Computerized and digital stoneworking technology

August 1, 2006
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The technology involved in running a fabrication shop has advanced well beyond the machines used for cutting and polishing stone. Advancements in digital templating technology, digitizing boards and software have been continual over the past few years, and they are becoming more and more popular in the marketplace.

The following is a look at some of the technology that can be found in use at stone fabrication shops of all sizes. For more information on these products, circle the corresponding number on the “Free Information Card” enclosed in this issue:

AGM Template Master™

Digital Templating Technology

Template Master™ from AGM is a microprocessor-based digital and wireless system for measuring and digitizing two-dimensional shapes. Its primary use is for digitizing kitchen and bathroom countertops utilizing a laser-guided digital measuring tape that communicates to a hand-held computer via a wireless Bluetooth connection. Positioned on the provided tripod, the system captures the coordinates of the points that define the geometrical shape desired.

The hand-held computer stores the points and generates an electronic file containing the shape captured, including operator notes relating to the different features of the template, such as overhangs, backsplashes and contour profiles. This file has a DXF extension, and is compatible with CAD software packages. The system also is capable of generating a cost estimate of the job. Using the operator input notes and generic prices for material and job features, the system calculates individual feature costs, and presents a clear estimate of the total cost of the job. This information is output into another file that is compatible with spreadsheet software packages. The electronic files can then be downloaded into a computer via a wired or wireless link, or e-mailed anywhere with the help of a Bluetooth phone (not included).

Circle No. 310

Blick Industries Proliner
The Proliner digital templating system from Blick Industries was designed to make accurate templates with technology that allows the user to measure any countertop, backsplash, shower, stairway or complex shape with extremely minimal set-up time and no leveling.

To use the Proliner, operators simply place the pen on the point that needs to be measured and click a button. It is capable of measuring a single point or continuous points (17 per second), which aids in measuring curved shapes like sinks, tubs and imperfect drywall. Once finished, users can see a drawing on a user-friendly touch screen, which requires no prior computer knowledge to operate. After taking measurements on the jobsite, the drawing can be trimmed in the user's CAD program, and then the fabrication process can begin.

Blick Industries Proliner
Blick reports that the Proliner is well suited for working with a CNC machine, waterjet, automatic saw or manual work. For shops that require physical templates for non-automated processes, the Procutter plotter is also available for producing flexible plastic templates.

Innovative Stone Technologies is the master distributor for the Proliner in the U.S., with Blick Industries as the exclusive dealer for the Proliner in the 11 Western states.

Circle No. 309

ETemplate System
The ETemplate Photo™ digital templating system from ETemplate System (a division of Tri-Tech Solutions, Inc.) has been engineered to measure any “as-built” project with photographs to a typical tolerance of +/- 1/32 inch. Users simply set up the system and take a few photos, and then they transfer the photos into their computer (either in the shop or at the jobsite), click on the automatic features, and the system does the rest. Features include automatic photo processing, automatic CAD drawing and automatic BackPlot™. The entire process - from shooting the photos to final CAD and the design and fit verification - for an average job and an experienced user is 10 to 12 minutes, according to ETemplate System.

ETemplate software processes the job and produces a set of pre-defined measurements with the ability to extract additional needed or missed measurements that may have been overlooked at the jobsite. Users also have a pictorial history of the site.

ETemplate System
ETemplate has an exclusive feature, the Integrator™ that automatically draws the base CAD template that includes the countertop profile (wall scribe, corner radii, finished edges, etc.) and the flatness of the installed cabinets as well as the calculated linear and square footage. The operator adds any special features.

Another feature is BackPlot™, which integrates the profile of the countertop back into each of the photos. This visualization lets the customer and fabricator ensure a proper fit and design before any material is cut. If there are errors or omissions, they can be immediately corrected and back plotted again.

Circle No. 308

Fabricator's Choice LaserTop and PhotoTop
PhotoTop® digital templating and LaserTop™ template projection, available from Fabricator's Choice, are intended to allow users to produce more templates with greater accuracy in less time, the company reports. Using LaserTop, the CNC and bridge saw spend more time running and less time waiting for the job to be set up, according to Fabricator's Choice. LaserTop works with virtually any DXF file, and it was designed for easy installation and flexible overhead placement.

In addition to reducing labor costs, the system was designed to allow fabricators to also eliminate costly consumable wear, eliminate cutting errors and reduce scrap rates, among other benefits.

