The University of Maine’s Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) and Ecoshel, a company that produces cedar shingle panels, recently completed their UMaine-based project, Smart Shingle Production. AMC, along with private and public partners, designed, developed and built a manufacturing assembly line for the company. The line, which includes custom manufacturing equipment, blends conventional woodworking systems with state-of-the-art controls and laser-scanning technology.
“Developing this new type of shingle manufacturing system will greatly increase safety and production efficiency over current systems,” says AMC director John Belding, talking about the assembly line that will be operated in Ecoshel’s new production facility in Ashland, Maine.
The Ecoshel project created more than 11 jobs and provided a learning experience for UMaine engineering students.
Bryan Kirkey, owner and CEO of Ecoshel, was referred to the AMC by the Maine Technology Institute. He met with AMC staff and engineering student interns to discuss how to reach his goal of having a cutting-edge manufacturing facility in Maine. With support from AMC’s innovative engineering and manufacturing services, Kirkey opened the production facility in Ashland.
AMC sought private industry partners such as Dana Hodgkin, owner of Manchester, Maine-based Progress Engineering, for additional system integration and controls support.
Working with Ecoshel and Progress Engineering over the past six months, AMC developed an automated system that can scan, optimize and cut raw lumber to produce a shingle every second with the specialized features of Ecoshel’s system. Once the shingles are made, they are assembled into Ecoshel’s cedar siding panels that use a unique, patented installation system that minimizes installation effort, waste, extra weight and materials, and extends shingle life.
This is the first of many assembly lines Ecoshel plans to use based on the specifications and prints developed by the AMC, according to Belding. AMC plans to share information and assist Ecoshel’s private partners with building the remaining systems.
More about Ecoshel is online.