The Computerization of Stone: A Look at CAD/CAM and CNC Fabrication

More and more fabricating machines are being connected to computers in the age

of technology, allowing for intricate designs and faster production than ever before.

by Tricia Gilbert-Gomez

Stone World - July, 1996

Astronaut Memorial located in Cape Kennedy at the Space Center, FL

The Astronaut Memorial located in Cape Kennedy at the Space Center, FL, was fabricated by Creative Edge's waterjet system.

CNC-machine, with a Flow pump

The CNC-machine, with a Flow pump, cut the 2-inch thick Absolute Black granite and the acrylic pieces used for the lettering. Small wedges measuring 2/1000 x 3/1000 inches (.0008 x .00012 mm) were cut into the acrylic letters to refract light which shines though the acrylic.

system. Statewide Granite and Marble will continue to produce countertops, tables and fireplace on the new system. Capoza said that he feels he has to move forward with the times and not be afraid of computers, as some traditional shops may be. He expects a 100% increase in production due to the addition.

Computerized design and fabrication will not only allow increased production and faster fabrication but will enable the stone industry to provide customers with intricate designs and custom-created artwork. Inevitably the equipment and programs that we are awed by today will soon become standard in the fabrication shops of tomorrow.■

As with every industry, the advent of computer technology promises to revolutionize the way stone is worked and designed. Creating a design in stone today can be as easy as taking a pattern from a computer file and instructing the computer to follow it for whatever type of stone the client requested. Creating new patterns is easier as well, with the ability to preview what a design will look like before a cut has been made.

Traditional fabrication machines are getting rejuvenated by the computer revolution. Various bridge saws, milling and routing machines are CNC-controlled and run by CAD/CAM programs. Many projects are becoming more intricate with the availability of computer-assisted design and manufacturing. Operators are able to program the computer and walk away while the machine automatically creates curved, custom pieces or complex geometric designs.

With more complex designs comes the question of how to translate those designs to the computer. Possibilities include designing directly onto the computer, using a template, and scanning images into the machine. Today a three-dimensional scanning technique has allowed bas-reliefs, sculptures and other 3D artwork to be reproduced and re-scaled into stone projects. One company involved in 3D scanning is Scan Technology in Denmark. The 3D laser scanner ST800 can be connected to CNC-controlled machines and provides a way to copy works of art directly where they are rather than transporting them. The idea behind the system was "to restore historical monuments as well as to copy artistic works into sandstone granite or marble," according to Claus; Dybdal Nielson of Scan Technology.

Fabricators are aware of the endless: possibilities that computerized equipment give them. Donato Capoz; of Statewide Granite and Marble ii Jersey City, NJ, recently added an Omag 91 I CN router. "This router wi1l allow us to create any shape we want, he said. "Certain designs done by hand take days, but with the new machine we can do an ogee in a matter of hours." The benefits of the Omag router for Capoza included the ability to design right on the computer and use an American CAM