The PhotoTop digital templating system is in daily use by stone, quartz solid surface and wood countertop fabricators. It features unattended batch processing, giving fabricators the ability to prepare as many as 200 typical jobs overnight, the company reports. CAD-finished files can be sent directly to a CNC router, a digital bridge saw or to LaserTop. Additionally, they can be produced as vinyl templates - complete with detailed printed instructions - on the company's FC 7000 Series dual template cutter and printer.

Circle No. 307

Faro Technologies Digital Template FaroArm
Faro Technologies has developed the Digital Template FaroArm. This instrument is an articulating measuring arm/portable Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) that is widely accepted in automotive, aerospace and heavy machinery manufacturing as a quality control and reverse engineering tool, the company reports. The Digital Template employs tubed sections that are joined by rotating transducer “joints” that enable the probe on the end of the arm to move in any direction and record any point within its spherical reach.

To measure a datum point, an operator touches the stylus to the desired location and clicks a button on the handle. Using the FaroArm, critical areas such as corners and radii on a countertop can be represented with greater data density to ensure accuracy, according to Faro. Altogether, hundreds of points may be collected to define a single project. The instrument is completely portable, enabling representatives to travel from location to location, and measurements are recorded as a computer file that is both a three-dimensional digital picture and a record of the project. Templaters can e-mail the files directly to the shop from their remote location.

During the templating process, a measurer carries the template, tripod and battery-powered laptop computer to the customer's home, sets up the equipment and takes measurements along the wall mounting surfaces with the articulating arm. This instantly records all details of the installation in the computer - as a sequence of points or streaming lines - using software known as CAM2 Measure. File formats include common graphic and design formats, such as DXF, IGES, VDA, STEP and CSV. The position of cutouts for sinks, pillars, windows or other special shapes is noted digitally. When finished, the file represents a three-dimensional image of the space to be filled by the new countertop.

Circle No. 306

Laser Products Industries
The LT-55 Precision Laser Templator from Laser Products Industries was designed by Dan Louis, who has over 15 years in the laser industry. With solid experience in the flooring and construction industries, the company has now expanded into the countertop industry. The LT-55 was designed to be simple and easy to learn, and over the past two years, the company reports that it has sold the LT-55 Precision Laser Templator to over 400 customers, who have purchased anywhere from one to 14 units each.

According to Laser Products, customers can learn to fabricate a countertop with the system in less than five minutes, send the DXF (CAD) file to a plotter and print out a vinyl template to verify that the measurements are correct. The company invites customers to learn the system at their offices or at stone trade shows before making a purchase.

Circle No. 305

VIC International Templamat
The Templamat, a new, advanced template tool kit designed for laying out stone or solid surface jobs, has been introduced through VIC International. The Templamat comes in a concise, convenient carry-on-sized travel bag which contains all the materials necessary for measuring precise templates for stone or solid surface countertops. The portable patent-pending template system includes: 60 Templamat polyethylene strips (2 1/4 inches wide x 4 feet long), one pint of adhesive, one dispenser, one funnel and a pair of scissors.

Easily transported to and from jobsites, all the necessary components can fit into a bag about the size of a lunchbox. The Templamat was designed to be durable and flexible, and it can be used multiple times. It can be cut, written on, glued and used for wet cutting, and it can also be rolled up for transport, storage or boxed for shipping.

Circle No. 304

Outline Technologies, Inc. FastTrack Digitizing System

Digitizing Boards

Outline Technologies, Inc. manufactures the FastTrack Digitizing System, a large-scale, two-axis measuring system that is designed for optimum accuracy, speed and durability.

According to Outline Technologies, the system allows users to digitize almost any physical template within seconds using a quick and accurate laser positioning system.

Templates are held in place on the board - which has a standard size of 144 x 72 inches - with magnets, and IntelliCAD software saves files in a DWG or DXF format for programming CNC routers. The system features rugged construction that can withstand a dusty shop environment, and Outline Technologies reports that it is consistently accurate to within 1/32 inch without losing calibration.

Circle No. 303

Template Technologies
Template Technologies Inc. (TTI) manufactures digitizing tables for the stone fabrication industry, and it offers three different types of digitizing machines. Models include a flat panel digitizing machine for template tracing, machines specifically for sink tracing and machines that combine both template tracing and sink tracing.

