It's an often-times very frustrating reality for do-it-yourselfers that everything is easier the second time around, and easier still if you have the right tools for the job at hand.
Edgetech, Inc. (Burnsville, MN) is applying that dictum to the job of cutting openings in kitchen countertops to accommodate sinks, ranges and the like. For professional installers, it markets a manually guided flatbed machine, the CTR960 Countertop Router, that makes the work go much faster than possible with older methods. Those older methods include a hand router applied to a plywood template nailed to the under-side of each cutout in each countertop, or for the weekend wonder, a saber saw and paper template taped in-place.
Edgetech's chief engineer, Walter Rohrbach, says the CTR960 is widely used by crews working in housing developments or large apartment communities, where a variety of templates are typically needed for dozens or hundreds of cutouts, and the less time needed to obtain a quality cut and a snug fit, the better. An adjustable stop system built into the CTR960 eliminates the need for templates to cut square or rectangular openings, though conventional templates must still be used for round or oval shapes.
At the IWF (International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair-USA) show in Atlanta, however, Edgetech introduced a computer numerical control (CNC) router (CTR965) that all but eliminates the need for templates. "Select the size and shape cutout you want on a touch-screen, mark the center of the cutout, align it with the laser, then push a button," Rohrbach says.
Edgetech's new router uses a 32-bit Intel Pentium-based controller and two ServoWire Motion & Logic Control (SMLC) drives from Ormec Systems, Inc. (Rochester, NY); one each for the X and Y axes. Software components include a QNX real-time operating system, IEC 61131-3 programming languages, the PLCopen motion control library, and IEEE 1394 (Firewire) based communications protocol.
"This was one of Edgetech's first ventures into servo technology, and they evaluated several platforms before selecting Ormec," recalls Gary Hager, president of KW Automation (Minneapolis), which represents Ormec.
"They selected Ormec because its system is based on an industrial PC platform that uses the international standard (language) for programming machines with motion and PLC on a single platform. In addition, it follows the PLCopen standard," Hager says while referring to IEC 61131-3. "Also, the fact that the controller is a PC facilitates remote diagnostics. By adding a modem to the platform, Edgetech can access a customer's machine from (Edgetech's) office."
Hager notes that Firewire was originally developed by Apple Computer for synchronizing sound and video. "It's therefore very adaptable to motion and I/O control, where time and events have to be perfectly in sync, just like sound and video." Another plus, he adds, is that information is carried from the controller to the drives over a single thin cable.
"With everything digital and stored in nonvolatile memory, if a drive fails it can be replaced with all the necessary information downloaded to the new drive the next time the PC starts up," Hager explains. "It's much easier than having to use separate software to reconfigure an analog drive."
Countertops, including integral backsplashes, are held in place by a Flip-Pod Vacuum Holding System from Carter Products (Grand Rapids, MI). The vacuum system consists of a panel containing a pattern of circular cavities, each holding a Flip Pod that can be positioned flush with the panel (down) or raised above it. The system holds material firmly in a raised position above the router table surface.
Edgetech has already sold the prototype machine it lugged to Atlanta for display at IWF, but ended up taking the machine home for additional work.
Rohrbach says Edgetech is mulling an iteration of its new CNC router that will include a Z axis. Applications for that model include the etching of grooves in countertop drainboards. Other enhancements under consideration are provision for endsplashes in addition to back-splashes, the ability to cut cleanly through Corian® and other solid countertop materials, and the ability to control left—and right—rotating tools when installing extensions for corner carousels. "Those are extremely difficult to do manually," Rohrbach notes.