By Mark Alster
Kitchen cabinets are a central focus of modern home designs, as the kitchen is perhaps the most used room in the home. We cook, dine, socialize and entertain in our kitchens. The kitchen becomes the centerpiece of the home, and many of today’s open floor plans incorporate the kitchen into the primary living space. The cabinets are a focal point in any kitchen and must be both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Hardwood construction dominates high-end cabinetry, however, European influence and modern laminates provide affordable alternatives that offer an upscale look and feel.
Regardless of the material used, construction quality is of paramount importance, and each presents certain manufacturing challenges. In either case, correct tooling technology will assure the desired finish quality and optimal manufacturing efficiency.
Manufacturing wooden five piece cabinet doors meets the same raw material challenges traditional furniture makers face. The various wood species commonly used in cabinet manufacturing have different hardness ratings and grain structure, which must be addressed through proper tool design and operating parameters. Failure to design or utilize cutting tools, with respect to the cutting characteristics of the various wood species, will result in defects such as plucking, tearing, splintering of the workpiece and significant repair work or scrap loss. Add the fact that door components are generally manufactured across three different machines (moulder, shaper, tennoner), and the various tools must be accurate enough to provide mating joints which are both visually perfect and structurally sound.
Because of the primary components, including particleboard, surface laminates, and edgebanding, and the basic manufacturing process being accomplished using a CNC or saw and edgebander, European-style slab doors may seem easier to manufacture. However, challenges can still arise due to the quality of the particleboard, characteristics of the laminate, and style of edgebanding that is used. Common particleboard with a large-flake loose core can be very challenging to machine without plucking the core and adversely affecting the integrity of the banded edge. Modern laminates feature textured surfaces, made from wear resistance components, which are increasingly difficult to process. Finally, the banding process is becoming more critical, as manufactures strive to achieve a perfect, seamless edge between the laminated and banded surfaces.
Using tooling technology, the solutions are relatively simple, and evolve around one key principal; cutting pressure is the root cause of most cutting defects, including plucking, fuzzing, ripped grain, crushed grain and chipped laminates. Cutting pressure can be controlled through the proper application of cutting tool geometry.
The solution must begin with thoughtful tool design, which employs the correct cutting angles for the raw materials being processed. Generally speaking, the harder the workpiece, the lower the cutting angle must be in order to prevent pre-splitting and defects ahead of the knife. Achieving ideal cutter speed and chip-load is critical, as the velocity of cut and amount of material being removed are the keys to maintaining ideal cutting pressure and heat dispersion. Utilizing shear to slice through the workpiece lessens the “chiseling” effect of the knife while reducing cutting pressure and providing better internal support of the material being processed.
Continuous Improvement Focus
Tooling technology continues to increase production efficiency, through improvement in precision, design, sustainability and cutting materials. Leitz produces precision tooling systems, using advanced cutting materials and designs, which are both flexible and adaptable to meet modern production demands. We apply advanced cutting technologies in a manner which continuously improves the manufacturing process, by optimizing quality output and manufacturing efficiency. Moreover, we work to educate manufacturers as to the availability and proper implementation of current cutting tool technologies. Understanding how tooling can limit or accelerate your manufacturing efficiency is critical, as the investment in cutting-edge tooling technology will always return greater value to your bottom line.
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Mark Alster has been in the tooling industry for over three decades and is the Central North Regional Manager for Leitz. Mark is passionate about advancing the cutting tooling industry and applies his knowledge and twenty-two years of experience with Leitz to help Leitz customers implement industry-leading advancements. Mark currently serves on the AWFS Board of Directors.