CNC Router produces wood box forms, bringing in-house control to a past problem
The Jordan Box Company
The Jordan Box Company, located in Syracuse NY, has been a leading manufacturer of paperboard packaging and related products for over 100 years. They specialize in make-to-order, set-up, (rigid) boxes and folding boxes designed to meet the specific requirements of each customer. Due to a variety of manufacturing equipment, their production department can efficiently produce orders of less than one hundred or over one hundred thousand. Many of their boxes are produced on equipment which are among the most technologically advanced box-making machines in the world. Other products are crafted by highly skilled workers averaging over 16 years of experience. The partnerships they have with many of their customers go back decades, even as far back as 1901
The Earlier Days
Marty Fennel, president of the company, says the production begins with building wooden forms to the size of the box and lid to be produced. The highly skilled craft woodworker would start by cutting and sizing wooden blanks to the proper dimensions. He then moves onto drilling vent holes and mounting holes, which are essential to the forming process, allowing air to escape through the forms as the box forming machines rapidly bend and process the boxes and lids. From there the woodworker has to carefully notch the edges so that the forming machines’ rail guideways would fit precisely. This is critical, otherwise the forms would jam inside the machine causing downtime and/or damage to the forming machine. The process in making these forms by hand was long and tedious. Marty then sourced a local woodworking company that had a CNC Router (brand unknown) for his custom millwork and cabinet production to manufacture these forms. This yielded somewhat better results but there were still issues with the quality which required Marty’s skilled woodworker to make repairs. In addition, Marty found himself at the mercy of his supplier. Weeks would go by before he could get the forms. This was affecting his production and changes needed to be made.
Marty began researching CNC Routers– navigating through websites, trying to learn more about the technology, and what was involved in the process of programming and running such a machine. One company website he visited, Techno CNC Systems, offered free quote requests, which Marty completed while reading through the materials on the website. Shortly thereafter, Marty received a phone call from Tim O’Connor. Tim reviewed Marty’s application and production needs, power and software requirements, and quickly generated a quote while Marty was on the phone. As they continued to talk, emails were exchanged with quotes and specifications on Techno’s HD Series model. Marty was very impressed with the responsiveness and knowledge of Tim O’Connor. He seemed to have an answer for everything, assuring Marty the ease of the process. Tim invited Marty to the Techno facility for a personalized demonstration.
A few days later Marty jumped in his car, loaded various materials he wanted to see cut, and off he went on a four hour drive to Long Island, NY to visit Techno CNC Systems facility in Ronkonkoma. Upon arriving he was greeted by Tim and the application engineers. They sat down, reviewed Marty’s production needs, analyzed the forms geometry, and listened to Marty’s production obstacles. Within minutes the Techno application engineer started drawing the form geometry in Vectric V-Carve Pro software and using the built-in programming tools, created all the NC Code the HD Series machine would need. They then proceeded to the production shop where Marty witnessed firsthand how to load the NC files and prepare the machine for cutting. They loaded the sheet of finish plywood Marty brought with him, showed him how to find the start/origin point, and used the automatic touch off pad for zeroing the z-axis. They then turned on the vacuum pump, the dust extraction system, and finally hit cycle start. The machine immediately got to work routing the plywood at 600 in/min and, within minutes, six different forms were completed. Marty could not believe what he was seeing. This process was simple.
Knowledge is Power and Profit
Marty had been spending $1750 for a set of four-piece forms. He could not believe how easy the drawing, programming, and cutting process was. Marty felt he had been robbed. He had spent years farming these forms out to a local supplier and wasn’t receiving good service while he was paying a premium. This was upsetting, but now he knew what he had to do. Marty needed a machine immediately. Tim O’Connor had quoted Marty a 48” x 48” HD model machine but this had a lead time of eight weeks, and Marty wanted something sooner. He asked Tim what Techno had available, and a 4ft x 8ft machine could be ready in three weeks. Marty opened his check book and immediately wrote the deposit check to allocate the machine to him.
Marty had returned to Syracuse and was patiently waiting for his machine when he soon learned someone had told his vendor he bought a router. The vendor was so upset he refused to finish or cut any more forms for Marty. This was a problem. Marty had committed to producing a large volume run of boxes and needed the forms for this job. If his vendor was not going to supply them and he wasn’t getting his new Techno machine for 3 weeks, how was he going to get them done? This would set his production back about a month. He immediately called Techno for help. They agreed to run the forms for Marty so that he could meet his customer’s delivery and stay schedule. The next day Marty, loaded his truck up with material and off he went back to Techno. Techno’s engineers spent the day, working and showing Marty how to program and cut dozens of different forms including the three inch glue ups, and helping Marty pin everything together. That afternoon, Marty was back on his way to Syracuse ready and able to fulfill his production needs.
Three weeks had come and gone and the new Techno HD Series CNC Router had arrived safely, was on his production floor, and up and running. It came equipped with a 4HP HSD high frequency spindle, a 4-zone vacuum table, a 10HP Becker rotary vane vacuum pump, and Vectric V-Carve Pro programming software, which Marty picked up during his production run at Techno. The HD Series machine is all steel constructed. It also has high powered NEMA 34 frame stepper (servo optional) gear motors that are direct drive to the precision helical rack and pinion. The machine controller is an easy-to-use hand held controller which only requires a few key strokes to operate, says Marty, which makes it easy for anyone in our shop to set up and run. The precision of this machine is key, says Marty. All the rework we used to do is history. These forms, as they come off the router, are perfect all the time, every time.
Marty initially programmed and ran the machine the first few weeks, to get the ball rolling, and to learn more about its capabilities. Marty, soon after, released the reigns and his daughter, Liz, now handles all the programming and setup, although Marty, at times, does return to build new prototypes. Since then, Marty upgraded his software to Vectric Aspire, where he has now sought assistance from Techno’s engineers once again. Marty is expanding his packaging into 3D forms. This is a new business venture and probably another story to be told in the coming months.
“Looking back”, Marty confides, “I wish I would have purchased a CNC sooner. Farming out the work was costly and stressful. Having the new Techno router in house gives us complete control of our production. We are getting better material yields and it’s made our production planning easy. In addition, we have been experimenting with new designs and using the router for other projects.”