Like many small businesses, Woodcut Ltd (T/A Woodcut Components) was founded by one man with an ambition from a double garage. Now, some 15 years after its inception the woodworking specialists offer a complete variety of wooden products, furniture, commercial interiors, specialist machining services and even products for the defence industry.
The growth curve for the St Austell business really took shape when the business acquired its first CNC routing machine in 2012. It was this acquisition that opened new opportunities for the seven employee business. However, it was cutting tools from Tamworth cutting tool experts Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC) that really enabled the company to maximise the potential of the machine. As Woodcut Components Managing Director, Mr Richard Bate recalls: “We bought our first flatbed CNC routing machine back in 2012 and it opened the floodgates with work immediately flowing in. Despite being new to CNC routing, we have a range of other machines such as edge banders, panel saws, planers, lathes, spindle moulders and more; and from our wood machining experience, we knew that the tool life and performance was poor. Luckily, I discussed the situation with another local business and they recommended ITC cutting tools. We called ITC and we haven’t looked back since.”
The Cornish manufacturer switched out the existing cutting tools for ITC’s range of 180-20 straight flute solid carbide tools. “We instantly noticed that the ITC tools were a lot sharper, the geometries were more suited to our materials and the tool life was exceptional. We immediately benefitted from reduced tooling costs and changeovers based on the prolonged tool life of the ITC range. Added to this, the surface and edge finishes were far superior and didn’t require any secondary hand finishing.”
As the small business has evolved, so has the workload and the materials it is processing. Once again, the technical experts from ITC have been on hand to support the South West manufacturer. As Mr Bate continues: “Materials continually evolve as do our customers’ needs. Now, we are machining laminated MDF, fire retardant MDF, composite worktops and compact grade laminate. Many of these materials have extremely abrasive characteristics and this makes machining extremely challenging. If you don’t have the right tools, it can also be costly.”
A change in approach
About a year ago, Woodcut Components received an order for acoustic ceiling tiles for a commercial customer that wanted the tiles manufactured from a laminated fire retardant MDF board that was a specified Euro Class A material grade. The existing solid carbide tools were inappropriate for the abrasive grade and machining characteristics of the board, so Woodcut Components once again called upon ITC and their Technical Sales Engineer Sally Hunt. As Mr Bate says: “The job order was for over 300 tiles, each one measuring 1200 by 600mm that had to be cut from 10 by 4 foot boards with lots of 10mm wide grooves in each tile. The machining time for the entire project was over 3 weeks and we knew that to get the job finished on time and to the quality required, we had to once again investigate new tooling strategies. Luckily, Sally from ITC introduced us to their 2102 Series of PCD tipped cutting tools.”
“At the start of the project, we applied our existing solid carbide routing tools, but the abrasive nature of the material would burn-out a tool after machining five tiles. We knew that the tooling costs and time constraints would be costly without changing to the ITC range of PCD tools. Sally recommended the 2102 Series and we bought 10 tools, we only needed 5 to finish the entire project. The tool life was phenomenal. We went from one tool for every 5 tiles with carbide to 50 tiles with the PCD tool; it increased our tool life by 10 times. We machined the dimensions of the 12mm thick tiles and the 10mm wide groove features with an 8mm diameter PCD tool from ITC and the results were staggering. We even had 4 tools left over at the end of the project. Thankfully, the ITC PCD tools are very versatile and they are being used to machine all our abrasive material projects.”
The diverse range of products from ITC has certainly suited the needs of the St Austell business since it first started on its CNC routing journey. As Mr Bate concludes: “The diversity of our work always brings new challenges and new material types. ITC is always on-hand with technical support and a suitable product to get us through the challenges we face. Over the last 5 to 6 years, we have been regularly routing Tricoya particle boards and HDF (high density fibreboard) for exterior signage and cladding. From these boards we have been producing textured panels that require ball nose machining over the entire surface of the board. To do this, ITC has been on hand with 20mm diameter ball nose tools and tools with 50mm rads panel dish cutter. With ITC tools, we have improved tool life, surface finishes and routing performance, reduced costs and secondary hand finishing. We couldn’t be happier with the cutting tools and the technical expertise that is on-hand whenever we need it.”