Small workshop automation

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The area where CNC machines have had most impact on small workshops is in the making of upholstery and soft furnishings. CNC sewing machines are less expensive than most automatic machines and are used to speed up tasks like quilting, seam binding, and edging.

At the moment large computerized woodworking machines are too expensive to buy and programme for small workshops producing a wide range of items in relatively small amounts. For some time they will be used in bigger companies which can cover their cost. One of the ways in which the real benefits of new technology can help small workshops and individual craftsmen is by grouping small firms around a central facility equipped with automated machines of all types, capable of turning out components to very high standards. The user-group will share the costs of a central CNC facility and use its output as required. CNC machines of this kind can be used to make standard items to help small makers meet their overheads, and allow them to spend more time creating the individual items which their customers require.

A similar method of group machining was first used when power machinery was introduced and it enabled many small works to survive until machines became generally affordable. Groups of this kind are being discussed now and may be in operation by the early 1990s. Failure to use some of the advantages of economy and accuracy that robot machines bring may possibly cause contraction of the furniture industry into a small number of very large concerns, and a handful of individual designer craftsmen who survive by providing an individual service.

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