eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

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David Hall
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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby David Hall » Tue, Nov 11 2008, 6:04PM

Hi Dan,
Thanks for the feedback, I thought of you at least four times while I was writing my post.

My experience with published API's is dated and goes back to a time when magazine publishers were trying to replace big expensive single use computers with desktop publishing software. Trying to make it do stuff it was never designed to do. We did pay for the developers toolkit back then.

I don't know if the eCabs free software model can support a free API and SDK. Unlike the paid software model, increased use, spurred by third party applications, doesn't create a direct financial benefit to the publisher.

Regard,
Dave
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DanEpps
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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby DanEpps » Tue, Nov 11 2008, 7:57PM

David Hall wrote:...I thought of you at least four times while I was writing my post...


All bad thoughts too, eh? :joker: Actually, I'm glad you didn't take my response the wrong way.

I agree that a free API/SDK would be difficult to justify for a free product such as eCabinets, but just look at the number of open source products that do just that. This forum software (phpBB) is a great example.

My thoughts are to publish the API but not necessarily an SDK. The added value provided by add-ins/plugins would make eCabinets even more valuable to shops and thus, to Thermwood. Each install is a potential router sale or business for a production sharing shop such as yours.

By encouraging developers to create add-ins/plugins for eCabinets, Thermwood could free up their developers to concentrate on the core cabinet design software, making it the hands-down best available anywhere at any price.

Your idea of paying a royalty to Thermwood for each add-in unit sold is not a bad idea. It would give Thermwood a monetary incentive to publish the API. I have seen similar arrangements where the vendor gives independent developers exclusivity for the type of add-in they create in return for royalties to the vendor. I don't know if that is such a good plan as it would tend to stifle competition between developers. Competition, after all, is what drives developers to create better products.

Again, look to phpBB for proof that this works. The phpBB owners don't get any royalties from independent developers but there are hunndreds, if not thousands, of enhancements available for the base forum software. The base forum software in and of itself is great but the availibility of add-ins make it the most widely used forum software in the world. Even the programming language its written in (PHP) is open source and free to the public.

I don't want to see eCabinets to go open source for a number of reasons. Probably foremost is that the original developers of open source software tend to "lose control" of the software and I certainly don't want to see that happen to eCabinets.

I do think there are methods of making something like this work is a way that is beneficial for Thermwood, independent developers and eCabinets users.

Good idea...thanks for posting it.

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby DanEpps » Wed, Nov 12 2008, 5:34AM

After getting a bit of sleep (some, not much :shock: ), I have some more thoughts on publishing an API.

First, if the future intent is to disallow eCabinets to be used to generate CNC code for other machines, the API would have to be very restrictive--either in physical form or in licensing. If the API allowed job/cabinet data to be extracted for use in another application, the data could also be used to create CNC code.

A royalty type of licensing arrangement could prevent this to some degree if it were set up like this:

1. The API would require applications to be activated by Thermwood before they could communicate with a live eCabinets installation.

2. Thermwood would review and approve each external application for adherance to the license terms and operability (does what it says without causing damage to eCabinets files).

3. Royalty fees for machine interfaces would be far more expensive than for other applications in order to prevent Sue Theprogrammer from creating an interface between eCabinets and, say, a ShopBot.

4. The activation process would have to track installations of applications and Thermwood would bill the programmer for royalties due. This would be easily reconciled for the programmer because the number of activations would (should) match the number of licenses sold for the application.

Of course this doesn't prevent anyone from creating an interface to another machine, but it does ensure that Thermwood is compensated for such interfaces.

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Ken Susnjara
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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Ken Susnjara » Wed, Nov 12 2008, 8:55AM

This has been an interesting discussion. We will have some discussions about this approach but I am reluctant to publish an API. My past experience is that it is not as simple as simply publishing and then standing back. It will require assistance and that can be quite disruptive. Also, the only source of income for the program is currently the sale of Thermwood CNC routers. Any API that is useful will potentially open the path to using the software for other CNC routers which would endanger the viability of the entire program. Policing this would be, at best, time consuming. There have been a lot of changes to our basic structure and, as you can imagine, it makes us a little nervous. I don’t see any additional changes until we get a feeling of how this new direction is working. I, for one, believe that this will probably work better than the old approach. If all we have to do is focus on the software and not the store, I think you will see some real advances which will make the software even better and should ultimately sell more machines.

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Steve Dyches » Thu, Nov 13 2008, 10:42AM

Hi Ken,

I’ll chime in with a few points in case my situation, experience and opinion is helpful.

