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The Art Of Woodworking Automation

The Art of Woodworking Automation

Architectural Arts Streamlines its production process with Cabinet Vision

It’s no secret to any professional woodworker that, while top-notch quality is still in demand, low-tech production belongs to the days of yesteryear.

“Woodworking is challenging,” says Jonah Coleman, production engineer for Iowa-based millwork company Architectural Arts. “When it comes to woodworking, people expect to see a bunch of guys with hand saws, and gluing stuff together. It’s a field that, these days, requires high tech and automation.”

With two facilities — one in Emmetsburg, the other in Des Moines — Architectural Arts is one of the largest millwork companies in the Midwest.

Utilizing a combined manufacturing space of 100,000 square feet and its team of 110 employees, the company has completed more than 6,000 projects in nearly every state in the union since opening in 1998.

Offering everything from design and engineering to production and installation services, Architectural Arts has remained competitive in part because it has implemented technologies that help it retain production quality while increasing efficiency.

After hiccups caused by inaccurate and unreliable CNC code threw a proverbial wrench into the company’s works, it replaced its former CAM system with the Cabinet Vision Screen-To-Machine™ solution by Vero Software.

Coleman — whose wide range of duties includes some project management, drafting and engineering — was the man in charge of implementing the new system.

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Jonah Coleman
Prairie Recital Hall Cedar Rapids
World Food Prize 10
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Jonah Coleman, Production Engineer

Cabinet Vision enables users to create jobs using advanced solid-modeling technology that can automatically generate shop drawings, 3D customer renderings, cutting lists, material requirement information, and job estimates.

Prior to the implementation of Cabinet Vision, engineering and programming staff at Architectural Arts created 2D CAD drawings of jobs and their building methods for submittal to architects and business owners.

Because job data wasn’t entered into a CAM system — or a CAD system able to create solid models — all of the job data had to be manually entered into the company’s former CAM system before the real production work could begin.

“We have more labor savings now because no one has to figure that out,” Coleman says of eliminating the need for data entry after design. “It was somewhat duplicative work, and it was error prone. It was also the point at which someone would say, ‘How are you going to build that?’ ”

While Coleman notes that, compared to the company’s prior method, “it does take a little longer to get submittal drawings done up front,” Cabinet Vision “saves us a lot of time later in the project.”

“Especially on projects where you’re working with an owner versus an architect, the project is visually more understandable with Cabinet Vision,” Coleman says. “There are some submittals to architects that are hard or impossible to explain in 2D that you can show them in 3D.”

The vast majority of cabinet production at Architectural Arts is programmed with Cabinet Vision and performed on the company’s “very high-end, modern machinery,” which includes three CNC routers, a duo of edgebanders, dowel machines, and more.

Coleman and his team save time and improve consistency by taking advantage of Cabinet Vision’s ability to apply user-created standards, or UCSs, for specific job conditions. Created by users to tailor programs to suit the specific needs of shops and their jobs, UCSs serve to streamline and reliably automate specific elements of the programming process.

“We do a lot of shapes and funky stuff, and the custom programming abilities in Cabinet Vision makes that easier,” Coleman says. “It allows us to automate a lot of stuff that would take a lot of manual adjustment.”

The three most common types of UCSs include the ability to add or link a part or operation, modify a part or operation, or delete a part or operation.

For Architectural Arts, Coleman has created several UCSs for automating the production of various configurations of cabinets. Those UCSs can easily and repeatedly be applied to fulfill applicable manufacturing needs. “It’s automation of the things that you would have to go do to a cabinet to make changes.”

In addition to the time-saving UCSs, Coleman and his team appreciate the reliability of Cabinet Vision post processing, as well as the ease with which it was implemented at Architectural Arts.

“When you’re doing CNC work, what you see on the screen has to be what you get on your router, and we are confident that is what we get with Cabinet Vision Screen-To-Machine™.”

About the Company
Name: Architectural Arts

Business: Custom millwork


Benefits Achieved

  • Savings in labor due to more efficient planning
  • Custom programming for unique shapes
  • Automation for greater productivity


“When you’re doing CNC work, what you see on the screen has to be what you get on your router, and we are confident that is what we get with Cabinet Vision Screen-To-Machine™.”

Jonah Coleman, Production Engineer

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