Solid surfaces meet CNC.
Now, in addition to cutting and installing Corian countertops and backsplashes using traditional methods, Windbound can bring customers' design ideas into its PC-controlled cutting system to create custom inlays on the surface.
Windbound, a New Mexico furniture company, got started making solid surface inlays when owners of some of the more expensive homes in Albuquerque and Santa Fe area asked for countertops with inlaid designs. To accommodate these requests, the company purchased a computer-controlled router that converts customers' designs into patterns cut into the solid surface.
After a pattern is cut into the surface, a colored liquid resin material is poured into the groove, allowed to set and is sanded. The result is a new solid surface. For designs with multiple colors, the Process is similar to the one used by printers. The inlay area of one color is cut out and the resin is poured and allowed to set. After it is sanded, the inlay area of the second color is cut out and filled. This process is repeated until all the colors have been cut and filled in.
Adding a New Product
The experience gained from cutting inlay designs in countertops and backsplashes led Windbound into a new business: producing custom plaques in Corian solid surface.
Windbound can cut inlay designs directly into the solid surface, so a traditional metal plate is not needed unless the customer requests it. Some customers have asked Windbound to cut designs into the Corian to form a "generic" plaque, which can then be customized for each recipient with a small metal plate bearing his or her name. As with the countertops, the plaques can be made with any image a customer desires. The inlay area can be filled in with colored resins to make a solid piece, or the area can be left cut out.
The key to this custom work is Windbound's ability to take any design, load it into the PC and use it to drive the router. Windbound uses a Techno Series III router from Techno-Isel.
The Techno router cuts according to CNC instructions from a programming package called Mastercare, from CNC Software, which is included in the system. Although originally designed for metalworking, Mastercare is well-suited for jobs such as Windbound's Corian inlays because of its ability to generate complex contours with little programming effort, Nolan said. Mastercare includes IGES, DXF and CADL converters so that geometry can be uploaded from many CAD systems. Windbound can also accept raster images by using a program called CamLink that converts raster data to the vector format that Mastercare requires.
With the Techno router, it takes about five to 20 minutes to cut a typical Corian solid surface plaque. Very complicated designs can take up to an hour. A key feature of the machine is that it can be set up to run unattended, so that it is cutting plaques while other work is being done. The router's working area is 49 inches by 41 inches, and Z-axis height options range from 4 inches to 19 inches.
The large table size enables the router to hold a number of individual plaques, which can be cut one after the other. Large single pieces can also be used and later cut into individual plaques. Either way, the machine's 0.0005-inch resolution and repeatability and 0.003-inch absolute accuracy ensure that all inlays in a multiple run are identical.
Since purchasing the Techno router, Windbound has found a variety of other ways to keep it running - currently at about 70 percent capacity. In addition to the work with countertops and plaques, Windbound also uses it for a line of furniture. The company produces coffee tables and end tables in Southwestern designs inlaid in Corian solid surface. Most of this work is done on an order basis, where Windbound takes a customer's design and carries through into the furniture.
The company has also produced kitchen tables, dining room tables, conference tables with inlaid company logos and gift items, such as crosses and inspirational sayings.
In the next four to six months, the company intends to take the plunge into the on-line world, offering its services via the Internet. This will allow customers around the world to send their design ideas to Windbound electronically.
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|Title Annotation:||computer numerical control|
|Publication:||Wood & Wood Products|
|Date:||Sep 1, 1998|
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