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Is Design to Fab a Fad?

March 2020 – by Karl Doucas

No! Thank you. Article done... Well, maybe we can explore this a bit further.

Have you ever heard of the term “Design to Fab” in the context of your project requirements?

With technology disrupting the construction industry at a rapid pace, ever more pressure is brought to bear on all stakeholders for more efficient and better-controlled processes for executing a designer’s vision. The stone fabrication space is not immune to this phenomenon, but moreover, the natural stone industry may be an ideal channel to mastering this form of project delivery. After all, the blank canvas that natural stone offers, allows for infinite design flexibility and creativity—unlike manmade or stone alternates flooding the market today. Natural stone offers extensive material aesthetic choices, flexible raw material sizes, variable properties for all conditions, and both mechanized and digital tooling options for precision fabrication and constructability.

“Design to fab is the idea that creative invention and design can travel the path to physical reality, almost exclusively within the digital realm—essentially bridging the gap with 3D-modeling and additive and subtractive manufacturing processes.”

By extension, this idea can be integrated across supply chains, to logistics, installation, QC, and maintenance.

The Time is Now

The concept of design to fab is much more than a future “pipe dream”, it’s a reality on many levels already, with many stone fabricators readily using BIM tools, CNC, and robotics. The automotive industry consistently transitions from digital design workflows to CNC and computerized manufacturing. Similarly, the semiconductor industry does the same. The key to a successful and sustainable design to fab workflow is base levels of standardization and competence across all stakeholders involved in the process. Too often, industries are fragmented with incompatibility of technology and capability. Whether it’s the machinery, tooling, digital programming requirements, skilled labour to manage and administer the process, or the inability to adapt to a new paradigm; fabricators and beyond, including contractors and installers risk falling behind. Suppliers of fabrication tools also have a role to play. They must differentiate to stay unique, but shouldn’t compromise the benefits of compatible machine language. I’m referring to machine programming and interoperability challenges with design software and how machines communicate with each other, or actually, how they don’t communicate very well across brands.

The digital economy is here. Cloud computing, applications, and big data require companies recharge their capabilities and shift to this new reality. It requires discipline and education so that the stone industry keeps up with dynamic architects and GC’s who are challenging norms. It requires investment in emerging technology and in people. It demands that open mind thinking consider the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) in design fabrication, and site installation processes.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • When design to fab methodology is proposed for your project, consider your degree of support, or in many cases, the obstacles you present to the idea. What changes do you have to make to embolden the process?

  • Do it over time, but resist the notion of “doing it the way we’ve always done it” so that our industry, our people, and our businesses grow and prosper with technology.

  • Most importantly, surround yourself with passionate thought leaders and companies who thrive on project challenges with the ability to implement both time tested and creative high-tech or new-tech solutions.

Dare to Thrive!

Design to Fab is a worthy and achievable standard for the stone industry. We live in a world where no problem or process is too difficult to change or improve. The measure…is our willingness to try.


For more information contact:

Associate, VP Operations at PICCO Engineering

Karl has proudly been with PICCO Engineering since 1999. In addition to strategic planning and business development, Karl oversees all aspects of day-to-day operations driving best in class results with our internal team and for our valued clients. As an experienced problem solver and change agent, Karl’s passion for technology and innovation is a key ingredient of PICCO’s trademark project solutions. Karl holds a Diploma in Architectural Technology from Centennial College, BCIN certification, and is accredited with the Project Management Institute as a PMP since August 2002. Karl contributes regularly as a member of the Architectural Advisory Board at Humber College and is active within the AEC industry through its various associated communities.


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