The digitization of marine canvas design and production holds many promises, including time savings and fewer errors. However, many small fabrication shops have found that going digital doesn’t make good business sense.
Digital measuring machines, cutters and computers that support computer aided design (CAD) software require a large upfront investment in equipment and training. “It all depends upon how much work you’re going to put into it,” says Dan Bramble, owner of Bramble’s Canvas & Upholstery in Pottsboro, Texas. For fabricators like him who primarily complete custom and one-off jobs, “it hasn’t been cost effective, and it’s difficult to justify the investment.”
Although he has been using CAD for years, Stephan Kåmark of Advanced Canvas & Upholstery Services, Oxnard Calif., has just begun implementing it for large covers and enclosures. “But sometimes you still need pattern material and scissors to get the job done right,” he says.
Sandy Sturner, owner of Marine Tech LLC in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, has unveiled a new cutting room with a plotter and digital patterning solutions. “There is a long learning curve,” she acknowledges, “but we are making steady progress and expect to begin using all our new tech in the coming season.”
In the meantime, Sturner is implementing several new estimating programs to speed up that part of Marine Tech’s process, as well as a program that monitors inventory, keeps time on the various jobs and compares estimates with actual time and materials used on any given project.
“We do so many different types of projects, and each of these programs has its particular strengths and specific applications that we will be using several of them,” Sturner says.