Going green can do more than just
save the environment, it can boost
your bottom line. The wood-
worker who adopts green
practices will gain new
Help provide dramatic
cost cutting benefits
when applied correctly.
Modern 3D modeling programs, especially "parametric" programs,
provide opportunities to automate several labor intensive tasks.
This is how parametric modeling programs work. Once a 3D model
of typical assembly, such as a cabinet is created, that model can then
be used to generate models similar in form but different in size; they
can do this very quickly. The generated models are created simply by
entering the overall sizes of a particular unit you need. The new model
is created automatically, complete with a 3D model of each part. The model of
a part, such as a side panel, can then be brought into a CAM program and be used to quickly generate code for CNC machinery. A cut list of all the parts in the assembly can be automatically sent to a spreadsheet. Once in a spread sheet, the parts list can easily be linked to other applications including bar coding programs with label makers. Several of these programs available today are quite user friendly so you can get up to speed quickly.
Another benefit of creating a 3D model is to assist customers and workers in visualizing your product. The old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" goes double for 3D models which can be viewed from any angle.
In past years, custom woodworkers have been able to get by without these cost savings benefits. In today's marketplace, however, it's getting harder and harder to be competitive and, at the same time, make a profit. The importance of cost savings such as these has become paramount.
So, if you create a lot of similar units in various sizes, the labor savings and error avoidance provided by this type of program can be enormous. That's why we see so many "canned" programs on the market that integrate all these features. If you make kitchen cabinets, one of these products is probably well worth the money. However, if you make a different type of product, be very careful about buying one of these programs. Make sure you see a demonstration of the program using your products. Don't accept excuses if the demonstrators can't make it work. If it's a challenge for the people supporting the sales of their program, it will be much more of a challenge for you.
If the compromises are too great with theses canned programs, your best alternative is a "generic" 3D parametric modeling program. The most popular of these programs are: Solid Edge, Solid Works, Inventor, and Pro Engineer . Again, see a demo using your products. All of these programs are designed to perform the same functions, but some are weak in critical performance areas. They all have a learning curve, but some are more user friendly than others.
If you need help finding the right product for you, Howell Design Services has the experience in applying this type of product to custom woodworking. With over 35 years experience in woodworking we know the details of many different kinds of wood products including architectural millwork, custom cabinetry, door and window manufacture, and custom furniture. We've tested and used several of these programs for many diversified applications. We know what works. Even with programs we haven't tested ourselves, we know the right questions to ask so we can evaluate the usability and features as we see them demonstrated. We have no monetary interest in which product you choose, our only goal is to make sure you get one that works for you.
If a generic program is right for you, we can provide training specific to your application. We know woodworking and can tailor your training to the features of the program useful to you. You won't waste your time learning about things like sheet metal or injection molding if you're not going to use them. The quicker you get up to speed, the sooner you can realize the cost savings of 3D modeling.