Entering fabrication with CNC technology
Established in 1985, TBR Marble and Granite of Foxboro, MA, operated for years as a supplier and installer of stone countertops that were fabricated by a contractor in Canada. And when they decided to begin fabrication on their own two years ago, they invested in state-of-the-art machinery.
Ron Bresse, president of TBR Marble and Granite, said that the company began by focusing on templating and installing, and they developed a solid relationship with a Canadian firm that did their fabrication work. With a showroom in Foxboro, they developed a strong customer base over the years, selling through kitchen and bath dealers as well as builders.
Ultimately, they relocated to a new 9,200-square-foot building in Foxboro two years ago and invested in their own equipment. The primary pieces of machinery are a Park Industries Yukon saw and a Park Industries Destiny CNC stoneworking center. Bresse said that the Destiny was one of the first ones shipped by Park.
According to Bresse, careful consideration went into choosing the CNC. Ultimately, his decision was made after making a visit to Park's facilities in St. Cloud, MN. â€œWe toured Park's facilities and saw how the machines are made,â€ he said. â€œEverything is done in-house.â€
From the time TBR decided to do its own fabrication, Bresse said he knew he was going to purchase CNC technology. â€œWe wanted the same level of quality, and we knew we couldn't do that without automated machinery.â€
Bresse said that even though he was one of the first users of the CNC model, he has experienced minimal problems. â€œPark has a good program, and we've gotten good support,â€ he said. â€œWe've never been down for more than two days. They can run diagnostics from remote with a modem. There was an incident when we had a problem on a Friday, and Park had a spindle and a technician here on Monday. The machine was up and running by Monday evening.â€
Bresse added, however, that there was a significant â€œlearning curveâ€ that went into learning the CNC technology. Shop Coordinator Marty Costello trained at Park's facilities in Minnesota for one week to learn the basics of the machine, and he learned more and more about its capabilities as he began using it in the shop. Now, Costello has become proficient enough on the machine that he has trained a second-shift operator, and a third is also being trained.
After hard templates are made, they are placed on a large digitizing table, where their dimensions are recorded. The table has a 65-inch working area with a grid for optimum accuracy. After they are recorded, the dimensions are imported into CAD and translated for the CNC unit. Templates are made from plastic and are solid so that relevant notes on a project can be written directly on the template.
Slabs are cut to size on the Yukon saw and then move on to the Destiny CNC. After the CNC work is finished, the line on the edge is then hand finished from an 800 grit on up, although the company is looking into a product that will allow them to take care of this step automatically.
The company has a total of 19 employees, including in the shop and in the field, and it operates two shifts in the shop. The first shift has six workers and a foreman, and the second shift has three workers and focuses mostly on running the CNC machine and the saw. Most of the employees have been working for TBR over the long term, and a few have been trained on the job.
Tooling for the machinery and hand tools is supplied by GranQuartz and Braxton Bragg. Stone slabs are purchased from local distributors such as Marble and Granite, Inc., Belstone and Boston Granite Exchange.
The shop itself features radiant heating, which Bresse said is actually more cost efficient, and a water treatment system was made in-house.
Overall, TBR Marble and Granite processes 10 kitchens per week, but Bresse pointed out that the projects are large-scale, with a typical kitchen measuring 70 to 80 square feet. â€œIt is not uncommon for us to see a kitchen as large as 100 square feet with fancy edgework,â€ he said. Most of the work is within a 20- to 30-mile radius of the shop.
While 80% of work is natural stone, it also processes DuPont Zodiaq and CaesarStone quartz surfacing. Bresse said there are a few â€œlittle subtletiesâ€ involved in processing the quartz surfacing, particularly with the Zodiaq, which requires more water during fabrication due to the polymers present. Bresse also said that they did not use reinforcing rods on the Zodiaq, as they would actually void DuPont's warranty.
In addition to residential work, TBR Marble and Granite has done some commercial fabrication, such as work for Logan Airport in Boston.
End boxTBR Marble and Granite
Type of work: residential kitchen countertops
Machinery: Park Industries Destiny CNC stoneworking center; Park Industries Yukon bridge saw; 65-foot digitizing table; hand tools and accessories from GranQuartz and Braxton Bragg
Number of Employees: 19
Production Rate: 10 large-scale kitchens per week