1. I chose eCabinets because it was free.
2. I bought Thermwood router because: the machine was competitively priced, other machine brands would require new software (basically raising their routers real cost to me), I already had substantial investment in learning eCabinets and Thermwood had good reputation for customer service and loyalty which has proved true.
3. ECabinets is very good in the cabinet editor, not in the line drawing editor.
No way I could submit eCabinets line drawings to Architect or use in shop. Also don’t like to layout in eCabinets. My architects, builders and designers either don’t need or don’t like 3D fluff. I provide elevations, floor plans and cross sections.
4. I currently draw customer and shop drawings in AutoCAD and once approved use eCabinets to “build/ draw” the individual cabinets. ECabinets gives me machine link and cultist. Cultist needs improving.
5. This redundant process has caused me to review Microvellum. I need one program to streamline. I would prefer to draw quickly in line view with option of “dressing up” in 3D if needed for a retail customer. ECabinets seems to work from the 3D end with the line drawings as an after thought. I would prefer the opposite.
6. ECabinets is very good, free or not. However, I cannot imagine Thermwood being able to advance it to what I need in a single program without charging. I can see the current evolution of software serving as the basis for the free version and adding fee versions or plug-ins.
7. The fee version would hopefully be profitable in itself. This would rapidly advance eCabinets. The free and fee software and the machines would work together increasing the value of each. These changes would be leveraging existing overhead, investment and position.
8. Also, the fee software could be made available and more attainable with some creative payment options like rental, leasing etc

I certainly have been pleased with my experiences with Thermwood. I look forward to the future changes and advances from your company.
Thanks,

Steve Dyches
http://www.frostkeading.com

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Kenneth Rychlik » Sun, Nov 23 2008, 10:56AM

From my small one man shop that is happy to be the one man shop, here are my thoughts.

I build one to two kitchens a month, depending on size.

I did choose e-cabinets because it was free, although attending the seminar and investing my time into learning the use of it did cost me.

I only use it for selling jobs. When doing major remodels, the customer can't always "see" what the finished area will look like and I think this program has kept me afloat.

If the suppliers were competively priced I would use it. My wood supplier stocks drawer slides and hinges and delivers with my wood for little to no shipping cost. My most used drawer slide is a full extention ball bearing side mount 22 inch slide that I pay 5 bucks a pair for delivered (15 pair in a box), and Face frame euro amerilock hinges for just under 1 dollar each (100 in a box) 105 degree

As a one man shop I have many concerns about buying a router that keep me out of the market.

1- justifying the price for my small output.
2-space limitations (2500 sq ft)
3-electrical requirments (don't have 3 phase)
4-loading full sheets of material without scratching them onto the machine by myself.

What I do is use a vertical panel saw to bust down my material and then clean up on table saws.

I am interested in a router that would handle 2ft, by 4ft size pieces of sheet goods, work with e-cabinets, run on single phase electricity, and not cost 70-100 thousand to purchase. I have been considering a shop-bot, but really don't want to re-learn another software.

I Think there would be lots of small shops that would purchase a small scale router that would work with e-cabinets. Shops that otherwise not be in the cnc market at all.

I would like to see a small thermwood cnc built, rather than pay for a different router and then pay for more software.

My specs would be a small footprint, single phase, and a cutter that would not be as cheesy as a porter cable router, but not as fancy and expensive as a high frequency spindle. Price point maybe around 15thousand.

If this option does not appeal to you, i would be interested to see what it would cost to use e-cabinets with the shop-bot.

I would also be interested in one of your thermwood equipped shops developing a rta line of kitchen cabinets. Us small folks could design the project, send a list of cabinet sizes to a shop that would send out prefinished, ready to assemble cabinets. I put a set together for a cheap project and the idea was nice, but the quality was not there. This may be a hard row to hoe, because everyones idea of quality is different and color selection would be an issue. I though about thermwood itself offering this line, but then you are competing with the folks you have sold routers to and that doesn't seem fair.

I would consider paying for the use of the program, but if it is limited to thermwood routers, I would consider this a negative and would consider other programs when making my decision. I don't want to pay for a program that has my hands tied really.

Take care and thanks for helping me in my buisness.

Kenneth

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Joe Dusel » Sun, Nov 23 2008, 8:08PM

I think the 4 x 8 size C41 is great, but I would also like the machine to come in at least a 230V version if it is 3 phase. One of these days I'm going to get one...

I sure wish I had 2500 square feet. I don't see the problem with putting a CNC into that size shop.

