Using CNC Routers in the Marine Industry with Rivers Edge Composites
By Maryann Valentine
Rivers Edge Composites opened in 2013 as a boat company, where Kristi primarily yearned to sell boats on the internet. Quickly, the pair learned that it was a little harder than expected, and began completing various projects for OEN boat manufacturers, instead. Kristi began learning about the demand in the composite industry, and began helping customers by making their own foam from two components. They would slice it down to sheets, put it on the CNC machines, and form it into parts for their marine customers. The pair started their careers using a small and basic CNC machine (basic garage built) but then decided they needed a more rigorous CNC machine in 2016. After extensive research and learning about the different CNC routers and companies across the U.S, Rivers Edge Composites invested in a CNC router from Techno CNC Systems. A few years later, Rivers Edge Composites was able to grow tremendously from utilizing their newest CNC router. The company purchased their second CNC router from Techno CNC in 2018 – a 60×120 Titan Series CNC Router.
Rivers Edge Composites now focuses on manufacturing parts for the composite industry. RiversEdge Composites produces standard urethane sheet foam products, custom preform urethane foam parts and Fiberglass Reinforced Panels (FRP) for a wide multi-industry market. Standard sheet foam stock offerings range in density form 2.5 pounds per cubic foot to 8 pounds per cubic foot. “We mainly manufacture composite preform stringers, like rib stringers for boats, for example. We’ve developed our own molds where we put material into these molds, and then shoot foam into them, creating a unique composite part. They all have more than one material added to them. We basically create this unique foam sandwich core which has fiberglass and resin within, which becomes a sandwich panel and becomes a composite.” These composites are used in the marine industry for manufacturers to use as a rib system for structural support between the deck and hall. This gives the boat structure and stability. Rivers Edge Composites utilizes their CNC routers to cut up the foam sheets and panels into particular shapes. “We get a computer file from our customers, and then we take that to manipulate it to get a cut file. We then import it in to the CNC’s and cut the part from there. Everything is custom work, since everyone’s boats are different.” CNC routers are great for these projects because after the company cuts off on boat model, the CNC allows for the same programming from kit to kit. There are no variations far of what they are actually cutting.
“Before we had CNC equipment, we would do everything by hand. We would cut a pattern and use a jig saw to cut it out. We quickly learned that there is a lot of human error by doing it this way, and we needed a machine that would give us a precise and accurate cut every single time. Before investing in CNC equipment, these composite parts would take us atlas three times as long as they take us now. Now, we are able to take on a lot more work. We are more productive, due to our CNC machines. We are able to be precise and accurate, and give our customers identical composites. We have eliminated human error, entirely. Now, the parts are cut the same every time. There is no variation from part to part. From a GC standpoint, you want something that will be repetitive, and the CNC allows us to do that”.
Rivers Edge Composites now has a ton of architectural customers, as well. They sell the fiberglass sandwich panels to these customers, as well. “Our primary business is the marine industry. Where we live also gives us a ___ on our competition, because we lives close to major boat companies like Boston Whaler, Edgewater Power Boats, Everglades, Bluewater Dynamics, etc. There are four major boat companies within a 10 mile radius from our offices, and another 2-3 major marine companies close by as well (Nartique in Orlando, FL, etc).
“We’ve recently cut a stringer system for a 60 foot boat. This was an amazing project to take on. We do four of those types of kits per year, and they are abstract. The boats are mastic! We utilize the CNC machines to complete projects like this. They are very specific as to how those parts have to be cut, since we cut them in pieces and then assemble everything together.” The project consists of a multi-layer stringer system where employees at Rivers Edge Composites cut multiple pieces the same, and then glue them all together. Since the boats are so massive, the parts have to be cut in multiple sections for better results. “If we didn’t have our Techno CNC routers, we wouldn’t be able to do any of this. There is no possible way to do it”.
Right now, Rivers Edge Composites can take on about 2-25 kits were week using the CNC routers. The CNC routers do not take up a ton of floor space, either, allowing the company to utilize their building for other areas of business, as well. “Pre-form takes up a ton of floor space. If you aren’t doing those often and getting repetitive molds on them, they tie up a ton of real estate. The CNC’s allow us to just cut the pieces and ship them out. The less space you take up producing a kit or a part, the better off you are and the more money you are saving in shop space”.
Overall, Rivers Edge Composites has had a wonderful experience incorporating CNC technology into their marine business. “Our Techno CNC routers have increased our productivity, quality, through put, accuracy, time management and much more. We have also been able to pay our employees more. We believe in taking care of our people. The CNC routers allow us to pay higher salaries because someone that has the skill to run the CNC routers deserves a higher wage. We can give our employees a better quality of life, which is extremely important to our company”. Rivers Edge Composites plans on building and growing their current customer base to help grow their company in the future. They also hope to get into different industries, like the architectural and aerospace industries.