Making of Modular Furniture on Small Scale

A practical Guide for Small Scale Furniture Manufacturer and Interior Designers

When it comes to produce modular furniture for a medium size project then the main worry is the quality, sturdiness and the delivery schedule. Most of the Interior design firms are making Modular furniture as per customer designs and they are always in lookout how they can produce it faster with assured quality. They want to have a setup that can meet their requirements. Few of them also need to make the furniture on larger scale as their projects are of larger area spreading on few thousand sq. meters. Hence I have decided to write a series of articles for each of the segments depending on quantity and flexibility. This article will cover making of “Modular Furniture on Small scale”. I will strive to present these articles, which should serve as a practical guide to small, medium and Industrial scale manufacturers.

It is observed that many manufacturers of Modular furniture have set up units with high-tech machinery available in the market with varying investment budgets. There are many manufacturers of Modular Furniture and there is a huge competition in the market in this sector. Unfortunately today many of them are facing the problems of quality, productivity and uniformity. This is happening in spite of having very good machines and excellent factory setup. Ultimately this ends up in to financial crises. The main reason for this situation is the attitude towards quality control and wrong selection of equipment. The machines are of good quality but the reasons for this situation are as mentioned below.

  • Wrong selection of machinery
  • Balancing of operations.
  • Poor maintenance of tooling.
  • Lack of precision
  • Selection of hardware.

In this article we will consider Making of Modular Furniture on Small Scale for medium batch production. This setup will need an investment that can range from 50 lakh to 150 lakh depending upon the source of the equipment you choose. In the market machines are available from Hobby grade to professional to industrial grade. The hobby grade machines / equipment, if used for longer working hours with heavy load conditions, will lose their accuracy. Hence we see many users having a couple of burned equipment in their factory. Hobby equipment are cheaper but if they are used for Industrial application than that will end up in to work stoppage. For this reason selection of Industrial scale equipment is suggested for uninterrupted production.
The main operations in making of modular furniture are namely

  • Panel cutting,
  • Edge banding
  • Boring.

We will consider the Basic Industrial Grade Machines required for Small Scale Furniture Manufacturing.

Panel Cutting

Important criteria’s while selecting the Panel Saw:
Panel cutting is done using a panel saw or Beam saw depending up on the no of sheets to be cut per shift. For a capacity of 30 to 50 sheets sizing per shift, a good quality-sliding panel saw is fine. One should check that the slides and the sliding mechanism should be precise and with auto cleaning mechanism. Ball contacts or roller contacts are suitable for this. We should understand that the slide should be very precisely machined all along the length of 2.5 / 3 meters. Also the material used in the slides should be mechanically stable without any movement or deflection in course of usage. Many times it is seen that the machine works fine when new, but within few months problems start like chipping and uneven cutting of panels etc.

Saw carriage Angular contact
Saw carriage Point contact

The second important point is the scoring blade and it’s positioning. There are few types of adjustable scoring blades available in the market. One consists of two blades with adjustable shims to select the thickness of the scoring grove to match the mail blade cutting. The second is V grove type; in this we adjust the width of the cut by adjusting the depth of the cut. The third is wobbling cutter block. In this we can adjust the degree of wobble to mach the main saw blade cut.

Adjustable Scoring blade
Trapezoidal Scoring blade

When the production capacity is between 50 sheets to 250 sheets per shift then a Beam Saw is suitable. For higher production an in line Beam saw machine is suggested. In this case two beam saws are placed in line. The first machine (wider in width) prepares bars of required width and the second (smaller in width) cuts the bars in to required length making it inline production without any stoppage.
Important points while using the Panel Saw Machine effectively:
The sharpening of the main and scoring blade is also very important. Many factories have told me that the cutting is very good when the saw blade is new but it is not the same when re-sharpened. This indicates that the sharpening is not proper. One should inspect the vendor doing this job of sharpening and the accuracy of his machine and facilities at his workshop. If the blades are sharpened in house then one should get the machine checked for accurate working. It is often seen that the carbide tip’s thickness becomes uneven once the blade is re-sharpened. The height of the blade also changes from tip to tip. This indicates that the dividing head of the sharpening machine is not set properly or has some problem. In case of varying height of tips only few carbide tips are cutting and rest are just moving without cutting. Hence the load is transferred on few tips resulting in poor finish and bad cut. Same situation also arises in case of main blade re-sharpening.
Many times it is seen that the saw blade is protruding too much causing wobbling and burnt marks on panel / wood. To avoid this one should see that only tips of the saw are protruding out of the panel and should set the blade height accordingly.
Last but not the least; the board should be pressed firmly against the machine bed near the cutting area. This will result in to a smooth cut.

