The Sweet Sounds of Technology
With help from Surfcam, Bricasti Design perfects the science of musical sound
It’s safe to say that the professional life of Brian Zolner, founder and president of Bricasti Design, has centered around the art and science of creating music.
The range of equipment manufactured by his company — including state-of-the art reverbs, amplifiers, and more — has become a recording-studio staple since Bricasti Design was founded just a decade ago.
Zolner, who once paid his bills as a professional musician, was a child of the 60s influenced by the revolutionary spirit that music embodied throughout the decade. When he retired more than 30 years ago from a career in music, he joined a company that made digital musical products before ultimately striking out on his own.
“I’ve been in music my whole life,” Zolner says. “Our company makes products for the music industry, for the creation of music and the production of sound. All of our products are used for production and post production.”
Once upon a time, the present-day musical hobbyist — who plays the violin and saxophone, among other instruments — listened to underground 1960s radio, along with artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Clapton.
Today, Zolner, listens only to music of the classical variety and is invested in helping others create the kinds of high-quality sound they’re looking for.
“We are the leading company in the world for what we do,” says Zolner, who notes that, while its wares have been consistently top-notch, Bricasti has experienced a few growing pains in terms of how those products are manufactured.
In a nutshell, those pains were linked to the unreliable product availability and inconsistent pricing of outsourced components for the complex units it produces.
“With the outsourcing, parts became too expensive to make,” Zolner says. “I was trying to make the company work and dealing with issues related to having all of the parts that I needed.”
To eliminate the inconsistency associated with outsourcing, Zolner took the whole of production into his own hands about four years ago. At that time, he was also on the brink of releasing a new product, the M7 reverb.
“Every time I do a new part, it’s faster, better, and easier. The programs I make are pretty much ready to go for my machinist.”
Brian Zolner, founder and president
When one of the manufacturers from which the company purchased its outsourced milled parts went out of business, Zolner leased the defunct shop and purchased its equipment — including three Matsuura mills. He also purchased CNC code that had been generated in the Surfcam computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) solution, by Vero Software, to make the parts he needed.
All was going as planned until a wrinkle in Zolner’s grand design arrived in the form of a stolen hard drive that contained all of the CNC code required to make the parts.
“I’d signed the lease,” Zolner says. “I had two Matsuura’s that worked, one that didn’t, and a pile of metal — and I needed parts.”
With no other recourse and a production schedule to maintain, Zolner quickly set about learning how to make the parts he needed.
“I got a guy who could run the machines, and I ended up buying SURFCAM,” Zolner says. “It took me one week to program the front panel of the M7 in Surfcam and to machine it on a Matsuura. If your business depends upon learning how to do it, you learn how to do it.”
Zolner is Bricasti Design’s sole programmer, and he works with two machinists to manufacture the company’s products.
Upon acquiring Surfcam, Zolner reprogrammed all of the parts that had been outsourced and added a fourth Matsuura to his machining arsenal. Today, only electrical components and components that require the bending of metal, via press brakes, are completed off site.
Zolner, who also produces the company’s mechanical designs, completes his computer-aided-design (CAD) work within Surfcam. He finds that the solution is powerful enough to meet both his design and CNC programming needs.
Because electrical designs created by a partner in the AutoCAD computer-aided-design (CAD) solution must be incorporated into Zolner’s overall product design, Surfcam must be able to read and easily translate the .dxf files generated by AutoCAD.
“Surfcam is able to take a flat file and make it three dimensional,” Zolner says. “I had to learn to use the CAD side of it, and it saves a lot of time.”
Bricasti manufactures 50-70 panels for the M7 each month, which is quite a bit of work considering that each panel features three different knobs and 13 buttons. The majority of milling performed at Bricasti is in two axes, though a limited amount of 3-axis milling is also performed.
“I think there’s a lot that Surfcam is capable of doing, and I have used it extensively over the past four years,” Zolner says.
Zolner especially appreciates the software’s simulation and verification abilities, as Surfcam allows him to see each operation in detail before the program is sent to the machine. Simulating his programs helps Zolner ensure optimal part quality while protecting his machine-tools, which are costly to repair if collisions with cutting tools and workpieces take place.
“Every time I do a new part, it’s faster, better, and easier,” Zolner says. “The programs I make are pretty much ready to go for my machinist.”
About the Company
Name: Bricasti Design
Business: Design and manufacture of sound-production/musical equipment
- Is able to read and easily translate an array of file formats
- Confidence gained with simulation and verification abilities
- Ability to fulfill design and CNC programming needs with one solution
“Every time I do a new part, it’s faster, better, and easier.”
Brian Zolner, founder and president