We are quickly reaching the point where CNC machines are as ubiquitous in woodworking operations as table saws once were. But the complexity of these machines requires more training and understanding than simple table saws. The CNC Symposium the day before IWF opens offers a chance to immerse yourself in CNC technology with face-to-face easy access to CNC experts.
Running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, August 21, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, the CNC Symposium is presented by Woodworking Network and sponsored by RSA Solutions. The event features presentations designed to appeal to all levels of users and sizes of operations, and there will be ample opportunity for questions and answers to make sure you get the information you need.
Ted Hall, founder of ShopBot Tools.

Changes afoot

Ted Hall, founder of ShopBot Tools, will set the tone with a thoughtful presentation on where CNC manufacturing is headed in the coming years.
Hall comes to CNC manufacturing with a unique perspective. He was a professor of neurobiology at Duke University and an amateur woodworker when in 1994 he built his own CNC machine to help build a boat. Hall showed off that machine to a meeting of the Triangle Woodworkers Association in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. Immediately there were calls to make the machine available to other woodworkers, and ShopBot tools was born.
Today’s ShopBot CNC routers are much more sophisticated than that first model, but they still employ a patented closed loop drive system that was born in that first machine. ShopBot became well known for the enthusiastic community that grew up around the company’s machines, often building their own custom machines with ShopBot’s help. As the company grew, it emphasized bigger, more capable machines and pro-grade equipment that could compete with much more expensive units.
Hall has become a keen observer of CNC and manufacturing trends, including such efforts as distributed manufacturing. He’ll share those insights to the symposium audience.
John Murphy, KCD Software

CNC software

John Murphy of KCD Software is another woodworking technology pioneer, but he comes from the software side. After all, you can’t have a computer-driven machine without software.
Murphy will present a segment in the symposium titled “Choosing Software for Your CNC.” With four decades of custom cabinetmaking experience and 35 years continually developing integrated design and production software, Murphy will address fundamental questions for shops to consider before investing in or expanding their CNC capabilities, including:
• The different types of CNC machines available;
• Determining which equipment is best suited for specific business models;
• What adding or expanding CNC technology can or cannot do for your business;
• Finding the right software fit in terms of capability, required technical expertise and goals;
• Considerations for minimizing disruption when implementing new CNC capabilities; and
• How to optimize your investments in agile manufacturing.
Dave Hall, Hall's Edge

Do you need a CNC?

After all the talk about CNC technology and software, one might think you have to already have to have a CNC machine to benefit from the symposium, but that’s not so. In fact, one presenter will make the case for outsourcing CNC manufacturing.
Dave Hall of Hall’s Edge in Stamford, Connecticut, is a long-time operator of a CNC manufacturing facility whose customers are typically woodworking shops who don’t have their own CNC. Hall’s shop, which centers on a Thermwood CNC router, emphasizes cutting parts for those shops so they can reap benefits of precise and quick CNC manufacturing without having to own their own machine.
Hall will talk about the benefits of outsourcing CNC services, but he’ll also give advice on how to get the most out of CNC outsourcing.
Tim Owens, Next Wave Automation

Small but not a toy

Another misconception about CNC manufacturing is that you have to have a huge machine to use CNC professionally. Tim Owens of Next Wave Automation has been in the forefront of promoting quality small-format CNC routers. Such units have become increasingly popular in a variety of manufacturing settings.
Owens developed the CNC Shark and Piranha CNC routers and related products. He’ll talk about how these desktop units share features of larger machines and are being used more in professional manufacturing settings. For example, they lend themselves to smaller custom work that does not require a huge table, and they also can be used in specialized manufacturing cells for single processes.
Greg Neer, Freud America Inc.

Tooling for CNC

Just as you can’t run a CNC without software, you can’t cut without the right tooling. Greg Neer grew up in the wood industry, working in manufacturing and tooling sales for more than 28 years. He worked in production and production management for Merillat Industries a Div. of Massco for eight years. For 14 years he’s been with Freud America Inc., a Div. of Bosch, specializing in tooling for the wood industry.
He’ll talk about selecting your CNC tooling whether you are just starting out with a new CNC or whether you need specialized tooling applications.
Paul Roza, Benz Incorporated

Do more with aggregates

Speaking of specialized applications, many CNC users are unaware of the potential for expanding capabilities with aggregates, which are tooling add-ons for CNC machines that expand what tools the machine can use and what operations it can do. Helping to enlighten the symposium audience on that subject will be Paul Roza. 
He has spent the last 30 years in the woodworking industry. His work includes time with companies such as the Homag Group, Anderson America, AlphaCam software, CR Onsrud and now at Benz Incorporated.
“I was always a guy who wanted to try everything but got real bored once I figured how everything worked,” said Roza, adding that the CNC world was what kept his attention. “Every time I visited a new customer and they showed me an application that needed a solution – it was like starting a new job. It just never gets old.”
He thinks aggregate heads on CNC can be a big part of those solutions. “In the first two years that Benz was in the U.S. market – you could ask 10 woodworkers what an aggregate head was and you would be lucky if one person knew,” he said, adding that now maybe 50 percent of pro woodworkers know what aggregates are. “The battle to get the message out there is nowhere near over, but it’s been a real great ride trying to make it happen.”
Mike Cassell, Holz-Her US

Loading and unloading

As manufacturers look to achieve higher production levels and increased spindle utilization in nested based processes, inefficient areas must be identified and reduced if not eliminated. Mike Cassell will present “Efficient Loading and Unloading of CNC Machines” to address those issues.
“This session will present and review new options available for reducing loading, unloading, labeling, material delivery times and inventory management systems through automation,” he said. “The implementation of some or all of these systems greatly reduces spindle and machine rest periods resulting in higher production output.”
Cassell is Senior CNC Product Specialist for Holz-Her US. He has been a member of the HHUS team for 17 years in the CNC product group and prior to joining Holz-Her was in sales management for a major Japanese CNC machine tool builder. 
Roger Shaw, RSA Solutions

More on software

Software is absolutely crucial to CNC, but it is also frequently a stumbling block. Roger Shaw and RSA Solutions, which is sponsor of the CNC Symposium, have provided software consultation to the woodworking industry for years. Shaw himself started work in the industry in 1990 as the Pattern Systems Distributor for Texas and Oklahoma. He introduced Kreate, the first AutoCAD-based solid modeling program in the U.S. for woodworking. 
At RSA Solutions, he has assembled a team of experts to help small and large manufacturers. He’ll talk about the important role of software in CNC manufacturing.
To register for the CNC Symposium, go to: iwfatlanta.com/Education/CNC.

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