A bespoke traditional joinery company operating at the high end of the woodworking market was recently involved in a major conversion project, turning the former offices of the Coventry Telegraph newspaper into a luxury 1970s-themed hotel.

LOL Summers Joinery’s work on the conversion included slotted headboards, panelling, bedside tables and wardrobes in 88 bedrooms, along with seating in 10 areas, and fittings for two bars and reception.

It is one of three companies in the woodworking industry owned by Lee Summers. The others are RHA Production, focusing more on fitted furniture, and five-axis routing, which serves the CNC requirements of the other two, as well as standing alone as an independent subcontractor.

“We provide bespoke, high-end traditional joinery, and have worked with universities and schools. We’ve also manufactured shopfronts for supermarket chains such as Tesco, the Co-Op and Sainsburys all over the country,” says Lee. While Summers Joinery was contracted for the hotel conversion, five-axis routing provided all CNC aspects for the component parts and drawing elements for approval. 

And, as the name of his CNC company suggests, Lee Summers believes wholeheartedly in the huge benefits of five-axis routing, compared to three-axis. All its machined components are cut on a Holz-Her Dynestic router, with a 2.2 x 4.6m bed and in- and out-feed tables, programmed with Alphacam Ultimate software. 

“That combination gives us the ability to do a variety of work without the need for specialist cutters. We produce key, high-end, complex shapes, accurately machined in the shortest possible time. So, we’re not looking to put ourselves in the same sector as the three-axis market,” says Lee.

“Alphacam is geared up for the ultimate bespoke manufacturer, which is us. Without it, we couldn’t do what we do. We started by using it for just a few hours every couple of days. Now it’s completely integrated into our processes and we work with it nine or 10 hours every day.

“Prior to investing in Alphacam we programmed the router with its proprietary software, which is excellent at what it does, but was too simplistic for our bespoke needs.”

The company has an experienced Alphacam programmer in Alex McCann, who uses its Automation Manager function to work on solid models from Autodesk Inventor, and automates processes through its range of advanced tools, including machining styles. In a conventional CAM system, each file would be processed individually by inserting the file, extracting the features, applying tool directions and toolpaths, saving the file and NC code, and then generating the required reports. 

Automation Manager carries out those repetitive tasks automatically. 2D and 3D CAD files, along with solid models from third-party software, are batch processed, from file preparation right through to applying toolpaths, with NC code being generated automatically.

Paul Nightingale

Lee’s points, both about five-axis cutting and Alphacam, are shared by Paul Nightingale, national sales manager for Holz-Her UK, who says: “Five-axis machining offers a world of possibilities – it returns a robust, flexible, direct-driven head with no need for aggregates. It saves on time because it’s easier than programming for aggregate use. And, as well as requiring fewer cutting tools, tool life can be extended, depending on the operation.”

He says the key for coming up with the correct package for five-axis routing was to understand their aspirations and pain points.

“We’re not just selling a machine tool,” he says. “We’re providing a complete solution, including software, training, and service back-up to remove the company’s pain and challenges, and deliver their goals in terms of quality, productivity, longevity, reliability, and return on investment.”

In Lee Summers’ case, those challenges had been customers demanding higher-quality parts with increasingly faster turnaround times.  

The issue had been whether they needed a pod and rail machine or flat bed. Working collaboratively with Lee Summers, Paul established that the Dynestic flat bed was the perfect solution for enhancing productivity within the company’s simplified production process, while maintaining a high level of creativity.             

Paul concludes by saying: “Being the go-to CAM package for the industry, Alphacam is the perfect CAM system to drive it. The software is extremely stable and exceptionally powerful, and works seamlessly with our open architecture, NC-HOPS. It fits perfectly with the synergy of top-quality machine and personnel at Summers Joinery.”