As we enter a new year, let’s take a brief look at some of the trends that we can expect to see in 2014 in the woodworking and routing industry.
CNC Nesting Routers
For those woodworking, cabinetry, or carpentry shops that are not already using nesting software and technology, 2014 should be the year to embrace this money-saving solution. Nested-based manufacturing uses computer programs to calculate the most optimal cutting pattern for a particular piece of material to maximize the number of parts cut and to minimize the amount of material wasted. Next generation routers focus on areas such as preparation, programming, hold-down, sorting, scrap removal, assembly and error handling that have been traditionally the responsibility of the machine operator.
As businesses migrate more towards lean operations and machinery upgrades, they are looking for machines that will do the work needed but with a smaller shop-floor footprint. Gone are the days with large, heavy, and cumbersome machines. Business owners need to maximize the floor space they have, and this means buying machines that don’t take up more space than is necessary. Manufacturers of CNC routers, edgebanders, and other woodworking machines have recognized this need and are now offering models designed to minimize space requirements. Any unnecessary shop floor space taken up with equipment and any unnecessary movement by operators is waste. If one considers the financial value of a square-foot in a shop, it is easy to justify then need to upgrade to more compact machinery.
More and more companies are recognizing the added benefit of adding 5-axis capabilities to their operations and as the price continues to drop on this technology, you will be sure to see more 5-axis routers in woodworking shops across the country. With reduced machining time, fewer setups, better surface finish, and the ability to cut parts never before possible, CNC routers with a 5-axis head are sure to see increased popularity in 2014. 5-Axis routers are also in-line with the ongoing trend of total automation in manufacturing shops. With reduced set-up time, short-run projects will become more profitable.
Cutting Tool Evolution
Be sure to be on the look-out for new product offerings from your router bit or tooling supplier. High-performance coatings designed to extend tool wear, decrease breakage, and increase cut quality will continue to make their way on to the market. Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) cutting tools will continue to increase in popularity and decrease in cost. PCD is especially efficient for the machining of nonferrous materials, fiber-reinforced plastics and ceramics.
Digital Inkjet Printing on Wood
The revolution in digital printing is rapidly making its way into the world of wood. Tremendous strides have been made not only in the speed and image quality of digital printing on decorative laminates, but on wood substrates as well. Machinery suppliers have demonstrated the ability to reproduce virtually anything from wood grains and abstracts to masterpiece paintings and corporate logos on solid wood and composite wood panels. Multi-pass and single-pass systems are available and can also be used on other materials such as plastics, metals and more. These digital inkjets have been specially designed to work in tandem with CNC routers and lasers, just think of the possibilities!
So based on the woodworking and routing technology trends we can expect to see in 2014, perhaps now is the time to invest in some new technology to help your woodworking shop prosper. Why not implement nesting based software to help decrease the amount of materials wasted during cutting. Or perhaps a 5-axis router to create beautiful handrails or furniture components, while at the same time reducing set-up and finishing times.
What other trends can we hope to see in 2014? We’d love to hear your thoughts.