Stanley Fu – Aluminium tectonics – CNC machine process (Computer Numerical Control)

When we went back to Ash and Lacy’s we were separated into three groups to look at the process of making cladding. The design team sends the design sheets electronically and also physically (also known as the design package). The design sheets gives information to the CNC machine so that it is able to cut a sheet to the correct size. Information includes batch number, size of panels, depth of router, drill bit, and so on.

There are two different materials the company commonly uses inluding a 2mm or 3mm thick aluminium sheet or an “Aluminium composite material” sheet (otherwise known as AMC). Although the company uses both materials, AMC is the preferred choice as it is cheaper, lighter, and a lot easier to handle compare to an aluminium sheet.An AMC sheet consists of two sheets of 0.5mm thick aluminum, bonded to a polyethylene or mineral core. The reverse of the sheet is routed to create a more crisp fold.

cnc machine cutting the sheet of metal

CNC machine cutting the sheet of AMC

The surface of the machine uses a vacuum so that the sheets won’t slide about when it’s being cut. When the design team sends the design sheets to the machine, small gaps are left out so that the parts that are cut out won’t slip away or move slightly when the sheet of metal is being cut. When the machine is finished a person then manually cuts the small gaps separating the parts to be used from the waste material. It is then checked and then handed over to the finishing team who puts it together.

workers cutting and adjusting the sheets of metal for cnc machine

workers cutting and adjusting the sheets of AMC after it’s been cut by the CNC machine

sheet after cutting to be put away

sheet after cutting to be stacked and handed over to the finishing team

• The CNC technology is fairly new to Ash and Lacy as both machine is about 4 years old
• The CNC machine made the whole manufacturing process much more efficient as it has saved the company time and money
• Before, the cladding were either done by hand with a saw or with a saw machine
• The drill heads use drill bits ranging from 4mm  to 6mm in size
• One machine has a 3-drill head mechanism while the other machine has one drill head and changes the drill bit as it goes along
• There are 2 machines there which are running 18 hours a day
• About 25 sheets are cut per machine per day. This could mean some projects take a few weeks to be finished
• There is normally one person assigned to each machine
• All materials are recycled and/or sold therefore ensuring a sustainable cost efficient process. When possible, the sheets can be reused again, although the company will avoid that as there is the question of storage

People included in the CNC group – Stanley Fu, Surika Dhuna, Kimran Farooq, Fran Chappalow

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