Wilson Audio Specialties, Inc.

Wilson Audio Specialties, Inc., uses Surfcam Traditional’s specialized contouring capabilities and efficient toolpath to produce its line of state-of-the-art loudspeakers

While much of manufacturing is both art and science, top-of-the-line loudspeaker producer Wilson Audio takes that concept to the next level by harnessing the science of sound to recreate the art of live music.

Based in Provo, Utah, 44-year-old Wilson Audio is the brainchild of live music enthusiast Dave Wilson, who started the business as a recording company in the early 1970s. However, when Wilson listened to his recordings, he’d marvel that the results sounded nothing like the music he’d heard played live.

He believed that recorded music, played back on a well-designed loudspeaker, could suspend disbelief and make listeners feel as if they were in the same room as the musicians. This inspired him to experiment with building speakers that could truly reproduce live sound. When there was interest in his resulting product, Wilson and his wife, with some help from their young son, Daryl — now CEO of Wilson Audio — began building speakers in the family’s garage.  Soon after, the WAMM (Wilson Audio Modular Model) loudspeaker was introduced to the market.

“For many people playing music at home, it’s more about filling the space with noise,” says Senior Design and Manufacturing Engineer Blake Schmutz, who has been with Wilson Audio for 16 years. “Dave took it upon himself to develop speakers that don’t color the sound or add distortion – which is anything that results in you playing it back and it not sounding like it should.”
 

“We’ve been able to contact Technical Support with a problem or concern, and someone gets in touch with us in an hour or less — and that’s pretty impressive when you need an answer quickly.”

Blake Schmutz, Senior Design and Manufacturing Engineer

Today, Wilson Audio employs a team of about 49 and offers a variety of loudspeakers that cover dedicated 2-channel stereo, home theater, and professional studio use. Its products attract customers ranging from music enthusiasts who simply want high-quality sound playback on their home systems to recording artists, music producers, and movie studios.

To produce its state of the art products, Wilson Audio has used the Surfcam Traditional computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) solution, by Vero Software, for close to two decades. The company acquired the system in part because it wanted the ability to cut complex shapes.

“I had used Surfcam in college and that was my first exposure to the software,” Schmutz says. “When I came aboard, they were looking for a CAM package and Surfcam is what I recommended because of my own experience. I knew that it was easy to learn and easy to use.”

Production at Wilson Audio takes places on a CNC router, and Surfcam Traditional is used to program the machine in 2 ½ axes. The company also uses the SOLIDWORKS® computer-aided-design (CAD) solution, by Dassault Systèmes, to create its solid models.

Schmutz appreciates the interoperability between SOLIDWORKS and Surfcam Traditional, which offers a plug-in that makes it easy to open a SOLIDWORKS file from within the CAM interface. When changes are made to a SOLIDWORKS design models, Surfcam Traditional automatically identifies revisions and offers to regenerate affected toolpath.

Once the solid models are imported, they are converted to flat stock for production because the company uses 4’ X 8’ and 4’ X 6’ sheets to make its speaker enclosures and interior inserts.

Ongoing research and development regarding materials, adhesives and hardware are par for the course at Wilson Audio, which uses different materials for different parts of its speakers. Phenolic, a composite material notably used to build rocket nozzles, is used to build the speaker shells, which are machined separately and glued together. Schmutz, who spent five years developing a custom epoxy both strong and ideal for maintaining clear sound, is always looking for means of increasing efficiency.

“When Dave or Daryl come up with a new idea, it’s my job to take that vision and turn it into something that we can manufacture with consistency and repeatability,” he says. “With some of the materials we’re using, Surfcam has been great in optimizing toolpath and building efficiencies where we can. With all that goes into building these speakers, we have to be as efficient as possible. Because it is a hand-built process, the ability to change the CAM program relatively quickly is also helpful.”

While Wilson Audio uses the specialized machining strategies in Surfcam Traditional to increase efficiency, the company finds that the solution also helps it to manufacture superior products. Because the loudspeakers are designed to have complex contours that match their state-of-the-art quality, Schmutz and his team find the solution’s constant cusp cycle — which generates 3D toolpath and maintains a constant surface stepover — especially helpful in machining those complex surfaces.

“Surfcam has really helped us with all of the contouring we can do,” Schmutz says.

Wilson Audio also uses Surfcam Traditional’s TRUEMill machining cycle, which delivers optimal roughing toolpath that can be completed with a one-step 3D roughing through pre-finishing operation. TRUEMill offers a synchronized multiple-tool strategy that coordinates up to eight tools in a single operation. Regardless of how many tools are used, the cycle creates uniform step height across surfaces while removing material at significantly faster rates and greater depths of cut.

“We have one part that starts as a 4-inch thick block, and I have to hog it out two inches in the middle,” Schmutz says. “I wasn’t able to go down very far. I could only go about 1/4 -inch or 3/8 of an inch deep on each pass, but with TRUEMill I now run 3/4 inches deep.”

Schmutz notes that the TRUEMill cycle has additional benefits: “The machine is quiet and not vibrating, and our tool life is much better than it was prior to using the cycle.”

The company also relies on Surfcam toolpath verification and simulation to prevent machine crashes and ensure that mistakes are corrected before code is sent to the manufacturing floor. “What happens in simulation happens on the machine, so we really check everything and have avoided some potentially devastating crashes.”

When programming-related issues occur during the production process, the Wilson team is able to quickly receive Surfcam support for assistance in resolving problems. “Technical Support has been great,” Schmutz says. “We’ve been able to contact Technical Support with a problem or concern, and someone gets in touch with us in an hour or less — and that’s pretty impressive when you need an answer quickly.”


About the Company

Name: Wilson Audio Specialties, Inc.

Business: State-of-the-art loudspeakers

Website: wilsonaudio.com

 

Benefits Achieved

  • Ease in machining complex surfaces
  • Overall efficiency, including rapid material removal
  • Improved tool life
  • Ability to verify toolpath before code is sent to the machine

Comments

“We’ve been able to contact Technical Support with a problem or concern, and someone gets in touch with us in an hour or less — and that’s pretty impressive when you need an answer quickly.”

Blake Schmutz, Senior Design and Manufacturing Engineer

 

Previous | Next

PDF icon