HANNOVER, GERMANY - The joinery trade is undergoing radical change as computer-aided production systems increasingly support or even replace traditional work processes and structures.
The process began with the adoption of CAD technology for product design and is now entering the next phase as more and more joiners save on manual labor by investing in CNC processing stations. Even smaller operations are beginning to turn to CNC systems, which help them to deliver on the most exacting customer specifications and produce custom furniture and joinery quickly and at highly competitive rates. The speed with which CNC technology is penetrating the joinery sector is increasing too, as increasingly compact and versatile systems reach the market.
Next year, from 11 to 15 May, the LIGNA fair in Hannover (Germany) will showcase the full range of all the latest CNC systems. The thousands of tradespeople visiting the show – people who are used to working with conventional machines – will be looking for CNC machines that are easy to operate, come at a manageable cost and add real value to their operations. The concerns tradespeople used to have about CNC systems are now a thing of the past. Today,
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they can choose from a huge selection of machine concepts featuring intuitive operator interfaces and entry-level models for just about every conceivable application. They also benefit from the decades of experience that CNC machine manufacturers have gathered in the industrial sector, where this technology has long been an integral part of the processing chain and has reached a high level of maturity.
CNC technology has progressed considerably in recent years. Today’s users can choose three-, four- or even five-axis processing centers that are capable of handling both panel products and solid wood. The machines can perform a wide range of tasks, from simple operations, such as drilling holes for dowels, brackets and shelves in kitset furniture parts, to complex operations, such as profiling or profile milling.
The end product can be anything, from basic chipboard sheets with precision-drilled holes, to window components, to complex three-dimensional parts or models. The possibilities are limited only by the number of axes, the configuration of the aggregate and, of course, the designer’s imagination. The sheer versatility, range and affordability of the CNC processing centers available on the market today mean that the skilled trades, too, can begin to reap the benefits of a technology that opens the way to low-cost processing of highly customized orders.
For example, drilling heads with over 30 drill spindles and a slot milling cutter – some of them horizontal, some vertical, and all capable of swiveling – give joiners and cabinetmakers maximum flexibility and eliminate time-consuming tool changes. The capabilities of these sorts of product- or application-specific modular solutions can be further extended by the use of additional aggregates.
Some large machining centers even feature in-line edge-banding aggregates, for example. External tool changers can be added to further boost machine capacity; hollow shank taper tool holders can be fitted to minimize radial run-out and reduce set-up times; and workpieces can be positioned using either vacuum clamps, collet chucks or moveable clamping tables, depending on the system. Needless to say, all positioning operations are fully automatic and software-controlled.
The trend towards all-in-one systems that is gaining traction in nearly all areas of technology is also filtering through to CNC machining centers for joiners and cabinetmakers. There are already multifunctional machining aggregates on the market that combine drilling, sawing and milling functionality, not to mention multiple-clamping systems for frame parts and narrow workpieces. Joiners and cabinetmakers will also be pleased to learn that there are plenty of space-saving options on the market. The most compact vertical CNC machining centers, for example, have a footprint of less than 5 square meters. Moving from the physical to the virtual plane, design and machine set-up processes are increasingly merging to create a continuous data flow from a single source. The latest programming systems even have a CAD plug-in that is 3D-capable. Even better, the user interfaces on the latest computer-controlled processing centers have come a long way since the early days and are super-easy to use, even for the less technically minded. Setting up a machine for production is as simple as letting an interactive software assistance tool guide you through a series of easy-to-use touchscreen functions.
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CNC technology will soon be a standard feature of joinery and cabinetmaking workshops – just as circular saws are now. CNC centers are much more flexible than their older standalone counterparts, plus they offer far greater efficiency and much shorter processing times. What’s more, there are now plenty of entry-level CNC options that are within the financial reach of small cabinetmaking and joinery firms. There has never been a better time for joiners and cabinetmakers to upgrade their machinery and take their business to the next level. And LIGNA 2015 is the perfect place to find out how to go about it.
Deutsche Messe AG
With revenue of 312 million euros (2013), Deutsche Messe AG ranks among the world’s ten largest trade fair companies and operates the world’s largest exhibition center. In 2013, Deutsche Messe planned and staged 119 trade fairs and congresses around the world – events which hosted a total of 41,000 exhibitors and some four million visitors. The company’s event portfolio includes such world-leading trade fairs as CeBIT (IT and telecommunications), HANNOVER MESSE (industrial technology), BIOTECHNICA (biotechnology), CeMAT (intralogistics), didacta (education), DOMOTEX (floor coverings), INTERSCHUTZ (fire prevention and rescue), and LIGNA (wood processing and forestry). With over 1,000 employees and a network of 66 representatives, subsidiaries and branch offices, Deutsche Messe is present in more than 100 countries worldwide.
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