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Unitech Oxon

The high performance Biesse Rover B FT HD has transformed Unitech Oxon’s kitchen machining operation. The Banbury-based furniture manufacturer has streamlined its workflow to capitalise on faster machine times, enabling it to produce in three days what would previously have taken five days. Furthermore, thanks to the combination of a new factory dust extraction system and the T-JET feature on the Rover, the working environment is vastly improved. 

Customer: Unitech Oxon
City: Banbury
Country: United Kingdom
Product: ROVER B FT HD

Those in the surrounding area will know Unitech Oxon as a high end, bespoke kitchen and bedroom designer and manufacturer and may even have visited its factory showroom. But there is more than one dimension to this family-run business, which has been growing steadily since it was founded by Kevin Crouch over 20 years ago. As well as selling direct to the public, Unitech Oxon services a mix of trade customers, including retailers and fitters. In recent years, the company has also moved into the contract market, manufacturing kitchens for new housing developments.

In late 2022, the contract market was booming and the kitchen manufacturer needed a faster CNC machine to cope with demand. The most productive machine on the market today for nesting operations, Biesse’s high speed Rover B FT HD, was the obvious candidate.

Breaking boundaries
By rewriting the rules of machine design, Biesse has pushed out the boundaries of CNC performance to deliver a 30% faster cycle time with this machine. Biesse’s engineers have removed all the covers from the machine itself, instead housing the flat table in a self-contained enclosure with sliding doors for access. This provides a safe environment for operators whilst allowing machining speed to be ramped up safely. The machine’s motors, rails, racks & pinions have also been upgraded to cope with the extra inertia.

The Rover B FT HD has also been engineered to ramp up to the desired speed more quickly, with faster deceleration when turning into a corner. With an acceleration time of 10m/second, it reaches its programmed routing speed, up to a maximum of 128m/minute far sooner than the standard Rover B and other rival CNCs. That has a dramatic impact on overall cycle time.

We couldn’t have coped with the contract work we had without the Biesse Rover B FT HD - it provided us with a productivity boost when we desperately needed it,” says Kevin Crouch.

A productive streamlining exercise
Shortly after the installation of the new CNC, interest rates started to creep up, signalling the start of a slowdown in the property market. Anticipating the effect this would have on the contract side of its business, Unitech Oxon streamlined its CNC workflow to better utilise the Rover B’s productivity potential.

We had less work to process and a faster machine to process it. Instead of running the machine and extraction systems for five days a week, it made sense to compress all of our CNC work into three days, which would save considerably on running costs such as electricity and allow us to redeploy the excess labour elsewhere in the business,” explains Unitech Oxon’s head of sales and business development, Adam Watts.

For Unitech Oxon, the main challenge of moving to a three-day CNC operation has been keeping up with the machine, particularly from a preparation, loading and unloading perspective.

Because the machine itself is so quick, we have had to change the way we work. We have had to become more efficient at getting the panels on and off the machine and have essentially had to rethink the way we manage the workflow. We still run the factory five days a week - just more efficiently,” says Kevin.

Unitech Oxon works smarter with Biesse Rover B FT HD: Photo 1

Drilling into knowledge
Biesse has supported Unitech Oxon in this efficiency drive by equipping the Rover B with features including a 32 spindle drill block and showing operators how to use this bigger drill block to increase machine productivity.

Drilling can account for 60% of overall nesting time,” explains Mark Trapnell, the Biesse area sales manager who led this project. “For a company like Unitech Oxon, who are high speed nesting and turning out a lot of panels that require drilling, having the wrong number of drills in the drill block can slow the process right down.”

This is exactly what was happening at Unitech Oxon with its previous machine.

With our old machine, although we had a drilling block, we weren’t using it in an efficient way. Mark showed us how to use it properly - multi-drilling rather than pecking - and this changed the way we worked. Now, if we have a line of holes that need drilling, instead of drilling each hole individually, the drill block drops five drills down and drills five holes simultaneously,” says Adam.

