Those who remember the glory days of furniture manufacturing in High Wycombe will be no stranger to the names of E Gomme Ltd and Parker Knoll. The traditional upholstery of the latter goes back 150 years and the contemporary brand of Gommes has flown under the G-Plan banner since the 50s. Both are world-beaters, setting standards for style and design that meet the up-market needs of all those who have ridden the post-war boom providing upholstered furniture to relax on after a busy day at the office.
The manufacturing interests of both companies left the High Wycombe district some years ago, G-Plan for Melksham in Wiltshire and Parker Knoll for Riddings in the Derby Dales. RW Machines Ltd is a supplier to both businesses. CNC links with G-Plan began in 2010 when RW installed two big routers by Anderson at the Melksham factory, where precision standards were paramount for G-Plan in the optimisation of increasingly expensive raw materials as well as in underscoring the quality promise of the brand.
Through experiences at G-Plan, RW Machines’ CNC man, Brian Thomson, was able to bring Parker Knoll’s production person Kieron Greatorex fully up to date on the poor finishing consequences of cutting sofa frame components on a bandsaw. “I had already seen the downsides of bandsaws,” he says: “Irregular shapes and lots of handwork, screws and glue to make everything fit together properly. The Andi routers at G-Plan easily made the key point for nesting: it doesn’t matter whether the upholstery style is contemporary or traditional, the bits in the middle need to fit together properly,” he adds.
The sitting experience has been a focal point for Parker Knoll since founding father Frederick Parker established the business back in the mid 19th century. Today the team at Parker Knoll continues to work to the same core principles when introducing new designs to meet the needs of today’s consumer. Parker Knoll still leads the market for design, technology, fabric and materials in the production of beautifully crafted furniture for unparalleled comfort and timeless design.
A new Anderson Exxact Industrial model 1626 PT has also now been installed at Parker Knoll’s factory in support of the nesting ethos and cutting light density fibreboard panels two-up for sofa frames that fit together like jigsaw puzzles. This industrial scale CNC system was chosen for its ability to nest panels two deep – on occasions three – to a maximum of 60mm and at a processing speed of 20m/min.
The machine was supplied, of course, by RW Machines of Bicester; it was specified by Brian Thomson and bespoke-built by Anderson with twin 1600 x 2600mm tables and Fanuc servo drive motors. These ensure travel speeds of up to 80m/min in the X, Y and V axes and 24m/m in the Z axis for a stroke of 4500mm in the X, 3000mm in the Y and V axes and 250mm in the Z axis.
“One of the big advantages of this machine is the chromium steel floating pressure foot, which exerts an adjustable downward pressure on the panels to prevent movement,” explains RW’s Anderson specialist of 26 years, Brian Thomson. “The secondary Z axis enables very accurate and fast tool length setting and this is important because the tool must protrude the floating ring by the thickness of the panels to be routered plus 0.2mm to extend the life of the nested baseboard before it needs to be skimmed flush again.”
Another advantage is that the roller hold-down devices on Parker Knoll’s machine are fully automatic. They operate without need for manual adjustment – and that's regardless of whether the machine is routing to a single panel depth, or through multiple panels to its maximum depth. Holding workpieces down securely can be reliably achieved by the rollers and by clamping using the powerful vacuum system.
The new Parker Knoll machine is a real heavyweight, weighing in at a little over 20,000k. “These Exxact CNC machining centres are designed to handle heavy work loads,” says Brian, “and they set new standards in high speed machining precision.”
The combination of a very rigid base, steel welded cross-members inside the castings and a high output Fanuc servo system make this machine ideal for the Parker Knoll application. The webbed steel substructure remains rigid while cutting through all axes and the Anderson fixed bridge with moving tables format provides easy machine access for tool-changing as well as for maintenance and cleaning.
A Fanuc CNC controller is teamed up with an industrial-scale PC with a 40 gigabyte hard drive, which includes four axis controls with helical interpolation. Key features include fast corner functionality with high precision speed controls, cutter and tool compensation, plus automatic acceleration and deceleration.
The computer screen supports self-diagnostics with an automatic error code display and because the Exxact utilises industry standard G-code for function controls, easy interfacing is possible with all major CAD/CAM software and industry standard solid modelling packages.
Anderson Exxact speed and precision has been working well for G-Plan over the past two years and the new machine is settling in well at Parker Knoll. Kieron Greatorex is confident that with RW Machines’ backing, Parker Knoll can expect great things from the newly commissioned router, which he expects to be working at full capacity before the end of the year.
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