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Prior to setting up Newquay based Digital Fabrications, the business owner spent time teaching students how to use 3D milling machines; a duration that also educated David in the value of high quality cutting tools from Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC) Ltd. "We used high quality cutting tools from ITC at the university and we always had excellent technical support, so when Digital Fabrications started with its first AXYZ routing machine, ITC was the natural choice for cutting tools."
In the three years since its inception, the Cornish business has manufactured mouldings for yachts, bespoke coffee tables, sculptures and signage for retail and exhibition displays. More recent and prestigious projects have involved working with George Clarke and his amazing spaces television series and also sculptor Ben Barrell. The most recent project with Ben Barrell is the creation of two 7m high and 1.8m wide sycamore leaf sculptures for 'The Address Downtown Dubai' hotel in Dubai. 'The Address Downtown Dubai' hotel faces the iconic Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. The Ben Barrell sycamore leaf sculpture that is manufactured by Digital Fabrications will be centre stage at this prestige location. When completed, the sycamore leaf sculptures will be planted on a 10m granite base with an infinity waterfall feature.
Commenting on the unique project, Mr Forsyth said: "We started with a 30cm model that Ben designed. We laser scanned the profile and used our Rhino 3D architectural software and Arcam additive manufacturing to build a model for visual reference. The next step was to scale the design up to the full 7m size. We sliced our model up and fitted it all back together like a 3D puzzle and this was how the full size sculpture was manufactured, in layers."
The layers were machined on the AXYZ 2.4 by 1.2m bed routing machine. This workhorse was cutting high density foam for over 12-15 hours a day, for almost six weeks. At the sharp-end of this machining process was the ITC Brit Cut range of long series end mills. The creative Cornish business employed an ITC Brit Cut 20mm 4-flute AlTiN coated square end milling cutter for rough machining the complete profile of the 7m model. The remarkable scale of the sculpture required the long series Brit Cut 204 Series tool to use its full 75mm flute length to expedite the rough machining process.
Commenting on the rough machining, Mr Forsyth said: "All our routing tools are supplied by ITC as the technical support from Sally Hunt is second-to-none. In this instance, the long series 20mm diameter Brit Cut was recommended as the complete flute length could be used for machining whilst the overall length of 150mm gave us exceptional tool reach for completing each panel in a single set-up. Additionally, the rigidity of the Brit Cut eliminated vibration, improved surface finish and more pertinently, the tool life was exceptional tool life as a single Brit Cut tool completed the roughing of the 7m structure."
Once the rough machining process was complete, Digital Fabrications then finish machined the profile of the sycamore leaf sculpture with a 20mm diameter Brit Cut 204 series ball nose end mill. Like the square end tool, the ball nose used its 150mm length to reach difficult-to-access features and surfaces whilst the tool geometry and coating technology delivered impeccable surface finishes.
To put the tool life of both cutters into perspective; one 7m sycamore leaf required three weeks of machining at 15 hours a day. This equates to over 220 hours of machining, something that was completed with just one square-end roughing tool and one ball-nose finishing cutter.
"Sally from ITC has been making sure we have the right tools for the right job since we set-up the business. The support from ITC has been invaluable. Being a UK manufacturer, ITC can provide new tools as well as re-grind used tools and modify tools for specific projects with an extremely quick turnaround time."
The Newquay Company has worked closely with the sculpture artist and a structural engineer to guarantee the integrity of the structure. The sycamore leaves have been manufactured with a steel core for stability and rigidity. The completed structures have now been delivered to the United Arab Emirates where they will take centre stage on the famous Dubai Boulevard. To underpin the company's future growth ambitions, Digital Fabrications has recently installed a Biesse Rover B 5-axis machine with a 1.5m by 3.6m bed.
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