When I was a young man (more years ago than I care to count) I had the opportunity to work heavy construction. During that period, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time working side by side with dock builders and carpenters. While I learned a lot of lessons from them, the one operative phrase that remains foremost in my mind is, “Measure twice, and cut once.” While this truism remains with us to this day, especially in the countertop fabrication industry, recent technology has a transformed “measure twice” to measure once. How you ask? Easy.
In my travels, I’ve visited cabinet and countertop shops through the United States and Canada; sometimes I've been in the office and at other times on the jobsite. I’ve witnessed the time and intensity of the manual measuring process, and the margins of error that even the most proficient and experienced tradesmen have included in their calculation, since no wall is truly straight and no corner truly square. I’ve seen templates that were so carefully made get damaged or blow off the truck on the way back to the shop. I’ve watched CNC operators spend countless hours re-measuring templates and inputting the information into CAD programs as carefully as possible. And I’ve witnessed the angst in their face when an error as simple as a transposed number brings them back to square one, leaving them with an unacceptable sink cut and a ruined countertop.
I’m sure most, if not all of you have had this experience at least once in your career. After all, we’re only human and humans make mistakes, especially when the environment and equipment invite error. Not a fun experience at all. Well, today there is a foolproof solution to this problem, digital laser measuring. So, let’s take a look at one of the systems I saw, and heard rave reviews about, at the recent Coverings show in Las Vegas, the ELaser from ETemplate Systems.
As in all these systems, the ELaser is comprised of two (2) components, a laser and software. This product uses Leica’s 3D Disto which is reputed to be the most feature rich 3D laser available and is sold and supported through dealers worldwide. Here is where the process begins. The laser measures a multitude of data points, so close and so precise that even the most obtuse angles and lines can be calculated perfectly. But, this is just the beginning since all a laser can do is measure. In order to process it, the ELaser System’s Measure Manager™ software automatically creates the complete countertop design in CAD format.
Now comes the fun part, take the final output, lock and load it into your CNC as you would any design template and out comes a perfectly precise, custom countertop that literally fits like a glove. However, there is some education necessary. As with any CNC designer/operator, personnel using CNC equipment must understand CAD and digital design. While it is true that a professional is at his best when he has the right tools, a tool can only be as good as its user. According to the manufacturer of this system in particular, “it is fast, simple, and so automatic that little or no CAD experience is necessary to use it.”
Today, CNC equipment starts at about $100,000. Most systems cost a lot more than that. It is truly a major investment. A digital laser measuring systems is the minor investment that makes that major investment really make sense. Now, through the use of technology, our new operative phrase is, “Measure once and cut once!” Something my dock builder and carpenter colleagues of the past never thought possible.