O & S Doors Says ALPHACAM Is Vital For Automation And Efficiencies
A company manufacturing around 65,000 doors a week for kitchen cabinets says its future lies with robotics, automation and increased efficiencies.
ba sed at Dungannon in Northern Ireland, O & S Doors uses ALPHACAM CAD/CAM software to drive 17 Biesse CNC Routers, four Reichenbachers and one Homag. The Biesses, including two 5-axis machines, and the Homag, are all programmed for full production runs, with the Reichenbachers largely used for bulk production.
The company's range includes cabinet doors and drawer fronts made principally from an MDF core with PVC or acrylic fascias, along with some solid wood doors.
While recent updates to ALPHACAM's powerful nesting function have substantially improved their material yield, O & S Doors' Projects Manager Paul McCullagh says the software's 5-axis capability is also an important part of the equation. “Our 5 axis machines give us the capability to produce the widest and most flexible range of curved doors made to order in the UK and Irish markets. Virtually every design we offer can be recreated in a curved format along with matching accessories. The use of the ALPHACAM software is invaluable in this regard."
ALPHACAM's new nesting engine improves material yield by between six and eight per cent on each sheet, which he says equates to a lorry-load of board every week. “This is contributing towards offsetting increased raw material costs.”
“Increasing efficiencies in this way allows us to continue investing in other automation projects within the factory, and ultimately adds to the company's bottom line.”
It's automation that Paul sees as being the way forward. O&S already have a robotic arm for loading boards at the start of the process where the acrylic front is laminated onto the MDF core. In addition, two ALPHACAM modules – AUTOMATION MANAGER and CDM (Cabinet Door Manufacture) -- work in conjunction to automate bulk programming.
Once the team have imported an Excel file of all the doors of mixed sizes for a production run, the software produces NC code for any machine on the shop floor. ALPHACAM Area Manager David McIntyre says: “Irrespective of how many doors they're working on, AUTOMATION MANAGER takes the list and creates the code for all the door sizes. It means O & S Doors don't have to carry out individual part programming. So whether they're working on 50, 150, or 500 doors, the whole batch is fully programmed in the same time it would take to program just one door.
“Nowadays, a conventional OEM CAM system processes each file individually, but it won't write 50 or 500 programs in just a couple of minutes. ALPHACAM's AUTOMATION MANAGER means 2D and 3D CAD files, along with solid models from third party software, can be batch processed, from file preparation right through to applying toolpaths, with the NC code automatically generated.”
ALPHACAM have also worked with O & S Doors on several bespoke operations to improve efficiency further, including the ability to show accurate timings for producing every sheet. Paul McCullagh says: “We found we had a number of jobs waiting to be processed on the factory floor, but no way of knowing how long they'd take…a full sheet could take between ten minutes and an hour.”
An ALPHACAM engineer spent two days working with them to set up a time management project for the routers, by making bespoke amendments to the software and postprocessor, and liaising with a company that produced a web interface to monitor production on the factory floor. “We've now got a module to show the time each router spends on cutting each sheet. This has led to several improvements as we can now easily monitor the efficiency of every router to ensure we're getting the absolute best we can from each one.”
Operating from a 400,000 square foot factory with around 350 employees, O & S Doors say their Sage Line 500 ERP system has been adapted to integrate with ALPHACAM. “Once the orders are keyed in, we take a CSV file across to ALPHACAM's Cabinet Door Manufacture module, which produces our nested sheets.
“On a project basis, we design our doors in ALPHACAM and send samples to the customer. Once they're approved, the production run is nested, and the nested sheets go to the factory floor, while the stores bring the board to the routers ready for machining. ALPHACAM creates the NC code and reports, along with labels which are then applied to the back of the doors.”
Another ALPHACAM benefit is that it allows the parts to be fully rotated on the nest…or if specific grain direction is required, it locks the axis, so the boards all face the same way.
Concluding, Paul says while automation already plays a key role in their manufacturing process, they are continually seeking to drive further efficiencies with fewer clicks and less manual input. “Around 90 per cent of our products go through ALPHACAM, and most orders have a three-day lead time, which includes a full day from order entry, through the nesting operation, to the shop floor for machining. “We're currently looking at ways of how ALPHACAM can help us reduce that to just three hours.”