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The machining of endgrain tile blanks has always been a lengthy process requiring up to nine machinist handling operations. A significant reason for this is the small size of endgrain tiles. Most cutting and sanding machines are designed for safety reasons, to only accept side grain timber more than 300mm in length.

This part of the project researched the potential for improving the unit throughput of endgrain tiles during the manufacturing stage and the viability of reducing the unit cost utilising improved engineering solutions.

Assystems Engineering UK was appointed as the process engineer in 2009. Its role was to investigate, develop, build and report on an automated cutting jig in partnership with Coed Cymru and flooring manufacturer Woods of Wales, a project private partner.

The outline research looked at the development of an automated jig that could be mounted onto standard woodworking machinery. Initial tests looked at cutting the tiles using various blades and holding mechanisms. Circular sawblades were chosen as the most suited to the task as they gave an accurate and clean cut especially across the grain.

The target outcomes from developing the cutting jig and running trials were to assess the feasibility of:

  1. Making a jig that could be mounted onto standard woodworking machinery. In this case a Sedgwick TA450 table saw and a Sedgwick SM10 spindle moulder
  2. Cut both faces flat to a desired thickness (12mm average) and trim all four sides square
  3. One person operation
  4. 1200 tiles cut per hour
  5. Standard cut tile size – 100mm x 100mm x 12mm and – 150mm x 150mm x 12mm

A wooden jig was first made and tested at Coed Cymru. Data was then fed back to Assystems which allowed the engineers to understand where the strengths and weaknesses of the process lay. This informed the final design of the jig prior to commissioning and manufacture. This stage of research and development with the private partner, Coed Cymru and the process engineers working together was pivotal in arriving at the best final solution. The partnership made best use of the specialist knowledge of both the private and public sectors.

The jig was manufactured by Colin Cooper Engineering in Leighton, Powys and Willpower Electrical Limited in Newtown, Powys. Time and motion trials on the jig were conducted at the Coed Cymru workshops in Tregynon and demonstrated that all the target outputs were achievable. A report and manufacturing drawings were done by the process engineers Assystems Engineering UK and are available on request from Coed Cymru.