In this issue of Stone World, we are presenting a broad range of "Fabrication Case Studies." And given the growth in stoneworking operations - in the U.S. and abroad - this is sure to be a recurring theme in future issues as well.

Within the U.S., we focus on a variety of stone fabricators in this issue. For the most part, these firms all specialize in a certain sector of stone fabrication. At the forefront, of course, are companies fabricating countertops for residential kitchen and bathroom applications. Without question, this is the single segment of the American stone industry that is showing rapid expansion throughout the country. As such, our report on Fabricator Case Studies details several specialists in countertop fabrication, including firms in the New York area, the Mid-Atlantic region and the West.

But while many of these firms fabricate the same type of work, the equipment found at the various shops differs from company to company. Some companies have long been part of the CNC revolution, relying upon computer-controlled machinery to reach high production levels with optimum precision and automation. Others - particularly the newer, smaller operations - are also able to achieve a high level of quality, but it is gained through the use of smaller-scale equipment, such as portable edging machines.

Of course, the U.S. stone industry is not solely limited to countertop fabrication. Our report also profiles a company in the Midwest region that specializes in fabricating cubic stone pieces for architectural applications as well as residential designs. This company has also invested in updated machinery over the years to increase efficiency and precision.

In addition to stoneworking firms within the U.S., this issue also features Fabricator Case Studies on foreign firms that have targeted the American market as a key importer of their production. One company, located in Newfoundland, Canada, recently invested in a state-of-the-art gangsaw factory for processing blocks into slabs. Citing a need for a North America-based slab producer, this company invested in six Breton Jumbo gangsaws from Italy, and it also has the latest generation of slab polishing equipment. Taking advantage of the NAFTA legislation, which eliminates duties on goods shipped from Canada to the U.S., the company is primed to be a major exporter of slabs to the American market, particularly the East Coast.

The other block processor in this report is located in Belgium, where it operates a plant for producing slabs and tiles with modern equipment from Italy. However, to gain an edge on other companies within the highly competitive European stone-producing industry, the company has also implemented machinery for producing a proprietary finish on slabs and tiles. And by developing this singular product, the company's tile and slab sales are enhanced.

All of the companies covered in this report should be commended for their willingness to share information about their operations with the stone industry. The U.S. stone market is continuing to grow at a remarkable pace, and as I have said on numerous occasions, the sharing of information is critical to ensure that this growth is achieved while maintaining superior stone craftsmanship.