As the commercial woodworking industry moves further away from handcutting, Ashley Martin Ltd., a leading manufacturer of bespoke joinery in Ireland, says Alphacam machining software is vital in maintaining job satisfaction through traditional creative skills.
Ashley Martin Shopfitting, which is based in Inishowen, County Donegal, produces specialised shop display units for pharmacies, fashion houses, and cosmetic companies such as Clarins, Estée Lauder and Smashbox.
Design manager Gerard Gill says they use market leading Alphacam to drive their Homag Optimat BHP 200 CNC router, and their Holzma Optimat HPP 350 beam saw. “It has become an integral part of our development to a streamlined manufacturing process. Alphacam arranges the tooling and generates the toolpath CNC codes for the Homag, considerably reducing labour time for our workforce.”
He says this leaves them free to concentrate on the creative side of their work, leading to increased job satisfaction. “The machine is just another tool and craftsmen have always used tools. The industry’s skillset is changing, and thanks to Alphacam the production process is dramatically speeded up, so our skilled craftsmen see their creative ideas come to life much quicker. Our shop floor craftsmen who used to cut things by hand, are equally at home using Alphacam because it reduces the time they take to do a job, and their skill and craft is still very much to the forefront of everything we do, especially at the start of a project where their creative input is vital.”
He says they would not be able to produce the individual elements for display units within the customers’ timescales without Alphacam. “Our craftsmen put their creative thoughts in at the start of each project, looking at how the unit can be broken down into component parts, and instead of having to spend a long time cutting every piece by hand, they move on to the next creative task while the machine does the cutting.”
Ashley Martin undertakes a considerable amount of graphic design and branding using the Autocad and Pytha CAD systems, for the units they manufacture, before importing the designs into Alphacam for nesting and creating the CNC codes. “Our craftsmen sit down with CAD technician Paddy Doherty (pictured far left, with Gerard Gill) to work out what parts a unit needs and what the shapes should be. Once the design is broken down into the individual components the CAD operator drops them into Alphacam, nests them onto sheets if required, and sends the CNC code to the machines via the server for tooling and manufacture.”
Then CNC operator Martin O’Connor (pictured right) receives a pop up message on his machine telling him the job is ready. He selects the appropriate program and sets the machine up ready for the production run.
Alphacam ensures that the Homag CNC router provides accurate cutting every time, and gives Gerard Gill confidence that the increasingly complex shapes, including curves, awkward cuts and holes, that he is now being called on to produce, will always be perfect. “If we were cutting by hand we’d need templates, and that wouldn’t guarantee absolutely identical results, time and time again.
“I remember the time when we did use templates laid on the floor to mark out the shapes, and then they each had to be cut very carefully. Without Alphacam it would be like the dark ages. We’ve become so dependent on it that it’s just the norm now.”
While the Homag focuses on the bespoke, complex items, the Holzma beam saw carries out quick, bulk cutting of mainly straight forward, standard, elements, and is also driven by Alphacam. “Whether it’s a straight forward item cut on the Holzma, or a complex item produced on the Homag, the CNC program is stored in our library, so we can readily pull it out to use as the basis for new parts. Alphacam means we don’t have to start from scratch every time.
“Alphacam is the connection between our CAD system and machinery. It translates the design into the final product and improves our efficiency by producing quick and accurate tooling and CNC coding for the best possible material utilisation. We’ve been using Alphacam for ten years and haven’t found anything that equals it.”
Ashley Martin has been in business for around 25 years, originally producing kitchens before moving on to bar fitments, and now concentrates solely on shop fitting, with 45 employees. As the company grows, Gerard Gill knows that Alphacam will continue to provide full efficiency in the machine shop, ensuring they will be able to manufacture increasingly complex parts on any additional machines in the future.
“The fact that Alphacam can post process CNC codes to machines from all manufacturers across all cutting technologies, is vital to us. It already provided an absolutely seamless switch from driving our old Biesse machine to the new Homag router and Holzma beam saw.”