CNC software Alphacam is the driving force behind a range of quality coffins used across Ireland.
Long-established family firm John Sheridan & Sons Ltd supply a number of undertakers through a network of agents.
Managing director Sean Sheridan, who has been a champion of Alphacam and its predecessor Licom, for quarter of a century, changes his CNC router every three years, and always tells the manufacturer he wants a post processor for Alphacam. “We couldn’t do what we do without Alphacam,” he says. “The software that comes with any CNC machine is very restrictive. You can’t do much with it.”
The company, which operates with 23 staff from 18,000 square foot premises in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, currently has a Uniteam router, but in the past has used a variety of machines, including Rye and Busellato. “We know we can buy any machine and Alphacam will not only be able to drive it, but it’ll do exactly what we want in terms of effective design and quick and easy programming to cut complex shapes with complete accuracy.”
As a complete CAD/CAM solution, Alphacam enables the company to offer a special facility to manufacture bespoke panels from individual designs supplied by the undertakers. “Once the CNC code has been generated and we’ve made something, we keep the program and often go back to that file – not to manufacture the identical product again, but to use the program as the starting point for another job. It’s so quick and easy to make an individual panel incorporating the undertaker’s individual design, because we’ve got the basics already programmed.
“Without Alphacam we wouldn’t be as flexible and productive as we are. We wouldn’t be able to do the different types of work we do – it just wouldn’t be profitable to do the one-offs or low production runs. A lot of jobs require radiuses to be cut, and Alphacam makes it easy. We do the drawing on Alphacam and put the tooling on, then it generates the CNC code and does the machining.”
Founded by Sean Sheridan’s grandfather in 1927, the firm specialises in joinery manufacturing and carpentry services, producing, as Sean, pictured left, with son Tom, says: “everything that can be made from wood.” That includes a range of furniture such as tables, bookcases and storage units for the Northern Ireland Government. Tom is the fourth generation of Sheridans to work there, and will take over as MD when Sean eventually retires.
Sean is proud of the company’s heritage, and the fact that he has five employees who have clocked up 40 years each with the firm. Also many apprentices over the years have gone on to set up their own joinery businesses. A newspaper cutting is on display in the office from the time when they made boats -- all done by hand, before the advent of CNC machines and computers -- and one was featured at the Earls Court Boat Show which generated a number of orders.
Those days are long gone, but the company and its workforce retain strong traditional values which ensure the skilled woodworker’s craft remains, aided by one of the most effective woodworking tools of all – a CNC machine driven by Alphacam.