Looking for Opinions - Production Cutting for RTA Furniture.

Sourwould

Taylor
User
Sitting at home a lot has got me thinking about RTA furniture. CNC seems like the natural way to do something like this, even though I know absolutely nothing about CNC (kind of seems like magic). I've been farting around making some prototypes and scale drawings. Everything is pretty boxy/modern/vaguely danish. Simple construction with a lot of off the shelf parts. If I were going to go the RTA route, I think the Lamello plastic connectors look like a good way to go. I'm imagining something semi-bespoke, mix and match finishes, small/limited batch. To be clear, the CNC is something I'd want to farm out to a local. I'm not really that interested in getting into CNC and I'm pretty certain I don't have the space anyway.

So I'm looking for some insight from y'all. What's involved in going from a model/full scale prototype/scale drawing, to whatever cad/computer file is needed to make the magic CNC work? Is this something the CNC machine owner would do? At what scale of production does this start to be worth the trouble? 25, 50, 1000 units?

I'm happy to hear anyone's opinion on this. Or even if you just have opinions on RTA or sheet goods furniture in general. This is just something that's been kicking around in my brain lately.
 

creasman

Jim
User
I know almost nothing about CNC but I did get a chuckle out of your description, "boxy/modern/vaguely danish". Might want to farm out the marketing end as well :) . Hope it works out.
 

Robb Parker

Robb
Corporate Member
Be careful of your connectors with "Bespoke" cabinets or furniture. Do your homework there as there are many and most do not lend themselves to that type of work, ie, Lamello, Lock dowel, rafix etc etc. They tend to be flimsy at best and most show a large footprint somewhere. Think Ikea.

If you cannot provide a CAM ready program from your CAD drawings, expect an engineering charge at minimum of $75.00/hour to convert from screen to machine. In our case, that conversion belongs to us, not the customer. We run a large 4x10 Homag CNC, the cost per hour is has as much to do with material handling as machine time, normally runs $125-200.00/ hour. We can easily cut 30-50 4x8 sheets a day, depends on many factors, ie flip operations (most RTA fastners require) complexity of parts, size of parts (onion skinning) etc.

Hope this helps.
 

Sourwould

Taylor
User
Thanks for your input Robb.

My main interest in the Lamello connectors was being able to cut test pieces with my biscuit cutter at home.

I assume you retain the drawings to keep people from shopping the drawing around?

How much work can the machine do for you in one shot? Can you cut parts, drill system/drawer runner holes, cut connector slots (assuming this is all on one side of the sheet)? Or are you looking at setting up the machine for each operation?
 

kserdar

Ken
User
If he has a Homag - he probably has an ATC (Automatic tool changer).
Most likely has a wide range of tooling available.

If he has good software (for the price of that machine, it better be) will do a lot of the work for him.
 

mdbuntyn

Matt
Corporate Member
Peter Millard, London-based cabinetmaker, has used the Lamello connectors for client built-ins. Check out his Youtube channel
 

Robb Parker

Robb
Corporate Member
Taylor, We keep all drawings and engineering on our mainframe. Always available to our customers that they were produced for. We use use Mozaik for our panel processing, it produces a complete panel including blind dados, system holes for hardware, construction holes, decorative hardware holes, blind dovetails, connector slots and holes etc.

Once sheet is loaded on the spoil board we do not touch it as 12 tool ATC is fully loaded with Onsrud tooling until parts are completely processed. Usually in 6-9 minutes. Machine also has 15 block drill head separate from the spindle, much faster than drilling with the spindle. The only time the machine stops is if there are "flip operations" which require the sheet to be turned over. For specialty work, we use Vectric and Woodwop. As I said, material handling, labeling and sorting can take as long to panel processing. There is no setting up the machine except the one time design work, then it is all automatic, screen to machine. Optimizing and gcode is automatically generated.
 

gator

George
Corporate Member
As far as
scale of production', I would think you would have to think in the THOUSANDS (plural). Think IKEA. You would have to bring your total cost (material, machine time, packaging, packing, warehousing etc) down to approx 50% of your retail price.

