Stone World

Stone Column: Moving toward CNC technology

September 30, 2002
In this issue of Stone World, we are featuring a roundup of the latest in computer numerically controlled (CNC) stoneworking machinery. This report includes photos and technical data on CNC equipment from around the world. In addition to fabricating with maximum precision, these machines offer a level of automation that allows shop owners to keep labor costs manageable while still providing exceptional quality.

But while Stone World has been covering the developments in CNC machinery for some time, we have recently been presented with the opportunity to see more and more North American fabricators actually making use of the machinery. Whereas only a handful of domestic fabricators relied on CNC technology in the past, it is becoming more and more commonplace today. And as a result, the practical aspects of using CNC technology are becoming common knowledge among today's fabricators.

In addition to the report on the CNC machinery itself, this issue of Stone World includes two case studies of American fabricators who have made the investment in CNC technology and have met with favorable results. The first fabricator, Fordham Marble, was actually one of the first companies in the U.S. to invest in computer numerically controlled stoneworking machinery. After bringing in its first machine in 1986, Fordham Marble recently brought in a second CNC machine from Italy, representing the state-of-the-art of technology. And the original machine is still up and running at Fordham Marble's shop in the Bronx, and it is expected to continue well into the future.

The second fabricator, World Stone Fabricators, actually started in the glass and mirror industry - where CNC technology has long been established as a fabricator tool - and evolved to stone fabrication Located in the furniture-making region of North Carolina, the company set out to make granite countertops for the furniture industry, but they moved into custom countertop fabrication, which now comprises the bulk of their business.

After we prepared our report on CNC technology, I had the opportunity to visit two more fabricators in my home state of New Jersey, both of which have recently made the investment in CNC technology. Look for articles on both of these fabricators in future issues of Stone World.

As I visited these fabricators, it was encouraging to see that virtually all of these firms opened their doors to other members of the North American stone industry so they could see the machinery at work first hand. It is this sharing of knowledge that will be a key to advancing the domestic stone industry to the next level. Because while CNC technology can certainly benefit a fabrication shop, it is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. "The learning curve is extensive," explained Mario Sardo of Fordham Marble. "You need someone who is dedicated to learning the machine and knows CNC. The machine tooling and the overall learning curve make it expensive. It takes a minimum couple of months to learn the machine. But the payback is tremendous. There is no comparison to what you can complete, and it's all cleaner and more accurate."