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 â€œFree Information Cardâ€ enclosed in this issue:
Digital Templating TechnologyTemplate Master™ fromAGMis 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).
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Digitizing BoardsOutline 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.
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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.
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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.
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SoftwareGlobal Stone Pro™ fromGlobal 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.
There is also a Web-based version that supports remote activities, such as lead management, quoting, scheduling, inventory and providing order status to customers.
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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).
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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.
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