Another new piece of equipment which drew notice was Betterley Industries' coving router with an AIR~GLIDE base (see Figure 2). The new base system "floats" the router on a very thin cushion of air to help eliminate friction between the router and the solid surface material, thereby increasing control of the cutting process while reducing operator effort and the possibility of material scratching.
Surfacing Products International's ThinSlabZ thin stone system also was cause for attention. The system has screw-down rails that can be placed over existing countertops and could allow entry into the stone industry with minimal investment.
Of note is the fact that CNC equipment use is really growing, fueling the debate over its necessity in solid surface fabrication. However, the voices of opposition are slowly fading out.
Art Kornibe, technology consultant for both the stone and solid surface industries, said some companies continue to be afraid of the new technologies, but that his clients who have invested have seen a very good increase in profit margins.
A few fabricators said they are still not interested in moving to more automated equipment, but most agreed that those companies that do not embrace CNC technology will be eaten up by those that do.
One fabricator said he was fearful of buying CNC equipment because he thought it would mean putting fabricators out of work. However, after purchasing the machinery upgrade, he just moved more of his fabricators to installation, driving up the numbers and making the business faster and more profitable for everyone.
Rob Stoeckel, with Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co., said as the next generation of fabricators begin to take the reigns of the shops, he sees technology being embraced.
Price remains king. One popular topic continues to be the pricing of sheets. Every manufacturer had its take on product pricing vs. product quality, and that debate will probably never end. With new solid surface manufacturing companies entering the market, particularly those from Asia, pricing is becoming even more competitive.
Harmony Solid Surface is now offering a standard 3/8-in. sheet so it can reduce its market price and undercut the competition.