diamond impregnated wheels naturally have a longer life than carbide, but there is no "standard" number. SofStart® programming incorporated in TLC's equipment allows an operator to adjust the speed of approach of wheel contact with the edge of the glass, reducing wheel wear edge chips. The important thing to note is, just like the tires on a car, if you buy quality products, you will get longer service. This is the exact reason why TLC chose Toyo as our preferred wheel manufacturer.

Will TLC's equipment cut laminates as well as single sheet substrates?

Yes. TLC's equipment is designed specifically to cut laminated substrates, as well as single sheet and microsheet substrates. X-Y and shaped (circular curvilinear and irregular) laminated parts are easily cut.

What type of oil is used when cutting substrates with TLC's equipment?

TLC's cutting process requires no contaminating oil or water. This eliminates the need for an additional cleaning process in the production line. The carbide wheel housed in the proprietary TLC rotating cutting head, when operating under optimum parameter settings on the machine, produces no friction or heat. This also allows use of TLC equipment in a cleanroom environment.

What minimum and maximum glass/substrate thicknesses can be cut on TLC equipment?

TLC's advertised substrate thickness range is 0.009"-0.125"/0.027 mm-.3.000 mm. With experience, a well-trained operator will find it possible to cut thicknesses outside this range. Major advances have been made in cutting microsheet with TLC's equipment and technology. The flat stage (within 1.0 mil) allows wheel scribing of substrates as thin as 0.006"/1.50mm. Thinner substrates can be cut using a custom TLC diamond stylus.

Can a protective coating be used to reduce scratching?

TLC's vacuum stage is equipped with operator-controlled substrate flotation when the vacuum is turned off. An operator can adjust the amount of flotation required for a particular substrate, reducing possible surface scratches on sensitive coatings.

Also, TLC equipment will easily cut through Nitto® Tape or other protective membranes in the glass/substrate cutting process, leaving the protective coat on the broken out parts until they are placed into their final application.

What is the advantage of having a camera incorporated in the TLC cutting head?

The CCD camera provides quick target setting, repeatable alignment and onstage measurement/inspection. An operator can easily measure and tolerance-inspect scribes for quality assurance with this configuration.

How does TLC's equipment cut circular and curvilinear as well as rectilinear shapes?

The Windows®-based operating system interfaces seamlessly with AutoCAD® .dxf files. Therefore, any shape that is drawn in AutoCAD® can be scribed. Breakout, however, is dependent upon flowing arcs and straight lines.

Circular and curvilinear cutting is achieved with a TLC's proprietary rotating head that incorporates a CCD camera for onstage measurement and inspection. The stage is stationary (does not rotate).

What wheel(s) will work best for our application(s)?

The TLC Recommended Consumable Tooling Starter Kit contains a wide sampling of wheels from which to choose to determine which wheels work best for your products and application. TLC stocks a full complement 4.0 mm and 2.5 mm OD carbide cutting wheels in different configurations: standard, TAP and Deep Cut. Our latest addition is a plantinum wheel.  Optimum wheel choice for each product requires test and analysis for each substrate. Unfortunately, it is impossible to define a "set formula" of parameters. Many variables contribute to establishing a correct scribe formula, including but not limited to:

  • Scriber manufacturer
  • Scriber make
  • Scriber model
  • Cutting head configuration
  • Substrate manufacturer
  • Substrate type
  • Substrate size
  • Substrate thickness
  • Substrate age (if known)
  • Substrate surface flat
  • Single sheet or laminate
  • Coating type
  • Coating thickness
  • Part configuration (X-Y/circular/curvilinear/freeform)
  • Part size
  • Layout spacing
  • Wheel type
  • Wheel size (OD, ID)
  • Wheel angle
  • Wheel grind
  • Axle size
  • Wheelholder size
  • Required dimensional tolerance
  • Cutting Speed
  • Cutting pressure
  • Cutting penetration

There are guidelines to follow for each substrate type (soda lime, borosilicate, aluminosilicate, quartz, sapphire, etc.) and thickness - but, each one is different. It does not take a trained operator long to know which wheel produces an optimum scribe, once they learn to "read" the motherglass/substrate.

What is the most important maintenance issue with TLC's equipement?

Keep the equipment dry and clean of debris. Use of clean, dry air is vital to maintaining the precision of the equipment. No water, oil or lubricants of any kind should be used.