After spending years in natural stone importing and distribution, childhood friends George Kyriacou and Matthew Musolino III decided to open their own fabrication facility -- Natural Stone & Tile, Inc. -- in Chesapeake, VA. But after learning the needs of customers from so many years in the business, they decided to exceed the typical start-up operation, and they opened their doors a year ago with state-of-the-art computerized machinery -- including a CNC stoneworking center as well as a waterjet.

The CNC machine is a Marmoelettromeccanica Robotop, purchased from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA. The CNC machine runs on four axes, and it has an automatic tool changer with 25 positions. It can cut, polish, contour, grind, drill, engrave and do complete edge work, among other functions. Musolino explained that the waterjet is particularly adept at edges and bowl cutouts, and it can execute a sink cutout to a tolerance of 1⁄64 inch. The machine is in operation every day, doing at least one job and often two.

Another cutting edge piece of technology is the HammerHead Waterjet from Calypso Waterjet Systems, Inc. of Dallas, TX. This machine operates with a 30-horsepower intensifier pump, with 60,000 psi operating pressure. The waterjet is used for complex cuts, such as radiused countertop pieces, and it can operate with minimal supervision, said Musolino, who added that it also does not create any dust within the shop, making for a better work environment.

CAD/CAM software is used to program the machinery, and the workers simply enter the model number of a particular sink, for example, and they will already have the exact parameters for the computer. The company hired a programmer with previous computer skills, and he was trained on the specific machinery by Regent and Calypso. Also looking toward new technology, the programmer is also working with the Stealth digitizer from BVH-Gregg for electronic templating.

The programming operation generates .dfx files, which are fed directly into the equipment. The program shows the sequence of all of the tools, and how they will be used in the process. This CAD/CAM software comes with the Robotop as part of the package.

For primary cutting of slabs, the company has a Marmoelettromeccanica America bridge saw from Regent Stone Products. This saw has a 20-horsepower direct-drive motor and has motorized X, Y and Z movement. It can take blades ranging from 14 to 24 inches in size (a 14-inch blade for granite is standard), and the blade rotates at 1,450 rpm. The spindle unit can also tilt from 0 to 45 degrees, and the machine has a laser guide for accuracy.

Natural Stone & Tile, Inc. fabricates 20 to 25 kitchens per week depending on the size and edge details specified for each project. Overall, it averages 250 to 400 square feet of stone per day. Jobs are all tracked on boards, which are placed into a tile display rack for easy reference by all employees. The typical turnaround time is two to three weeks, but the company has set a goal of five days in the near future.

The company has 15 employees, including installers, and most of the workers are experienced in working with natural stone.

Working for approximately 25 branches of Lowes retail home centers, Natural Stone & Tile, Inc. sells to a large portion of Virginia, covering the entire state other than Northern Virginia -- “from Williamsburg to Blacksburg; from Stafford to Roanoke,” according to Musolino.

Approximately 70% of the company's business is granite, and 30% is DuPont Zodiaq quartz surfacing, and the company also supplies rare stones such as onyx and soapstone. The firm is also currently in the process of setting up a showroom to further serve its clients.

While much of the company's work is residential, it also supplies commercial projects, and it represents the Canada-based stone producer, Granicor, in the U.S. Recently, the company worked with Granicor to supply granite for the National Museum of the American Indian, which will be featured in a future issue of Stone World.