The installation of a new Rover A Edge 1632 at Gopak is proving that Biesse really does have the edge when it comes to the machining and edgebanding of intricate shapes. Since the new routing and edgebanding machine arrived at Gopak’s facility in May, the company has experienced a marked improvement in efficiency and finishing quality, along with dramatic reductions in waste for its Enviro range of tables and benches. 

For decades, Gopak has been furnishing business premises, classrooms, canteens, libraries, community centres and other spaces with tables, benches and chairs, made by the skilled manufacturing team at its Kent facility. The firm also makes Enviro tables and benches under licence and in recent years, this range has become increasingly popular with early learning establishments and primary schools. The appeal of this furniture, which comprises an unwelded aluminium frame and a corrugated core board with a laminated surface, lies in its high load-bearing capacity and intricate shape options – daisies, keyholes, triangles and kidney shapes are all possible. 

“In younger years education there is increasing emphasis on enhancing the learning experience through the environment,” explains Gopak’s operations director, Damien Hickie. 

“The Enviro range is ideal for this, as it offers scope for creating fun, appealing schemes with different themes, shapes and colours. In this context, the Enviro range is contributing an ever-increasing percentage of Gopak’s overall sales, so it was essential that we invested in this area to future-proof growth.” 

Edgebanding is the most challenging aspect of manufacturing this type of furniture; a straight line edgebander cannot follow the contours, therefore a shaped edgebander is required. Up until that point, Gopak was relying on a 12-year-old machine, but rework had reached an unacceptably high level. 

“The quality of the joins was letting us down. We were having to remove and reapply one in every 20 edgebands because the closure wasn’t correct, which was costing us time and money,” explains Damien. 

“Blown away” by Biesse

Gopak visited the W Show at the NEC and admits to being “blown away” by the Rover A Edge on Biesse’s booth. The machine was equipped with Ray Force technology – a cutting-edge solution that uses infrared technology to apply shaped edges on panels without glue. 

“We were blown away by what we saw. A Biesse representative explained the Ray Force system and we could see that this was a company at the forefront of machining technology. That got us thinking,” recalls Damien. 

Gopak obtained two quotes for comparison and asked both companies to provide samples. 

“On some tables, we apply a 32mm edgeband on a 90-degree corner. The other company struggled to get a good finish on this – the samples they provided weren’t really acceptable, whereas the boards we sent to Biesse came back perfect,” says Damien. 

Gopak was also impressed with how the Biesse sales team handled the quotation.

“Usually, machine suppliers give you a price for everything you need plus everything you don’t, and you have to wait ages for the actual quotation. Biesse’s sales team came to our site and we discussed what was required and which options were valuable. They didn’t try and oversell or ‘over-spec’; they recommended a three-axis rather than a five-axis spindle, for example. They ‘built’ the machine specification during the meeting and supplied a quote there and then. That was an important selling point,” says Damien. 

This discussion steered Gopak towards a Rover A Edge 1632 edgebanding CNC centre, which is capable of producing shaped, edgebanded panels on a single machine. Ray Force was pre-enabled on the machine so that Gopak has the option of adding this system at a later date. Gopak also opted for Biesse’s EPS (Electronic Positioning System) on the pod & rail machine, which provided a significant step up in efficiency versus the manual pod placement that was necessary with its incumbent CNC.

“We were blown away by what we saw. A Biesse representative explained the Ray Force system and we could see that this was a company at the forefront of machining technology. That got us thinking”

Automatic pod placement

The EPS system is regarded as “the market-leading technology for automated table set-up”. 

EPS configures the whole working area in as little as 20 seconds, with the positioning of each pod and rail performed automatically by independent servo motors. This allows fast and accurate set-up and changeovers that help to improve productivity and reduce operator errors. 

“On our other CNC, every time we want to process a different-sized board, the operator has to move the pods manually, which is time-consuming and introduces the risk of human error. With the EPS system, by the time the operator has fetched the next board, the pods have moved into the right position. This massively increases efficiency,” says Damien. 

Gopak has also realised efficiency gains through the aggregate head for trimming and scraping, which delivers an immaculate finish so there is no need for secondary hand finishing. 

“We were having to hand finish because the trimmer and scraper couldn’t achieve the final finish. This wasn’t ideal from an efficiency or a health & safety perspective. With the Biesse machine, there is no hand-finishing requirement and we are getting an improved finish,” says Damien. 

In addition, the use of a rounding cutter to remove the excess material on 90-degree corners decreases cycle time. 

IoT platform supports reliability

With service support a key priority for Gopak, the preventative maintenance capabilities and dynamic part ordering system available through Biesse’s SOPHIA IoT platform were a major selling point. 

“As we make to order, it is really important that we do not let customers down. With previous machines, we have had breakdowns and had to wait four days for a response. SOPHIA proactively identifies any potential issues rather than waiting until something fails, giving us confidence that the machine is being monitored,” says Damien. 

“SOPHIA also incorporates a part ordering system that is directly related to the machine’s serial number, so our maintenance manager can go into the parts system and instantly cost and order any part applicable to our machine model. This makes spare parts ordering so much more streamlined.”

A visit to Biesse’s factory in Pesaro, Italy, for final acceptance tests, reassured Gopak that the decision to invest in the Rover A Edge was the right one. 

“The factory ran like clockwork and everyone who worked there just oozed passion,” enthuses Damien. 

A top job

A week later, the machine was delivered to Gopak’s premises in Hythe, Kent, and is now up and running, producing tops. As part of the installation, Biesse provided three expert engineers to commission the machine and deliver training. 

“This ensured that the router was set up to our exact specification, and that our Enviro team are empowered with an in-depth understanding of how to programme the machine,” says Damien. 

The new machine is running alongside Gopak’s existing CNC-edgebander and is already boosting output and reducing waste. 

“Producing table and bench tops of perfect quality and finish every time has led to a significant reduction in the number of tops being rejected in the manufacturing process. Previously we were having to rework one in 20. Since installing the Rover A Edge, our scrap analysis has shown the machine has produced no waste whatsoever. We are made up with the quality of the joins. Having used an alternative edge banding machine for over ten years it is clear that the Biesse Rover A really does have the edge,” concludes Damien.

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