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IWF Woodworking Today

You’re not just purchasing a machine. You’re investing in a new world of possibilities.

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March 21, 2023 | Dan Wellens

Duncan Black and Alonzo Decker revolutionized tooling forever when they invented and patented the very first handheld portable drill in 1917. Every wood products shop around the world has been influenced by this one invention. A second major advancement in tooling came about in 1949, with John T. Parsons’ invention of the first Computer Numerical Control system, which we’ve come to know as the CNC machine.

Parsons’ groundbreaking technology has since become a staple in modern-day wood products design and manufacturing. Technology that once was reserved for large-scale manufacturing can now be found in small shops across America.

This technology is readily accessible for kids and young adults who are creating products using 3D printers and CNC. Their ability to create and produce products eclipses the ‘80s generation’s endless hours spend playing video games on the Atari gaming system. Unlike the analogue gaming systems of old, teens and young adults are now solving real-world problems and inventing new products with machines that were once reserved for engineers. Utilizing new technology and software, they are creating products with direct practical application. These emerging and creative platforms are paving a path for a new generation of developers and manufacturers.

Investing in automation will increase productivity and open new possibilities for business owners looking to increase efficiency. This investment invites a new mindset for planning and production. With each new piece of technology comes a new learning curve that must be managed. This learning curve is something we need to be prepared for. The more we add new technology, the more we must understand it, maintain it, and learn the logistics in order to keep the machines of our business running smoothly.

Courtesy Dan Wellens

When I purchased my first Shop Sabre Industrial Series CNC, I was informed repeatedly that one CNC will be the equivalent of four employees, a notion that has certainly held true over the years. However, no one prepared me for the need to mold my business around this new piece of equipment.

I needed to relearn a different workflow to “feed the beast.” I needed to change my mindset to fit how the CNC could help me and I needed to keep it running. I could let an investment sit in the shop unused, but that wouldn’t be a very good investment. I needed to have focus, creativity, and plans to keep it running steady to help my end goals.

Honestly, there was a steep learning curve for learning the software, programming projects, and troubleshooting. I would like to think I’ve achieved a high level of expertise in G-Code, CNC assembly, and disassembly… and I’m still learning.

A CNC or any piece of automated equipment is great for business and is highly likely to be your next amazing investment. Just be prepared to implement new methods and apply some creativity to keep the investment on track toward meeting the goals you set. Any new piece of machinery in your shop is only as good as the operator running it.  

The easy part is to purchase a new machine. The hard part is re-examining what you think you know and being open to learn something new. I recently entered the world of Adaptive 3D Model Scanning. This new technology in combination with 4th axis CNC milling has opened a new world of possibilities for me. I am envisioning and creating product I never thought possible all thanks to being open to technology.

I am excited to see what the future holds for manufacturing. I believe we are standing at another point in history for vast technological breakthroughs that will change how our future looks—just as our predecessors experienced in 1917 and 1949. All new technologies challenge us to adapt, to experiment and to be prepared to fail. If we aren’t failing from time to time, we aren’t growing and learning.

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