Screen to Machine – Factory Automation

The transition to CNC machinery using software which links design to production continues to be one of the greatest labour saving avenues for all sized manufacturers.  One of the leading international software developers in this field is Cabinet Vision. Sold and serviced in New Zealand by Phil Smith through his company Joinery IT, Cabinet Vision offers a range of product levels to suit the small cabinetmaker through to those needing more advanced modelling technology. JOINERS Magazine spoke to several manufacturers who have purchased and are using Cabinet Vision about the effects it has had on their business. Cabinet Vision modules range from Solid Essential, which is aimed at entry level design and manufacture for small custom kitchen shops, across a number of modules to Solid Ultimate, top of the range software with advanced capabilities allowing you to take advantage of advanced solid modelling technology.

With Solid Essential as the drawing front end, users are able to produce high quality renderings, design their own library of cabinets and easily and quickly create assemblies and send production information to the shop floor.

Even at entry level Cabinet Vision allows the cabinetmaker to begin automated manufacturing by connecting with the CNC machine. Combining everything into one program helps reduce the need to be using multiple programs on one job. Intelligent small parts handling with nesting gives greater control of a jobs components and integrated labelling and reports ready those components for edging and assembly.

We spoke to several New Zealand manufacturers who have purchased Cabinet Vision about the sale process, the software’s performance and the service and backup from its Kiwi reseller.

When Mike Hill who owns Betta Kitchens in Greymouth decided early this year that he wanted to change his set up to nesting he chose an AscentPro CNC flatbed router from W & R Jacks and opted for Cabinet Vision as the operating software. He chose Solid Standard which is a couple of levels down from the top of the range but suitable for his needs and budget, with the potential to upgrade in the future.

“I chose Cabinet Vision after using it for a trial period because I really liked its flexibility which fits in with the varied nature of my work and where I want to take it in the future.” says Mike.

“I am using it from design to production and although being new to nesting and design software found I was reasonably competent within a couple of months. Once you have your library set up and start to build its contents, it is very easy to simply select what you want from that library. Phil Smith and Jason Chittenden (technical support) were a great help in setting this up for me, they are very professional and know their product really well. Phil set the system to suit my production requirements and Jason is always available on the phone and any queries have quickly been fixed via TeamViewer.

“The time saving in my production has been massive, I am really noticing not having to do things like designating drill and hinge positioning which is now all done for me. The software also makes for good marketing, with great visuals for my clients making their selection and decision making easier while giving me a more professional image.

It was definitely the way for me to go, it has improved my setup and also increased the scope of what I am comfortable with – I no longer feel a little perturbed when someone wants more complex designs involving curves and shapes.

Peter Robertson of Joinery Concepts in Christchurch had been looking at nesting for some time and made the move in April when he purchased a Biesse Skill CNC. He decided to go with Cabinet Vision because he had a staff member who had had some experience with it and liked it, but more importantly believed that Joinery IT could provide the after sales service and support that he knew would be required.

This has proved to be the case. “Phil and Jason pick up the phone when you ring – that alone is a good start and their service both by remote viewer and on site has been excellent in assisting me through the early stages.”

Peter uses the programme personally and believes he is about half way to understanding or utilising it fully. “It’s really about time in the seat to work out what you need from the programme.”

He uses it from design through to production. “I used to do a pen and ink sketch for clients but now am able to simply do a quick sketch in PhotoVision. If the client accepts the design then I go back to fi ll in the details and in half an hour to an hour it is all done and ready to go. This saves immense time and really helps in the selling process – people need to visualise and they look at these design drawings and go – WOW yes please.

“I find the manner in which major suppliers hardware is available from the library very good – if you use Blum click on a button and there is Blum’s range of products, if you use Hettich or any of the other major brands it’s the same  – all there at the click of a button.

“It is also very easy to back track to check details or make changes everything is easily seen on the digital file, a lot easier than going back to check and redraw plans. And every job done increases and improves your library.

“The nesting set up has made huge improvements to our productivity and fully justified our move in terms of expenditure,” says Peter.

“The machine itself is obviously a major part in this but you have to get the information to the machine and I am very pleased we chose Cabinet Vision and Joinery IT to do this.”

Mike Pollett from Pollett Furniture in Napier has been running their CNC set up a little longer, they purchased an ICAM flat bed router about 4 years ago and for the first year ran it with a standard CAD drawing product but found it slow and labour intensive.

“Everything required drawing, placing and often redrawing, with Cabinet Vision everything is preset to the way you want it and the way you manufacturer.

“We chose Cabinet Vision because we wanted a real screen to machine package, Cabinet Vision had the versatility for the type of product and the production runs we deal with in commercial furniture.

“Back up was very important to us. With lots of variation in production we often need advice, sometimes just on small things such as a quirky corner on a piece of furniture. Our designers find it easy dealing with Jason online for things we can’t figure out. He is always available and with TeamViewer most issues are quickly solved.

“It is a good selling tool we have all the melteca colours in our library and are able to deliver real drawings to our clients very quickly for their approval or consideration.

“Our products are fairly complicated so the learning curve for our designers was not easy they probably took 6 months to become really competent. Also furniture hardware and componentry don’t feature in the preset library to the same extent as kitchen products and suppliers do, so we had to draw much of our own product and componentry. Joinery IT were invaluable in assisting us in building this resource.

“For us it has been a good programme and a necessary move to stay competitive in the market.  I would recommend it and the Joinery IT team. Their ongoing servicing has been fantastic, Jason is always available to give help whether it’s a couple of minutes via phone, or TeamViewer to solve a small issue or spending a session with a new staff member who needs to be bought up to speed on Cabinet Vision.