Branching into countertop fabrication

January 6, 2003
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With a collection of high-end building products such as Indian glass tiles, slate mosaics and stone/stainless steel combinations, Instile Stone Corp. has carefully monitored the design preferences of homeowners. And the company took this idea one step further with the creation of Concepts Instile in Rahway, NJ, which specializes in fabricating and installing stone countertops.

From the very beginning, the owners of Concepts Instile -- Uday Patel and Mahesh Patel -- sought to equip the fabrication shop with the latest in computerized stoneworking machinery. And with this in mind, they purchased a Maxima CNC stoneworking center from CMS/Brembana.

The Maxima is equipped with four axes, and it can perform a variety of functions, including routing, profiling, milling, polishing, inlaying, engraving and bas-reliefs. The machine can process slabs as well as cubic pieces, due to a Z-axis (vertical) stroke of 400 mm. Other features include an X-axis stroke of 3,600 mm and a Y-axis stroke of 3,000 mm. The fourth "C" axis, which was added as an option, has a rotation of 360 degrees.

To minimize the need for operator intervention, the machine features a 22-station tool holder magazine, and the tool changing occurs automatically.

Before programming of the Maxima begins, a template of the workpiece is created either in wood or paper. The dimensions of the template are then recorded on a digitizing table, where the user denotes the measurements around the perimeter of the workpiece with a remote unit. This data is transferred to a personal computer, and the software translates this information into a code that dictates the movement and tool changing of the Maxima.

Once the code is fed into the machine, it executes all phases of production virtually automatically without operator intervention.

To further streamline the templating and programming process, Concepts Instile has acquired an e-templating system to template with a digital camera.

Other equipment at the shop includes a bridge saw from Bombieri and Venturi of Italy. This saw has two worktables to increase efficiency and minimize downtime. Recently, the company also brought in a bed polisher from India.

Instile selected the Maxima after seeing it in operation at the Marmomacc exhibition in Verona, Italy, and after visiting several fabricators in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. The machinery was delivered in January of last year and they were running by February. However, Uday Patel said that regular production did not begin until March 15, and it took two to three months of trials to take full advantage of the machine's ability. "It's quite complex," he said. "It takes three months before you really learn it." Patel also said that the learning curve was shortened due to the company's experience operating fabrication shops at their locations in Atlanta, GA, and Charlotte, NC.

Slabs are maneuvered around the shop with two overhead cranes and lifting equipment from Wood's Powr Grip. Once fabrication of a countertop is completed, it is sealed with products from Bellinzoni.

Instile has eight men working in the department, including installers and machine operators, and it typically completes six to seven kitchens per week. Instile is looking to expand its fabrication shop in the coming year by investing in a straight edge polisher, and it is also considering the purchase of a waterjet cutting machine in the near future.

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