Based in Penryn, Cornwall, and employing 7 skilled staff, SKB Sails uses traditional sailmaking techniques to make sails for boats ranging from small dinghies to superyachts, as well as hoods, cockpit tents, boat covers and marine upholstery.

Managing director Nick Head said, “We use a wide range of materials from woven polymers and nylons to composite materials such as Dyneema and Kevlar. Our cutting machine was 18 years old and was obsolete as spare parts were no longer available. We therefore needed a modern machine that would be reliable so it would see us through the next 20 years, so we can maximise productivity now, cope with future growth, work with new materials and develop the business into new areas.”

SKB Sails chose an Orion high speed automated CNC cutting machine with a 1.6 metre wide by 6.5 metre long vacuum flatbed. The machine also came with the latest Gemini automatic nesting software.

“We decided to purchase a Blackman and White machine as they are based here in the UK. It would ensure that spare parts would be easy to obtain, and we could rely on rapid response to any servicing needs.” added Head. “The Orion, is a versatile and competitively priced cutting machine which can be used with a variety of drag knives or a rotary wheel, so we can work with a wide range of materials. It also came with the very latest nesting software which will improve our productivity and efficiency even more.”

“The Gemini nesting software is superb.” commented Head.  “The previous machine we had used ASCII files which limited it to cutting patterns for sails. It was also manual, so we had to set up the patterns using a mouse which was both cumbersome and time consuming. The new software is totally automatic, and we noticed the difference immediately both in accuracy and speed. The results are reliably repeatable so it saves operational time, and we can get more out of a sheet of cloth so it minimises waste.”

The Gemini software uses DXF files so it can import design patterns for any product. Head concluded: “This now opens up new markets for us as we can broaden our portfolio as a specialist cutter for a wide range of products. We have already had an enquiry from a company that makes inflatable marquees about cutting materials from their patterns – something that was impossible before. It means that as well as continuing to build SKB as a mainstream sail maker, we also take on additional work cutting patterns for companies making life jackets, car seats or indeed anything requiring accurately cut textiles. All we need is a DXF file and a roll of material and we can do it.”

Blackman & White