The sink machines allow the user to place the physical sink on the machine, allowing for optimum sink cutouts. The Template Tracer has a 6- x 12-foot digitizing surface, and it uses magnets to hold the templates in place. This allows for easy and fast changing of one template to the next.

Template Technologies
The machines are fabricated from aluminum, stainless steel and galvanized steel, so placing the machine on the shop floor is not an issue, the company reports. The software is easy to use but is able to provide advanced features, and it can be downloaded in demo form for users to try before purchasing. Laptop computers are included with the machine, and they are equipped for wireless data communication. After machines are delivered and installed, TTI representatives conduct on-site training.

Circle No. 302

VIC International DigiCoder™
The DigiCoder™, available from Vic International, is a 2- or 3-axis digitizer for reverse engineering. If the user has master parts or patterns to be reproduced without the time-consuming procedures of point-to-point digitizing and G-Code programming, DigiCoder can protect these parts and patterns in storage by digitizing them and archiving the data.

DigiCoder, in combination with a personal computer, allows the user to trace parts and patterns with a probe and automatically generates the geometry and G-Code for that form. The algorithms, which generate G-Code and CAD (or other optional outputs), reflect true lines and arcs.

Circle No. 301

Global E-Sourcing, Inc. Global Stone Pro™

Software

Global Stone Pro™ from Global E-Sourcing, Inc. provides countertop fabricators and retailers a flexible business management software solution, tailored to their specific needs. It features a drawing module specifically built for countertop drawing and quoting. According to the company, drawing a countertop becomes greatly simplified, as users select workpiece shapes, sink cutouts, corner variations, edge profiles, etc. from a graphically displayed library, and then drag and drop them onto the drawing workspace. A CAD drawing with all fabrication details can be produced in just a few minutes. Users can also build in all business rules into the pricing module, which ensures that whatever is drawn is priced correctly on the quote and contract, thereby eliminating missed up-charges.

The software can produce shop drawings and a shop traveler for each workpiece that contains all the production details for the shop floor: scale drawings, edge profiles, machine routing, etc. The drawing module can be installed on a laptop computer and can occasionally connect to a fabricator's server. All the details of the drawing can then be completed on the jobsite. The company reports that some fabricators are obtaining a sign-off by the customer on the drawing, thus enhancing the linkage between what the shop produces and what the customer has instructed, reducing remakes.

Global StonePro™ also offers a CAD Utility module, which allows users to clean up the geometry on the DXF files produced by digital templating solutions. Users can then import these files into the Drawing Module to add all details, such as seam locations, sink cutouts, etc.

Global E-Sourcing, Inc. Global Stone Pro™
An array of solutions is offered for fabricators, including scheduling, inventory management and bar coding, production planning, a shipping interface, accounting integration, machine integration and shop floor management. Global E-Sourcing, Inc. also offers SeKon Top and SeCam, machine automation software with advanced features, such as automatic nesting and digitizing slab inventory. The entire solution suite is modular, allowing fabricators to add functionality as their business grows. Custom configurations are also available.

There is also a Web-based version that supports remote activities, such as lead management, quoting, scheduling, inventory and providing order status to customers.

Circle No. 300

Komo Stone Productivity Suite
Komo Machine's stone productivity suite - powered by CIM-Tech programming software - is a complete machine-programming package for use in the stone industry. This versatile product combines the simplicity of industry renowned CIM-Tech machine tool programming software with the power of AutoCAD®. One complete package can take users from concept drawing to machine ready code automatically.

A new Router-CIM 2006 Automation has been improved by offering the Advanced Nesting Module (optional) that includes Stay Down Nesting and Common Line cutting. There are also 12 new cutting cycles requested by customers as well as Tool Path Verification (optional).

Circle No. 299

Moraware JobTracker
Moraware JobTracker job management software was designed to give users control over a growing fabrication business. With JobTracker, users can create a quote, turn the quote into a job, allocate material from inventory and schedule the measure, production and install dates as well as any other milestones for that job. Since all of this information is located in one place, users have complete visibility into what is going on in the shop.

JobTracker eliminates searching for job information in folders, whiteboards and spreadsheets. This is intended to make the office more efficient, and allow users to provide better customer service and reduce errors. The product allows everyone in the office to have instant access to up-to-date schedules and job details - with an easy-to-use calendar, fast estimating and sophisticated business reporting.

Circle No. 298

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