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Moving Up: Creative Design Interiors Expands Capacity With Robotic Tech

By Joel Davis

When outfitting its newest manufacturing facility, Sacramento-based Creative Design Interiors sought a high-production workflow solution providing the lowest operating costs and greatest reliability. The company turned to BACA Systems, the leading manufacturer of robotic and automated fabrication technology for the stone industry, for help.

Moving Up

When outfitting its newest manufacturing facility, Sacramento-based Creative Design Interiors sought a high-production workflow solution providing the lowest operating costs and greatest reliability. The company turned to BACA Systems, the leading manufacturer of robotic and automated fabrication technology for the stone industry, for help.

BACA Systems installed two Robo SawJets in CDI’s new Sacramento production facility in October 2017. Each sawjet integrates a 25HP direct-drive saw and a high-pressure abrasive waterjet with a durable KUKA Robotics industrial robot.

The Robo SawJets have transformed CDI’s workflow for the better, said Fabrication Operation Manager Rodrigo Peralta. “It’s totally different. White and black, night and day. Before this, for 14 or 15 years, we cut by hand. We had bridge saws. Normally, we’d spend 45 minutes to one hour to cut a slab, doing everything by hand. Now, we normally cut a slab in 15 to 20 minutes average. The technology is really awesome compared to how we used to cut.”

Because the Robo SawJet is a dual-table system, a slab can be loaded while another is being cut. It can cut a standard 40-square-foot kitchen countertop with sink hole from a slab, finishing the job within 15-18 minutes. This takes half the time of other machines. At full capacity, CDI’s Sacramento facility is cutting 25 to 27 slabs per days.

“It can cut a standard 40-square-foot kitchen countertop with sink hole from a slab, finishing the job within 15-18 minutes.”

The investment in the Robo SawJet translates into increased productivity and profitability. Each of the machines is much greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to improving the workflow, Peralta said. “The sawjet makes a big, huge difference. When you combine and put the different machines — the saw, waterjets — into one single machine, it’s totally different.”

Super Reliability

CDI’s shop techs rely on the Robo SawJets every day. The dependability and consistency of the robots has taken a lot of stress out of the production process, Peralta said. “Now that we are using the two robots every day, of course, the stress in the shop over operations is down.”

The BACA Systems technology has helped streamline CDI’s production workflow.

“Before we needed three times equipment for the capacity.” He said. “We needed three saws vs. one Robo SawJet.”

The production challenge posed by using bridge saws was the skill needed to operate them. “The critical challenge is the operator,” Peralta said. “To run the bridge saw, the best operator could cut only 5 slabs per day. We didn’t have a very specific production date, depending who ran the saw. Now, the robot is consistent. We don’t depend on one single operator. Anybody can program the robot.”

Although BACA Systems offers a weeklong training program for operating the Robo SawJet, its PC-based software presents no barriers to new employees. “It’s the best on the market,” Peralta said. “It’s very friendly to use. It doesn’t require special or super high-level training. It’s very easy to handle and very easy to program the robots.”

 The BACA RoboSawJet’s IDE Diamond Cutting Head provide pinpoint accuracy and easy and consistent alignment. The onboard software has the ability to calculate patterns to optimize the yield from each slab, saving customers an average of 20 percent on material cost annually.

“Running at full capacity with the bridge saws, normally we’d have between 15 to 25 percent waste,” Peralta said. “Now we can put all the pieces in one single slab. That’s why the waste factor is down so much.”

BACA Systems also offers its own VeinMatch software, allowing shops to match veins from different parts of the same slab, preventing waste. It integrates with the Slabsmith software that CDI has traditionally used. 

“The Robo SawJets have transformed CDI’s workflow for the better.”

Maintenance Advantages

The sawjets need much less maintenance than the bridge saws the company used to rely on. The KUKA robot itself needs literally no maintenance for 5 years or 10,000 hours. “Normally, the bridge saws would need maintenance every month or couple of months,” Peralta said. “This is a huge difference in maintenance.”

The Robot Sawjet incorporates a tough H2O jet pump that can hold up in 24-hour per day automotive manufacturing environments. The waterjet components are higher quality than other brands that Peralta has used. 

“Compared to other waterjets, the maintenance and the components are better 100 percent,” he said. “It’s totally different. The components are more professional and have a long, long life. You need to replace the seals 8 or 10 months later.”

It costs less than half to operate the H2O jet pump than the KMT pumps used in other types of sawjets. The H20 can last nearly three times longer between rebuilds than Hypertherm pumps. It is also faster and costs less to rebuild H2O pumps. BACA Systems provides extremely fast turnaround on parts, Peralta said. “If we call BACA, we will get the piece tomorrow morning. It’s very easy. The robot never goes down for a long time. Sometimes, with other companies, the guys wouldn’t have the pieces here in the U.S.”

If there are workflow issues with a Robot Sawjet, BACA technicians can connect directly with the onboard computer to diagnosis the problems. “It’s very easy how BACA can fix the problems compared to different companies,” he said.

“Compared to other waterjets, the maintenance and the components are better 100 percent,” he said. “It’s totally different. The components are more professional and have a long, long life. You need to replace the seals 8 or 10 months later.”

Researching Robotic Solutions

CDI’s management learned about the capabilities of the Robo SawJet after the purchase of another company, Surface Crafters, more than a year ago. Previously, BACA Systems had replaced two gantry sawjets and a freestanding waterjet table with three Robo SawJets at the Surface Crafters facility, cutting operating costs and increasing productivity.

CDI itself is part of a larger consortium of companies. It was acquired by Interior Logic Group in 2014. With the ability to draw inspiration and knowledge from fabrication shops located all across the country, each using a variety of other machines from other manufacturers, CDI chose to investigate the potential of BACA Systems products. “Part of our philosophy is we are always looking for better,” Peralta said.

CDI personnel visited BACA’s headquarters in Lake Orion, Michigan, through the company’s Fly to Detroit program. They liked what they saw.

“There are two or three (stone fabrication) robots on the market, but we liked the BACA system as well as its corporate culture,” Peralta said. “The company is really awesome. We look at partners all the time. The customer service is the key. When we have a problem, the BACA guys are always there. It’s at a different level than the market.”

Customer Service

 Once the Robo SawJets were installed, BACA personnel did not disappear. The company has continued to support CDI’s needs. “It’s full customer service all the time — 24 hours, 7 days a week,” Peralta said. “They have great customer service all the time.”

A BACA trainer remained on-site after the equipment was installed, working with the shop personnel to optimize the workflow. “In the BACA culture, the trainer is always a friend, a partner,” Peralta said. “The guy is always bringing solutions to you and working together with you every day. It’s really awesome. The trainer is fantastic and always open for any questions. The guy is always there for us.”

For any problem, BACA was quick to provide a solution. “That is their culture,” Peralta said. “It provides a very high level of comfort. The customer service is always bringing the answer. The guys answer any day, any time. Before and after the robots are installed. After installation, we called Dave Cordell. He would answer me on Sunday at 5 p.m. or 10 p.m.”

Now that CDI has some months of production using the Robo SawJet’s under its belt at the new facility, the management is already looking ahead. “We plan to buy a third robot in a couple of years,” Peralta said. “We’re at capacity right now. We’ll be sure it’s from BACA Systems.”

“Part of our philosophy is that we are always looking for better.”