Pro-Music-News Wind-Instruments

Rico Reeds improves product quality with proprietary reed blanking machines

Rico Reeds has engineered and installed five Automatic Blanking Machines to replace over 24 previous generation blanking units used to produce its popular reeds. Rico presently produces more than 30 million reeds per year. As part of a complete process make over for the Rico operation D'Addario has invested $4.3 million in this automation project.
New Automatic Blanking Machines at the Rico factoryAfter acquiring Rico in 2004, D'Addario created a long range master plan for the Rico plant to improve productivity and quality across the board. It was determined that the blanking stage would most impact quality; this is where the split piece of cane from their plantations in France and Argentina is machined down to tight tolerances. During this process the bottom "table" of the reed, the part that contacts the mouthpiece, is machined to an extremely accurate and fine finish, the tapered side rails are cut and the top "vamp" area of the reed are pre-cut.
Cane is a natural material, and it does not always come to the factory in the right shape and tolerances to easily make a precise reed. Cane tubes are of random dimensions, shapes and color. The new automatic blanking process uses precision laser measuring devices to position the natural raw material so that virtually perfect symmetry of the side rails is achieved on every reed. "You can't make a great reed unless you start with a precision blank," states Jim D'Addario C.E.O. of D'Addario & Co., Inc. "We immediately began this monumental engineering project in 2004 when we realized that we could dramatically improve the quality of all Rico Reeds if we invented a better process."
The machines have several cutting and polishing stages, video and laser inspection and measuring stations to insure that the parts are within tight dimensional tolerances, an elaborate color video sorting process to separate cane into different quality classifications and a pre-vamp cutting step to prepare the blanks further for the next operation where the final precision vamp cut is made.
"D'Addario's philosophy has always been to outpace the competition through innovation and technology. Most companies don't inject heavy amounts of capital investment into a mature market leader; at D'Addario this is standard operating procedure. D'Addario has already invested over $10 million into Rico since our 2004 acquisition including new reed making machines, factory improvements, and over 45 new hectares (80 acres) of plantation between our Argentinean and French operations," states D'Addario.
The improvements to date are only the beginning. "We have big plans for Rico," states Jim D'Addario. "We are now in the process of automating our cane tube sorting, sawing and splitting so that we can locate a state of the art, efficient process at both our plantation sites, France and Argentina. And we are also in the development phase of completely digital reed cutting technology that will set new standards for reed design and quality. This is an exciting time for the Rico brand."
"Offering the highest quality is essential in today's competitive environment," remarks Robert Polan, Rico Product Manager. "By continuously improving Rico's quality, we're showing players that Rico is committed to making the best reed possible."
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