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World Class Manufacturing Tolerances

With the recent introduction of the PVCu flush sash, manufacturing tolerances will have to be world class and tighter than ever before, explains Leon Day, managing director of shaped frame specialist, Universal Arches.

For several decades the glazing industry has been manufacturing rebated PVCu sash windows in the many thousands each and every week. But with the recent trend of flush sash windows, surely we need to be improving manufacturing standards down to world class standards, as we have embraced for a number of years in the shaped frame sector?

At Universal Arches we have been manufacturing our shaped PVCu frames to the most exacting of tolerances, thanks to the use of pioneering 3D computer modelling in the arching sector. The adoption of this technology has eliminated the need for the drawing out of manually templates in all but the most complex of shaped frames, some of which have graced our exhibition stands in recent years, including our award winning display at this years’ FIT Show.

We’ve a dedicated resource in the office that has considerable expertise in 3D computer modelling and so he’s able to take an order, view the design and create a template based upon the exact measurements of the respective PVCu profiles. Accurate scaled templates are then printed out on a plotter and then taken down to the shop floor for checking and manufacturing, without the need for any manual cardboard templates.

The sector for shaped frames is one based around bespoke manufacture as there are no cutting and machining centres or quad welders, just single head welders combined with the considerable expertise of our experienced and fully trained staff. Indeed, anyone talking the time to visit our manufacturing facility will see a number workbenches and tools that could grace any joinery workshop, yet we’re capable of producing 400 hand made PVCu frames each week, which we’re close to most weeks.

Manufacturing processes have evolved in the last couple of years with the re-introduction of mechanical joints for period type windows, primarily flush casements, but also the vertical sliding sash window. These latest period inspired designs, looking particularly impressive in foiled PVCu and look closer than ever before to the original timber sightlines, with hardware to match.

But flush casement windows require expert manufacture, as poor tolerances will result in a dropped sash that either can’t be opened or that has an inconsistent gap all the way round the window. Rebated sashes don’t require this level of precision and so for the last decade or so, we’ve arguably been guilty of manufacturing windows and doors that are generally close enough.

With the right manufacturing equipment, set up and processes, the mechanically jointed production lines can bring manufacturing tolerances down to world class standards, which we believe everyone should be looking to achieve in our industry, regardless of frame manufacturing process. Though this will take a little more care, expert machinery set up and proactive maintenance on typical welded production lines is more than achievable for fabricators of all sizes and systems.

Whether the recent launch of the seamless Graf Synergy welder will bring manufacturing tolerances down as well, then we’ll have to wait for greater feedback from the market, but it does offer an alternative means of corner finish. Conversely, we can offer fully welded frames with a shadow grove, knifed off in the corner or fully polished as per the customer’s specifications and this is thanks to the handmade nature of our manufacturing culture.

As the industry has come under increasing regulation with the likes of the Window Energy Ratings and CE Marking, it’s been the perfect opportunity for us to address other manufacturing and operational processes. Manufacturing tolerances can and should form part of any quality management process and we’re proud of the fact that we’ve had zero non conformities in our ISO 9001:2008 audit for the last 9 years.

Other manufacturing industries are able to manufacture products within incredibly tight tolerances with ease and I include the automotive and other heavy engineering sectors and so I believe should the window and door manufacturing industry as a whole. The recent introduction of the PVCu flush sash has been a revelation in extending the life cycle of PVCu windows, but we must be mindful that they, like our shaped frames, must be manufactured to world class standards.

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