“Bespoke Kitchen, but not a Bespoke Price.”
Chris Sharp Cabinets Ltd - U.K.
Stage 2: The material was ordered at 4.55 p.m. the same day.
Stage 3: The following day it was cut, drilled, edged, assembled and delivered by 12.30 p.m.
“I did that simply to prove a point,” says Paul Kettleborough, Managing Director and Owner of Chris Sharp Cabinets Ltd. “I wanted to know just how quickly we could produce a kitchen. Although we had to machine multiple panels, our CNC machine was running at up to 80 metres a minute.”
Employing a dozen people at their 15,000 square foot workshop and showroom in Lincolnshire, the company generally produces two kitchens a week for end-user consumers, with a number of others for property developers. Having recently invested in CABINET VISION software to complement their ALPHACAM package, they have capacity for designing and manufacturing around 20 a week.
With a long-standing history of making both softwood and hardwood furniture, the company decided they needed to diversify, as cheap imports began to have an effect on business, and they moved into the purely bespoke kitchen market. Three years ago, Paul bought the company from Chris Sharp, having worked there for over 20 years, and decided to concentrate just on kitchens.
ALPHACAM had been the main software for furniture production for many years, and they continued to use it to design and manufacture the cabinetry components for their kitchens, which Paul admitted was not the optimum tool for casework assemblies. “It was taking a long time to program our 3-axis SCM Ergon machine tool.
“We’d have a standard 600 mm base unit with the holes and toolpaths – but if a customer wanted a 550 mm unit, for example, I’d have to take it down by 50 mm. So in time, my ALPHACAM program had up to 150 different units. And if a kitchen contained 600, 500 and 400 mm units, I’d put them on a separate sheet and nest them through ALPHACAM, which was a long winded process when compared to CABINET VISION, because it’s not optimised for that type of work.”
So, the natural progression was to invest in CABINET VISION for carcase work. Design Manager James Graves now receives customers’ orders as an ArtiCAD drawing from their external designer, and imports it into CABINET VISION. “As I’ve got a library of the 60 or so cabinets that we use regularly, I create the rooms by dragging and dropping the units into the project, and then editing them. The ArtiCAD file is often just a plan with dimensions on, usually in increments of 50, but with CABINET VISION’s parametric capability and the parameters already set up, if I drop a 600 mm unit in and change it to 587 mm, all the relevant sizes and joins are all changed accordingly. Each one literally takes just seconds, and I can complete a full kitchen plan in around 20 minutes.”
Being able to customise each unit is particularly valuable when he is working with their handle-less cabinets. “We prefer to have these carcase-pressed, so we can choose that the jointing technique is all dowelled rather than KD-fitted. However, I can have KD fittings if required and I have full control over their location and orientation. I can make all fittings on shelves up to a certain height face down, and the ones above it face up, so when the customer looks at it they don’t see where the fixing joints are.”
CABINET VISION’s powerful communication tool with the CNC nesting machine, S2M (Screen-To-Machine), sends the NC code to the Ergon, which includes all the cutting and drilling instructions for the machine.
ALPHACAM comes into play with the handle-less units, notching out the areas on the side of the panels for the profile to fit into, by sending machining code to their Homag Weeke CNC. Paul Kettleborough explains that operation can’t be performed on the Ergon. “As it’s notched out, we wouldn’t be able to put the panel through the linear movement on an edge bander…it just wouldn’t accept it. So we put it through as a rectangular piece which gets edge banded on one edge, and as it’s neatly notched out for the profile on the Homag, the edge band stays intact. ALPHACAM is also used to produce any curved, complex shape and hardwood doors. All these programs are done solely with it.”
And ALPHACAM also indirectly drives a Koch machine tool, by working in tandem with CABINET VISION. “As the CABINET VISION files go to Screen-To-Machine it stores the programs in ALPHACAM, along with the position of the holes that need to be drilled horizontally. All holes, both on the main faces of the panels and the edges, are designed and placed there by CABINET VISION. I pull up the nested program in ALPHACAM, and those on the face are drilled by the Ergon. But I can also get the same file in a different format, which gives the hole sequence for that individual panel, and the horizontal holes are drilled on the Koch.”
Concluding, James Graves says another advantage of using CABINET VISION is that it means the company can give an accurate price for the job. “All materials and their price are in the system, so I can see at a glance how much each unit costs, and the price for the whole kitchen, right down to the screws. We can come in with a bottom-line figure to stay competitive. It’s a bespoke kitchen, but not a bespoke price.”