<h3>AGA-Rayburn, part of the Aga Foodservice Group plc has been based at Ketley in Telford, Shropshire, since 1947. The company manufactures quality cast iron cooking and heating appliances, the most famous of which is the AGA cooker.</h3>
Product development at AGA Rayburn has come to the fore in the last 2 years as the company has developed its strategy to penetrate new markets in Europe and North America. Each new target market calls for new specifications and approvals, resulting to date in 12 variations of each model of cooker produced.
It is the cast iron walls which make an AGA Cooker different from all other ranges. An AGA Cooker is the only range that uses gentle radiant heat to cook food, keeping it moist while retaining nutrients and flavours, so food cooked in an AGA actually tastes different. Each cooker is made up of at least 50 separate castings.
<h2>New Product Development</h2>
Over the last 18 months AGA’s technical team has been upgrading its design capability from 2D to 3D CAD software. Two years ago the design team was using Rapid Prototyping (RP) technology to produce models for aesthetic purposes utilising
Resin and CNC machined parts. Today, with the help of Cti they are able to manufacture RP iron castings with such speed and accuracy, that many of the steps in the traditional design process can be eliminated.
In 2001, AGA developed its new Six-Four Series of ovens, a traditional looking AGA with the benefit of six gas burners, a ceramic grill and three different electric ovens. During the product development phase, Cti supplied a range of prototype wooden patterns and 6 sets of castings which were needed for design approval. Once the oven went into production aluminium patterns were produced and the wooden patterns were no longer needed.
Therefore, when the new Patternless® Process was developed at Cti, AGARayburn was keen to put it to the test. Cti’s new technology directly machines the sand mould, eliminating the need for a pattern, significantly reducing the lead times, whilst accuracy is improved and extremely high quality and surface finish are maintained.
<h2>A New Five Oven AGA</h2>
AGA’s latest project is a new five oven AGA which is to be launched later this year. It will be the company’s first oven to be completely designed in 3D. Martin Johnson, AGA’s Senior Design Engineer supplied Cti with 3D models of the six new cast iron plates created using Radan software. Cti’s casting design engineers imported the data as STEP files into their ProEngineer software allowing them to optimise the design for casting, apply the joint lines (where the mould is split into two halves) and design the most appropriate metal delivery system.
Flat plates are notoriously difficult to cast and the methods engineer must ensure that the liquid metal is delivered into every section before it solidifies. Once the design was finalised the data from the 3D model was used to programme the CNC machining centre which manufactures the sand mould.
Each mould is used just once and then the chemically bonded sand can be recycled, making it an environmentally friendly process.
<h2>Speed and Accuracy</h2>
Martin sees the two main benefits of working in partnership with Cti as speed and accuracy. The castings have to be fitted to sheet metal, bolted together and enamelled on top. In the conventional casting process, using wooden patterns, inaccuracies creep in due to contraction. The direct use of 3D data via the Patternless® process has eliminated this problem producing “good quality, accurate parts which go into production with ease”. To date Cti has supplied one set of castings, which will allow the model to be assembled and to submitted for approval by British Gas and other relevant bodies. The new castings are internal parts for an additional oven which is being incorporated into the main unit. Six sets will be needed in total during the product development process. Martin Johnson sees this as the first phase in a growing relationship with Cti. “As a company we are keen to have input into design from all our suppliers, from fasteners to burners” Cti is able to import our 3D data seamlessly giving us the benefit of very short leadtimes. In addition we are looking for feedback on the design of our parts and expect Cti to tell us if any features are not casting friendly. The supply chain partnership will continue to grow as we look at further development of the patterns, design of the running systems and mould / fill simulation”
<h2>The Coalbrookdale Foundry</h2>
All the principal castings for AGA Cookers are made at the historic Coalbrookdale Foundry, which is part of the AGA group. Gerald O’Brien, Works Director at AGARayburn said “The Coalbrookdale Foundry is set up for commercial production of large quantities of castings and therefore we are delighted that we can make use of the specialist facilities in Sheffield for our small quantity prototype production.
Two of Coalbrookdale’s employees are currently being trained in methods engineering by the specialists at Cti, ensuring that the latest knowledge is transferred to the shop floor and can be used on a day-to-day basis to improve our foundry operations.” The foundry produces 7,000 tonnes per year of castings, 6,000 tonnes of which are used to AGA production.
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<h2>AGA-Rayburn looks to new markets</h2>
The acquisition of Fired Earth by the AGA Foodservice Group in July 2001 has given the organisation access to 55 showrooms in Europe, and it has set its sights on the untapped markets of France and Germany. Currently Ireland is the largest export market and the company is looking forward to the same success in France where they are reportedly “range fanatics”. The AGA Food Group also recently acquired Domain Furnitures, based in Philadelphia, USA which provides them with 25 “top end of the market” furniture stores in NE USA where they can showcase their products. These include AGA’s, Rayburns, Coalbrookdale stoves and the cookshop collection, an extensive range of cookware and accessories incorporating 450-500 products.
Turnover at AGA continues to grow through acquistion and it has now reached £300m climbing from £250m in the last three months. These plans will ensure that there is no shortage of new product develoment work for the R&D and technical teams at Aga and Cti.
For further information see www. aga-rayburn.co.uk or www. ironagesite.com or contact Aga-Rayburn, Station Road, Ketley, Telford, Shropshire, TF1 5AQ Tel: +44 (0) 1952 642000.