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CAD benefits awning makers

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CAD technology is interchangeable from one industry to another, says Roy Chism, president of Chism Co. Inc. So if you have a system you are using to serve the marine industry, you should be able to use it as well in the manufacture of awnings.

Such is the case at Wm J. Mills & Co. “We not only manufacture awnings, we service them,” vice president Robert Mills says. “There are some instances where we’ve serviced the awnings 50 times over a 30-year time period. When we need to replace an awning, all we have to do is go to the computer and retrieve the design in seconds.”

Timothy Akes of CAD Effects says there is at least one difference between the awning and marine fabricating businesses. While many builders use CAD systems to produce boats with precision these days, such is not the case with the building of awning frames. Many are handcrafted. But Akes points out that even in such cases, there is new technology available. On the scene now: a new measuring device that uses laser technology and a backpack. Moving the device over the frame like a wand creates an electronic design.

The biggest hurdle for awning makers is when they are called on to replace an awning they didn’t make, and there is no design for either the frame or the fabric, Akes says.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Chism reports that in the late 80s or early 90s, his company used CAD software to build a pagoda structure over the patio of the North River Yacht Club in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The company coordinated efforts with a steel fabricator, and the partners agreed on some common tolerances. “This was in the days before the Internet,” Chism says. “But the steel fabricator Fed Exed us a disk with his design, and we completed the $250,000 to $300,000 project without ever visiting the job site.”

Mac Isaacs is a freelance writer and former editor of Textile World magazine.

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