Manufacturing Classical Reproductions In The USA
The cover story in the April 22, 2013 edition of Time Magazine, “Made in the USA, Manufacturing is Back, But Where Are the Jobs?”. If Beaux-Artes’ is an example, manual labor is being replaced with computerized 3-D engineering and other technology to improve product quality and manufacturing efficiency. Take for instance making a new grille size, instead of laying up a new pattern by hand, we now use Rhino 3-D software to draw new designs in a computer. From there the new design is cut on our computerized numeric controller (CNC) or sent out to be created on a 3D printer. Today’s machinist has to be more of a computer expert than manual laborer. As a result, one person can run numerous CNC machines or multiple 3D printers simultaneously.
All this technology means more business. Two years ago Beaux-Artes made 54 decorative “fire dampers” for a new court house in Rogers, Oklahoma. They wanted our Arts & Crafts grille design made into a fire damper to fit into a T-bar type suspended ceiling grid. Since we already had a 3D drawimg of our 20×20 Arts & Crafts grille, we were able to re-size it and add the outside flange necessary for it to fit into the ceiling grid properly. Once we finished re-sizing the 3D drawings we cut the new master on our CNC table in 4 days of continuous operation. At quitting time each evening we simply turn off the lights, leaving the CNC to work all night in the dark. The speed of the design time and the CNC replication of the master pattern, allowed us to deliver the newly designed product in a timely fashion. Without this new technology we could not have met their time schedule and would have lost the job. Instead this early experience convinced us that this new type of manufacturing technology was our future.
Here is our Arts and Crafts T-Bar Suspended ceiling grille in Gray Wash. All of Beaux-Artes products are available in over twenty finishes. The CNC is our only fully automated process. All of our casting and finishing is done by hand. Since taking over our manufacturing in July 2012 we have made improvements to every step of creating our products. We use the best thermal resin available. This resin is perfect for HVAC grilles. It works with both high and low temperatures. It is rigid and will not warp, plus it is paintable and machinable. It is extremly dimensionally stable and moisture and corrosion resistant; making it suitable for interior and exterior applications. In most areas our resin actually outperforms metal.
With our new technology we are redesigning our complete Arts and Crafts line of 42 grilles from the 4″ x 6″ to the 24″ x 36″ sizes. Using our 3D Rhino software, we are standardizing our most popular grille line. The results are outstanding. We just completed making the largest Arts & Crafts grille the RR-209 24×36. It took 10 days of continuous machining to complete the new master. There are over 6.8 million lines of instructions to direct the cutting tool path to replicate the 24″ x 36″ grille. The detail is so fine that a 1/16” ball mill cutting bit has to make 11 passes to just cut 1/16” of the super hard archival material used for the new master. Once completed the master will last forever. From the master we make molds to cast the grilles that we sell.
The CNC cutting the Arts and Crafts 24″ x 36″ grille.
There is no comparison between this handsome historical reproduction grille and pattern cut grilles. We are the only company that specializes in historic reproduction grilles offered in over 30 finishes. With our ability to use technology we can offer affordable custom options.
Below is a competitor’s grille. It is only is available in white, black, brown or you can paint it yourself. Other than the frame it is rather two dimensional.
A laser cut grille by Patterncut.
Metal Grille by Reggio Registers
Sometimes we send a 3D file out to a subcontractor to replicate the design on a 3D printer. It depends on the size of the item, since 3D printers have a size limitation. However, we found the 3D printing approach perfect to resize our Victorian recessed light medallions. We used a laser scan of our 6” Victorian trim for recessed lights to made six new sizes so that it fits with all the new smaller sizes of recessed light canisters. Now regardless of the size of your recessed lights, we have that size available in our most popular Victorian trim. Beaux-Artes is ready to invest in a 3D printer once they obtain a larger replication platform size.
So manufacturing is back in the USA, but the old assembly line jobs of manual laborers have been replaced by computer savvy operators running multiple machines and skilled artisans for mold making, casting and finishing.