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Pros and cons of digital measuring tools

Feature | July 2, 2019 | By:

Any boater knows that the way you handle a vessel changes with the weather. The same is true with a fabricator’s measuring tools. Many fabricators now have both touchpoint 3D and touchless laser systems in their toolkits, and which one works best depends to some degree on the environment. “I use a variety of digital patterning tools such as touchpoint 3D systems and touchless laser,” says Ed Skrzynski, Marco Upholstery & Canvas LLC, Marco Island, Fla. “But I’ve also made covers from cell phone pictures when the travel time would be too much.

“3D processes lend themselves well for mooring covers because then you don’t have to contend with wind or not being able to reach a boat on a lift or from a ladder, walk planks or floats to pattern,” he continues.

Duane Smith Jr. and Duane Smith III from Canvasworks Inc. in Cokato, Minn., also employ both types of measuring tools and point out there are specific uses and benefits to both. “With the Prodim [Proliner] you can have some issues because of the wind blowing the cable, which can result in some false points and bad measurements,” Duane Smith III says. “The laser can have a little problem if the wind gets high enough, but it still tends to be better in a windy environment. The laser is also easier to use with one person. But the Prodim is much faster to use. They both have their place in the industry and we use both of them every day.”

Chris Ritsema, from Canvas Innovations, Holland, Mich., also uses the Proliner but is beta testing a digital pen that’s in development as well. digiShapes, a partnership between PrecisionSew and Sunstream that provides mass customized canvas products to the marine industry, is developing the digiPen. The tool is essentially a wireless pen that can be used to pattern by collecting data points, and it has no sharp point that might scratch boats.

“The digiPen allows you to measure large boats by connecting to your phone. This allows you to have CAD data on your wrist so you can see what you’re doing when climbing around a boat,” says Tim Jane, the pen’s developer. “The phone app collects field measurements either in 3D or 2D and syncs the data with a cloud database so users back in the office have real time measurements from the field.”

While the pen isn’t available to the broader market yet, Ritsema says it’s a definite time saver. “The wind doesn’t affect this tool so that’s a bonus,” he says.

“It’s a big investment and there’s a big learning curve when you switch over to automation and 3D patterning,” Ritsema says. “But it’s been worth it for us—it saves time and gives you more options.”

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