Edge banding

Various types of Edge banding

Important criteria’s while selecting the Machinery:
Edge banding is the second important process in panel Furniture manufacturing. This is very crucial as it value addition process in the furniture making. It makes the furniture of high quality or poor quality. Poor quality edge banding makes the furniture look cheap ending in to price bargains and losses.
Any good edge-banding machine is fine to produce fine quality product. One should check the following points while selecting the machine. First and foremost is the quality of the feeding track, it should transport the work piece smoothly till end of the track without any vibrations and movement.

Carriage of edge banding Machine

The second factor is the side pressure on the edge that guarantees the thin, uniform glue line. If this is not good then we will get thick glue line that looks very bad resulting in a cheap finish.


The other important factors are Glue and its temperature. Mostly good quality imported hot melt glues are used. One should set the pot temperature as per specification of the glue. Any deviation from this should be avoided.
End cutting is the next important operations of the edge-banding machine. The position of the cut is set with reference to the edge of the board. This should have precise adjustment knobs to fine-tune the end cutting.

Side pressure rollers for thick edges
Side pressure rollers for thin edges

Top bottom trimmer
Top – bottom trimming is done with the help of trimmers with copying / tracing wheels that positions the trimmers on the edges. Slight mistake at this stage results in to over trimming or under trimming resulting in to poor finish at the edges. Many times fine dust is sticking on copying wheel resulting in to uneven trimming. Hence periodic cleaning of the copying wheel is necessary.
If one takes care of the points mentioned above then there is no reason why our quality should be inferior to European Furniture.
We can select various options like end rounding, fine trimming, buffing, cleaning, automatic glue feeder, heater at feeding position (pre heat the edge of the board in winter), return conveyer etc. Laser machines are becoming popular because of invisible glue line. Add on laser fittings are also available to upgrade old machines.
Important points while using the Machinery effectively:
Many times we see thicker glue lines or dark glue lines they are due to viscosity of the glue and burnt glue. These are manmade mistakes and can be avoided.
But unfortunately we do not see the same quality of edge banding that we see with Italian or German furniture. This indicates that there is a mistake somewhere. Many times the temperature selected is not correct and due to this glue cannot offer the quality it should.
One should check the sharpness of the saw blades periodically to assure fine cut of the edge band. One should fine-tune the blade position for accurate flush cutting of the edges.

Boring Machine

Multi Head Boring machine
Single Head Boring machine

Important criteria’s while selecting the Machinery:
Boring machineis last and very important operation as the mechanical stability of the furniture is directly depending on the accuracy of the drilling of the holes that accommodate the hardware and fittings of the furniture. One should understand that these machines are called boring machines and not drilling machines. The reason is that very accurate and precise drilling is called boring. Hence Precision is very important in these machines.

CNC Boring Machine

CNC Boring Head with multi drills

One has many options from simple Vertical-horizontal boring machine to Multi head and CNC Boring machines. The accuracy of the boring head is very important in the selection of the machine. Any mistake or compromise in selection of machines will result in to poor product ending up in to rejections and losses.
The machine is provided with guide to drill mirror holes on the opposite side panels to ease the operation. An easy guide is also provided to set the both side fences accurately, this is very important.
The engineering of the machine should be very good and sturdy to assure good results for long time.

Important points while using the Machinery effectively:
Most important aspect is the accurate positioning of the work piece. This should be done with utmost care. Single head machine is fine for smaller batch production. Multi head machine is suitable for larger batch production. CNC machine is suitable for flexible working, but it needs proper care and maintenance.
The drills should be re-sharpened from time to time to get good holes.
I have seen two – three years old CNC machines in very poor condition due to use of blunt tooling, cheap panel boards, poor maintenance.
One should check in to the above points and plan to produce a product of International Quality and finish. We are using good machines, good raw material, good hardware then there should not be any problem in producing International Quality and Finish product. What we need is the attitude and determination that’s all.
I am confident we will make Made in India brand popular if we shall put in determined and systematic efforts.
Photo Courtesy: SCM, BIESSE, GRIGGO

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