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ALPHACAM, the Ultimate for 4th Axis Machining

ALPHACAM CNC software has revolutionized a building material and hardware company’s nesting process. Before switching to ALPHACAM in the summer, Keim Lumber had to copy and drag parts onto the sheet, one at a time.

They originally selected ALPHACAM to take full advantage of their 4-axis CNC router, which their previous software could not handle. But they swiftly found ALPHACAM’s nesting and simulation capabilities were also particularly powerful tools. In fact, CNC programmer / router operator Myron Miller says seeing the exact cutting tool on his computer screen is “awesome,” and the nesting feature saves them a considerable amount of time compared to drawing, nesting and dragging parts manually.    

Located in Holmes County, Ohio, Keim Lumber is one of just a handful of lumberyards that still has hitching posts in regular use – for the horse-drawn buggies driven in the local Amish communities. But the parking lot is also used by tourist buses, as the 125,000 square foot showroom on Keim’s 40 acre site is a popular travel destination.

Being based, as owner Bill Keim puts it: “in the middle of nowhere” (in the out-of-the-way hamlet of Charm which has around 100 residents) they needed something impressive. “Fewer people live here than we have employees.”

Visitors go through an entryway that boasts a 36-foot ceiling, clock tower, chandeliers and a cherry-trimmed grand stairway. They stride across a 16-foot Keim Lumber logo that features seven species of wood, then past the 60 x 60 foot sales desk, and on to 13 different departments.  Amongst the multitude of high-quality wood products that Keim provides are: doors and windows; molding and millwork; kitchen and dining accessories; hardwood and laminate flooring; and fireplaces.

From an original workforce of five, when the company was founded around 100 years ago, the family-run firm now has over 360 employees.  Working with 120 exotic and domestic wood species from as far afield as the West Indies, Africa and the Pacific Rim, they have carved a substantial reputation as one of the leading building material suppliers in Ohio, manufacturing their own line of millwork and molding for residential and commercial use, from premium hardwood and lumber.

And driving the CNC machines that manufacture their quality products: the completely integrated CAD/CAM software, ALPHACAM. Myron Miller says it helps them right across the board, with furniture parts, stair parts, 3D engraving, and nesting.

Ever since acquiring their first router 12 years ago they have used another CNC software which came with the machine, but recently upgraded to the state-of-the-art ALPHACAM system to maximize the capabilities of their current routers. “We have two CMS machines. One has four main heads with four piggy backs.  We also have a Karat machine which has two independent heads, X and Z with two 16-position tool changers on each head.

“We opted for ALPHACAM Ultimate to get the full benefit of the 4th axis, so we could do curves with it.” As well as 4-axis machining, ALPHACAM provides Keim Lumber with a multitude of applications for doors, windows, cabinets, stairs and panels. Anything from doors to countertops, to complex components can be produced easily and quickly.

Following their intensive five-day in-house training course, Myron Miller and his colleague Mervin Yoder quickly realized they would also gain enormous benefits from ALPHACAM’s automatic nesting function which maximizes material utilization. Parts can be selected from the screen or a kit of parts, and their orientation fixed where grain direction needs to be maintained, or rotated to any angle. Nesting supports tool lead in/out, support tags for small parts and multiple depth parts where an ‘onion skin’ is required.

Mill Production Manager Joseph Troyer says: “ALPHACAM is a leader in the industry and I’m excited to be using it. It’s allowed us to fully utilize the 4th axis and has given us additional capabilities and saved time in many other ways. We are a custom shop – we also do a large amount of production runs, and bits of time saved here and there add up very quickly. And in production, saving time is real money.”

Advertising Manager John Swaffer says their reputation comes from the quality goods they produce and the service they provide. “People hear about us from various sources, including word-of-mouth.” They deliver free within 150 miles, but also supply products further afield, including Washington DC, Indiana, Arizona, and overseas.

As well as manufacturing their range of products with the CNC routers, they also supply lumber, including over 120 species of wood, to furniture and cabinetmakers; along with 400 manufacturers’ product lines and thousands of individual items such tools, hardware, home decor, housewares, lawn and garden equipment, kitchen and bathroom fitments, lighting and electrical items, heating and cooling equipment, and plumbing.

Couple that diversity with the visitor attractions and facilities which include a children’s playroom, café and several conference rooms, and it is easy to see why Keim Lumber has notched up numerous accolades.  Examples include Window and Door publication’s ‘Excellence in Retail’ award, and winner of Prosales publication’s ‘Showroom Design’ category in their annual Excellence Awards, while becoming a new tourist destination for visitors to Ohio’s Amish Country.  

And using ALPHACAM is ensuring Keim Lumber remains at the cutting edge of their high-specification joinery and millwork operation. As Bill Keim says: “We’re up to our customers’ needs, whatever the wood, whatever the design, whatever the size of the order.”

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