George
 

Willemjm

Willem
Corporate Member
For a profitability project, this is not feasible for the small shop, without the infrastructure needed to go from prototype to full upscale automated mass production.

That said, Asian produced furniture which is what we see in the market mostly, has experienced significant price increases. It is getting to the point where I personally can again compete with custom builds.
 

tri4sale

Daniel
Corporate Member
For initial design and prototyping a home based CNC operator could help. If you are designing in sketchup, there are ways to convert that to CNC ready files. Once you've got the basic design down and can produce repeatedly on a CNC machine, then if you were trying to go high volume you'd need a bigger production shop. It really depends on your volume. A one off job the cost for design and production probably isn't worth it. But the nice thing about CNC work, is once the design is done, that cost factor is fixed, so the more you make, the more design cost per produced item goes down.

I've got a full size CNC (4'x8') if you'd like to PM we can discuss your designs and see how hard it would be to get into production.
 

blackhawk

Brad
Corporate Member
Taylor - I run a CNC as a side business. A CNC shop needs a 2D vector file to create the toolpaths. A vector file contains true lines and curves, not pixels. The most typical vector formats are DXF, DWG, and EPS. Any CAD package that I have ever used will export DXF files. I don't use Sketchup, but I have read that the Pro version will export DXF files. The CNC shop will then use the vector file to create their toolpaths and make their cut files for their particular machine.
 

Sourwould

Taylor
User
Taylor, We keep all drawings and engineering on our mainframe. Always available to our customers that they were produced for. We use use Mozaik for our panel processing, it produces a complete panel including blind dados, system holes for hardware, construction holes, decorative hardware holes, blind dovetails, connector slots and holes etc.

Once sheet is loaded on the spoil board we do not touch it as 12 tool ATC is fully loaded with Onsrud tooling until parts are completely processed. Usually in 6-9 minutes. Machine also has 15 block drill head separate from the spindle, much faster than drilling with the spindle. The only time the machine stops is if there are "flip operations" which require the sheet to be turned over. For specialty work, we use Vectric and Woodwop. As I said, material handling, labeling and sorting can take as long to panel processing. There is no setting up the machine except the one time design work, then it is all automatic, screen to machine. Optimizing and gcode is automatically generated.
Thanks so much for all this info and letting me take a peak into they way your business is done. This is a wealth for me, coming from only having a shaky idea of what CNC is.

As far as
scale of production', I would think you would have to think in the THOUSANDS (plural). Think IKEA. You would have to bring your total cost (material, machine time, packaging, packing, warehousing etc) down to approx 50% of your retail price.

George
Honestly it seems worth it for pretty small batch, since the machine can far outpace what I can do in my shop. It's a John Henry situation. I think you have to make a product people want, and the RTA is just a way to get it to them. I feel like this kind of small scale designer manufacturing has been a thing in Europe for a while. I don't know if it would work in the US though. The market here for just about anything feels like a race to the bottom.

For initial design and prototyping a home based CNC operator could help. If you are designing in sketchup, there are ways to convert that to CNC ready files. Once you've got the basic design down and can produce repeatedly on a CNC machine, then if you were trying to go high volume you'd need a bigger production shop. It really depends on your volume. A one off job the cost for design and production probably isn't worth it. But the nice thing about CNC work, is once the design is done, that cost factor is fixed, so the more you make, the more design cost per produced item goes down.

I've got a full size CNC (4'x8') if you'd like to PM we can discuss your designs and see how hard it would be to get into production.
I haven't used sketch up with much success. When I want to draw something out I do it on paper to scale or do a full sized drawing on 1/4" ply :eek:. I did imagine trying to hook up with a hobbyist or cottage industry when I was brainstorming about this, rather than a big production shop. I'll shoot you a PM later today. I'm really pretty far away from doing anything with this idea, but I'm very curious how feasible it is.
 

tri4sale

Daniel
Corporate Member
You don't need it. Just use your regular email to contact tri4sale if he sends you his email or calls your cell phone and leaves a message.
or wait for tri4sale to send you a PM and start the conversation :) (so while a new member can't start a conversation they can receive a conversation from an existing member)
 

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