He estimates that this shaves approximately one minute of drilling time per panel, which may not seem much, but adds up over the course of a day.

By the end of the day, this amounts to a time saving of up to an hour,” says Adam.

Cumulative savings
When this is combined with the time saved by the streamlined loading and offloading operation, up to two hours a day are accrued - and that doesn’t even take into account the faster processing time of the Rover B.

The time it takes to load a panel, to machine that panel, and to offload that panel is significantly faster than with our old machine,” says Kevin. “Previously, if we had screwed an operator’s feet to the floor and made him stand there all day long, he would have got 40 sheets of board across it. If we did the same thing with our new machine, we would get in excess of 60 sheets through the machine.”

Whilst Unitech Oxon doesn’t expect to be running at reduced capacity for much longer, when it does revert to a five day operation, it will stick with these production principles to ensure the efficiency is maintained.

Essentially, the Rover B has forced us to work smarter, which has given us the flexibility to accommodate ebbs and flows in the business,” says Adam.

Dealing with dust
At the same time as its investment in the Rover B, Unitech Oxon installed a new extraction system in the factory to improve the working environment.

The machining of MFC and MDF panels generates large amounts of dust, which has historically been an issue for the company.

When Unitech Oxon heard about the award-winning T-JET feature that is available as an add-on to the Rover B, it was excited about the prospect of seeing whether this dust mitigation solution could work alongside its new extraction system to contain dust.

With the old CNC there was an awful lot of dust left on the workpiece because as the router cut through the panel, dust fell into the channel,” explains Kevin.

T-JET: cleaning while machining
By cleaning the cut line as the dust is produced, Biesse’s T-JET offers a simple yet unique solution to this problem. A set of high pressured nozzles are mounted to the rotating c-axis and follows the cut line, dislodging any dust that has settled in the cutting channel. As soon as it becomes airborne, the dust is removed by the extraction system so that channels are clean and free from dust.

Cleaning whilst machining is a simple enough concept but designing a rotating air jet system that can keep up with the tool as it changes direction and turns corners is no mean engineering feat. In this respect, T-JET represents a breakthrough solution - an achievement that was recognised when Biesse received the IWF 2022 Challengers Award for T-JET.

With targeted dust collection at the point of production, no further cleaning of the flat bed is required. This supports Unitech Oxon’s efficiency gains as the operator can simply offload the panels and start the next programme straight away, rather than having to clean the bed between programmes using a vacuum cleaner or sweeping arm. From an operator perspective, T-JET mitigates the amount of residual dust that remains in the working environment.

Unitech Oxon says the combination of the T-JET and the new extraction system has created a vastly improved working environment.

It is a different workplace,” notes Kevin. “Previously there was dust everywhere - in the offices, on the computer screens. Assisted by the T-JET, the new extraction system has eliminated the issue of dust in the workplace.”

Stream A Smart: gaining an edge
On the back of its positive experience with the Rover B, Unitech Oxon has placed an order for a Stream A Smart edgebander equipped with Biesse’s innovative AR70 corner rounding unit.

Its aim is to enhance the finish on the doors it produces for the contract market whilst improving efficiency. Historically, edging was applied using coloured glues, which meant different colours for different boards. The new edgebander will facilitate the switch to a transparent PUR glue that can be used across all doors, resulting in a thinner, more moisture resistant glue line and a faster process.

The decision to change its approach to gluing came from attending a Biesse Edgebanding Masterclass. “Although I have been in the industry a long time, I am essentially self-taught - there is no ‘university of edgebanding’ - so it has been great to learn from Biesse. The team there has been generous in sharing its knowledge and has supported us in the implementation of its technology every step of the way,” says Kevin.

He adds: “The Rover B and the Stream A Smart are part of an investment strategy that will streamline the business and get us in the best shape to grow and move forward.”

We couldn’t have coped with the contract work we had without the Biesse Rover B FT HD - it provided us with a productivity boost when we desperately needed it.
Kevin Crouch Director
Unitech Oxon works smarter with Biesse Rover B FT HD: Photo 2
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