Solid Surface 2001, the fourth annual trade show, based in Las Vegas and sponsored each year by the International Solid Surface Fabricators Association (ISSFA), was again a big success. The show has grown each year, and is a "must" for anyone seriously involved in the solid surface industry. As always, I kept my eyes peeled for interesting items that fabricators may find useful in their businesses, and I wasn't disappointed. Here are a few:'
Monument Toolworks has developed the revolutionary Parallign Seam Clamp, which improves seam quality and saves time both in clamping and in sanding seams. The innovation is that each side of the clamp consists of a vacuum pod connected by three precision steel guide rods. As clamping pressure is applied, the adjoining surfaces are automatically drawn into precisely flush alignment with one another. After curing, excess adhesive can easily and accurately be trimmed off, and no rough sanding is required. Finish sanding begins with 180 grit sandpaper, saving time and producing more consistent seam quality.
The Parallign Seam Clamp is available in two models one using compressed air for shop use, and another with an integral vacuum pump for use by installers on jobsites. For more information, call 508-644-2400, or visit the company Web site at www.monumenttoolworks.com.'
ZipWall has developed a system that enables effective dust barriers to be erected in a home in a matter of minutes without masking tape. ZipWall poles are telescoping, twist-lock units with spring-loaded jacks. The basic system works with ceiling heights up to 12 feet, and special units can accommodate ceiling heights up to 20 feet. Using lightweight tarps, drop cloths or plastic sheeting, an almost impervious enclosure can be created using just four poles. For more information, call 800-718-2255, or visit the firm's Web site at www.zipwall.com.'
Rotaloc Bonding Fasteners from Chemical Concepts are an
alternative to the brass bushings often used to secure porcelain
vanity bowls to the underside of solid surface vanity tops. The
Rotaloc hardware system can be applied to a variety of materials
using structural adhesives appropriate to each material. They are
available in a variety of sizes and configurations. For more
information, call 800-220-1966 or go to www.chemical-concepts.com
on the Web.'
Larger fabricators using or considering the purchase of a CNC router may also find it profitable to use an electronic templating system. ETemplate Systems has developed a portable, self-contained device utilizing sonic technology that allows a countertop layout to be digitized on the jobsite in a matter of minutes, without making a cardboard or plywood template. The operator uses a hand-held probe to collect data points either from installed cabinets or from existing old countertops. The system accommodates complex curves and irregular walls, and locates sinks and appliance cutouts. Installations up to 16 feet long can be digitized in a single operation. Best of all, the completed electronic template can be e-mailed instantly to your CNC router, saving time and travel for field personnel. The company estimates that templating time can be cut in half. For information, call 919-676-2244 or visit the firm's Web site at www.etemplatesystems.com.'
Previously, I've discussed the trend toward automated V grooving in solid surface fabrication. These machines are becoming more affordable, and can now be cost-justified by smaller shops. Auto V Grooving, the world's leading supplier of V grooving equipment, is offering a lease at just $99 per month for a full-featured machine. For information, call 800-387-5819 or visit the Web at www.vgrooving.com.'
For years, I've advocated the most comprehensive computerization of fabricator's business operations. Counter Intelligence by Pinnacle Manufacturing is a fully integrated software program that can be used by solid surface, plastic laminate and synthetic stone countertop fabricators. The software produces estimates, contracts, shop drawings, job schedules, purchase orders, packing lists and invoices. The program also communicates with QuickBooks for complete accounting system integration. Databases of product information for 20 brands of countertop materials are now available. For information, call 440-572-2220 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.'
Another software solution called FabOffice is offered by Hi-Tech Worktops. FabOffice offers a customer database, tracking of employee time per job, data collection by bar code scanning, job tracking, vendor pricing and inventory control. The program also interfaces with Cost Point and Visual Pricing software. A demonstration version is available at a nominal price. Call 301-493-6105 for more information.'
The shortage of skilled labor is a restraining factor in the growth of many solid surface fabrication companies today. To help with this problem, the Carpenters Union now has a Solid Surface Installer Certification Program, developed in partnership with five major manufacturers of solid surface materials. The state-of-the-art training facility is located in Las Vegas. For more information, call 702-938-1111 x200.'
Growing businesses struggling to stay on course can sometimes use the special insights of a management consultant. Chris Traynor worked for 20 years as a key person at Dolan & Traynor, a major East Coast distributor of DuPont Corian. Now, he's formed a management consulting business called Whip-Smart. For more information, call 973-831-4274 or visit the firm's impressive Web site at www.whip-smart.com.'
If you are ever called upon to repair solid surface countertops, you simply must look into Templates By Andreas. Solid surface repair is my main business, and Kevin Andreas is one of my peers. His precision templates speed the repair process and improve repair strength and appearance, and are well worth the price. They are clearly superior do-it-yourself templates. For more information, call 800-935-5406.'
There are bound to be many more innovative new tools and services for solid surface fabricators on display at Solid Surface 2002, which will be held at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas early next year. Plan now to be there. Contact ISSFA for more information at 702-567-8150, or visit the association's Web site at www.issfa.com.