PDF iconCurved Seating Pods Made Easy With ALPHACAM’s 5-Axis Toolpaths

Manufacturing curved components for unique seating pods is a simple process for a leading joinery company, thanks to ALPHACAM programming 5-axis toolpaths for their Homag router.

Specialist Joinery Group say that creating the pods for the Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex would take three times longer without ALPHACAM software, and they could not be competitive. “The pods involve considerable curved work, but the components can mainly be cut in one set-up with ALPHACAM,” says Technical Manager Terry Devlin.

“We’ve won a number of contracts because of the 5-axis machining capability that ALPHACAM gives us, including The Guildhall in London”

Paula McCloskey/Marketing Director

As well as the Homag Optimat BOF 311, ALPHACAM also programs a CNC edging machine to put a 2mm pvc edge on a curve, and a Homag multi-bore. But it is the 5-axis capability that he finds the most useful. “A growing number of our projects call for 5-axis work, and we’d have to sub-contract that part of the operation out if we didn’t have ALPHACAM.”

Operating with around 100 staff in 80,000 square foot premises at Maghera in Northern Ireland, the company recently celebrated their 25th anniversary with a £3m expansion and commitment to create 30 new local jobs over the next three years.

Specialist Joinery Group work throughout the construction sector manufacturing high quality fitted furniture and bespoke joinery items. Marketing Director Paula McCloskey explains that their products include reception counters, feature and acoustic panelling, and a range of furniture for schools, universities, hotels, laboratories and healthcare.

With customers across the UK and Ireland, one contract involved designer items for luxury apartments in London priced between £5m and £8m. Other work has been for a number of hospitals, universities and colleges, Exchange Tower in docklands, The World Wildlife Fund, and the Olympic Village Legacy Project where they provided furniture for residences converted from the athletes’ accommodation.

“We’ve won a number of contracts because of the 5-axis machining capability that ALPHACAM gives us, including The Guildhall in London. Very few companies could have handled that particular project because of the complexity of the design which involved curved and profiled acoustic wall panels over several floors. Although an architect’s pen can create any sort of curve, it’s a different story when it comes to actually machining it. ALPHACAM is paramount in enabling us to carry out 5-axis machining within the required tolerances.”

Terry Devlin agrees that ALPHACAM is vital for their manufacturing process. “Sometimes we have to work off a plan view, so we model it and bring it into ALPHACAM...but normally customers send us jobs in DWG format, so we create our own shop drawings and start breaking it down to see how we’re going to construct the project. Once it’s in ALPHACAM we select the cutting tool, set the toolpaths and calculate the amount of material needed.

“There are two options with the cutting list: it goes down to the machine shop manager who gets the parts bready and sends them to the router, or we feed the cut list to the beam saw and the parts are cut there before going to the router.” He says most jobs require around 20 per cent machining before they can be assembled, and with the high volume of work on the shop floor the parts would take too long to complete without ALPHACAM. And as material utilisation is important to them, to avoid wastage, all nesting is done through ALPHACAM.

The Lakeside seating pods are made from several individual layers of MDF. Specialist Joinery Group produce the assembled shell which is clad with Corian. In addition to the curves of each component, they create a void in the assembly to house lighting. “Basically we manufacture it as a jig so the Corian can be formed to the correct shape. Being able to machine it on 5-axes, through ALPHACAM saves considerable time and manpower. The only alternative would be to laminate it, and that would just be too time-consuming.”

Specialist Joinery Group procure a range of materials to manufacture their products from MDF to Solid Walnut, it is all dependant on the Client’s specific requirements.

“ALPHACAM is important for routing and multi-boring all types of material that we use. It guarantees that everything is within the correct tolerance which is especially important for ceiling features and wall panelling. As they’re installed last, often after walls have been painted, everything has to fit together perfectly to ensure there is no mess.”


About the Company

Name: Specialist Joinery Group

Web: www.specialistjoinerygroup.co.uk


Benefits Achieved

  • Enables 5-axis machining within the required tolerances
  • Saves considerable time and manpower
  • The ‘Nesting’ function helps material utilisation which can avoid any wastage


“We’ve won a number of contracts because of the 5-axis machining capability that ALPHACAM gives us, including The Guildhall in London”

Paula McCloskey, Marketing Director


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