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CNC Production of Wax
Models Boosts Ring Sales for
time." The reason the Techno router is more durable than other machines in its price range is due to the materials used in its construction. For example, the machine uses anti-backlash ball screws. These screws have excellent power transmission due to the rolling ball contact between the nut and screws, and this type of contact ensures low friction, low wear, and long life. In addition, the router constructed on steel stress-relieved bases with hardened steel linear ways. "Its shaft and bearing system produces very smooth, play-free motion and is an extremely rigid system that produces high-quality cuts," Hendricks adds.
Mold-making with CNC
After he acquired the router, Hendricks spent some time programming the CAM system that came with it to produce the ring styles he wanted. Currently he has routines for creating four different ring styles with three variations per style. Some styles have a stone on top, for example, while others have a design carved into the top surface. Some rings have lettering or other graphics on the sides while others don't. "With these routines, we can create just about any signet ring," Hendricks explains. "The routines create the four basic surfaces for each of the different ring styles. The design or graphics are scanned into the computer, and then selected by the operator when prompted for it by the programming routine."
The first step in making wax models on the Techno router is to set up the machine. First, the operator installs an indexing head on the mill's base. Then he installs a wax ring mandrel and places the wax ring blank onto the mandrel. After putting the cutting tool in the chuck, the set-up is complete. Next the operator goes to the CAM system and selects one of the custom routines. After entering the information that the routine requests, all that is left is to give the command to start the cutting process. "You press start and you can walk off and leave the router," says Hendricks. Depending on the complexity of the graphic elements, the cutting process takes about an hour.
Because the cutting goes so quickly, Hendricks is able to charge about half of what other jewelers charge for making a wax model. For class type rings, his fee averages about $150. With such a competitive price, orders have been increasing steadily since the company acquired the Techno router. Class rings are not the only rings being produced on the mill, however. Hendricks is also getting a lot of short-run jobs. Wax models for these jobs run anywhere from $35 to several hundred dollars. The rings themselves cost $25 if they are sterling silver. Gold is charged by the gram weight. With Hendricks' process, very nice personalized rings become an affordable item for many organizations. In contrast, costs for custom and short-run pieces produced from hand carved wax models start at about $500 because it costs almost that much to produce the wax model alone.
Hendricks has made thousands of rings on the Techno mill and it has proved to be as reliable as he hoped. "It has been operating perfectly, seven days a week for over a year," he says. He has adapted the mill to include a fourth axis, giving it the rotary milling capability to cut letters around the circumference of the ring. To do this, he physically unplugs the Y-axis and plugs a rotary axis into the opening. The CAM routines he uses are still three-axis programs but this machine configuration allows them to simulate four-axis milling.
A step-by-step guide
After he had configured the Techno router and CAM system to cut wax ring models, Hendricks put together an instruction manual for his employees that took them step-by-step through the use of the system. When the local reseller of MasterCAM software saw it, he proposed that Hendricks sell his adaptations as a complete system. Hendricks liked the idea and named it Create-A-Ring, which is now available on his Web site (www.create-a-ring.net) and from MasterCAM software dealers. "Create-A-Ring includes the indexing head, the holding fixtures, the cutters, 50-60 pieces of clip art, and enough wax to cut 18 rings," Hendricks explains. Create-A-Ring sells for $1,250. "Basically once someone has a Techno router, MasterCAM software, and my package, they have everything they need to make rings except the casting capabilities," Hendricks adds.
Currently, he is targeting the education market primarily. "If a school has casting capabilities, the students can use my package and make their own rings right in class. Or they can take the wax model to a local jeweler or send it to me for casting," Hendricks says. "If a kid can make a ring, we have taught him a skill. He can go out into the real world and get a job in a mold factory or in aerospace industry."
By configuring a CNC router to cut wax ring models, Bob Hendricks has achieved two excellent outcomes. He has given his own business, Hendricks Manufacturing, a significant competitive advantage, causing sales to grow tremendously. Second, he is giving others the tools and instruction to make their own rings, and perhaps to expand from there into a job or career.
2101 Jericho Turnpike, New Hyde Park, NY 11040 | Telephone: 1.800.819.3366 / 516.328.3970 | Fax: 1.516.358.2576