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Damon Nabors
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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Damon Nabors » Sun, Nov 23 2008, 8:40PM

I have a CS45-510 in a 2,000sq ft shop sitting in my back yard. It runs on 208V 3ph electrical. You can purchase a voltage converter to accommodate what ever electricity is available in your area. They also make CNC phase converters that will run the machine as well. Using the thought process of "I do 1 to 2 kitchens a month and don't really need a cnc" sounds to me like you are not wanting to grow your business. I was doing one kitchen a month also when I purchased my router because that is all I could do with my one man shop. I can cut a kitchen out every 5 hours now depending on the size of it. I have shops drop me kitchen jobs just to cut for them. They drop their material that morning and I have their kitchen cut out that afternoon ready for them to assemble. I don't know how much growing you are going to do right now in todays economy but you have to keep an open mind and be willing to grow your business. There are ways of making money with one of these machines other than kitchen cabinets. I was cutting out a steering wheel Friday for a guy restoring an old Firetruck, $150/hr machine time. I cut parts for an explosive company here in town. They always need some type of prototype part cut out, they furnish material and I charge them by the part which usually comes out to $300/hr and they don't care. They just want there part to be accurate and on time. Since the slow down of the housing industry, I have gone out and started looking for jobs like this, that I can spent 2 or 3 hours a day working on and then goof off or go make cold calls and find more work.

Good luck
Damon Nabors

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Ray Jorgensen » Sun, Nov 23 2008, 9:10PM

Somewhere around 4-5 years ago I built a machine. Next you have to get a controller (software). Then you have get a design program (software). Next cam (software). So here's the result of that. Something isn't working - I built the machine couldn't be that, well maybe, interference going to the drive motors, a bad connection, or a lot of other things. The design (cad) program doesn't support the right file type for the Cam program, or maybe it was the other way around. The end result is that no one takes responsibility to get it working. It's always someone else’s problem.

I stumble onto ecabs. I look into it. The same company that builds the machine is providing software that is not only design but also the cam and the controller. That solves 4 problems. They built the machine and all the software is produced by them. Seems to me that this is a no brainier. There is no one else to pass the buck to - they have to fix it.

Ecabs has it's limits. If it won't do it then Thermwood will custom program the part(s) for you. Guess what, if it isn't nuts on they'll get it there. No blaming anyone or any other product for the problem. They make it right.

There are other machines for sale that the manufacturer bundles the controller software with it. (Maybe they wrote it) But you still have the problems of the cad and cam. Ok you can buy a program the is both. Now you only have 2 problems - (maybe 3) the machine (maybe the controller) the cad and the cam. This is a good deal - it cut your headaches by %50. Maybe. But the cost of the total system just increased.

I use some other free software that will do amazing things but believe me the cost is high. Not allot of support and allot of time trying to figure out how to make it work. Now how free is this? I need to cut parts. Got a problem with ecabs? Help is online and on the phone.

I bought a 45 about a year and a half ago. Did I have some problems? Yes. Were they taken care of promptly? Faster than I ever hoped for. Do I still have questions and dumb s--t attacks and have to call in. YES. Are they handled? YES.

I'm a one-man shop. Ok the wife comes in and helps on weekends sometimes and my kids. They love to come help, cause then they can build new kitchens for themselves for the cost of just material. Yep - both of them this past winter. That really cut into my production time, but they are my kids. The wife has put off a couple of her projects because she knows the dollar side of this.

Guarantee you that this "system" machine and software is much cheaper than hired help and much more effective. It's so much cheaper and cost effective than building your own or patching together a "system" with components. What I mean is - machine, software, software, software. Which ultimately adds up to greater cost.

Do I sound like a commercial for Thermwood. I hope so!!

Was ecabs free for me? Yes but no. I still had to spend the time to learn it. With any other system it would be the same. I figure it came with the machine. No one else includes 2 weeks of training - mandatory- with thier machine.

Sorry that the “store” didn’t work out. Not all business ventures do. But your idea to provide a “complete package” did for me and production sharing has been played a part.

Keep up the good work. Thanks to you Ken and all of your people, you are a great bunch.

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby DanEpps » Mon, Nov 24 2008, 7:41AM

Damon Nabors wrote:...I cut parts for an explosive company here in town...


Sounds like business is booming Damon. :joker:

Seriously, you and others bring up a very important aspect of entrepreneurship--adaptibility. The ability to identify and act on opportunities as they arise is often the difference between success and less than stellar performance.

As you pointed out, you achieve a far greater hourly rate for non-cabinet machining than you do for making cabinets, so what is wrong with that? Not a thing! In fact, look no further than the history of Thermwood for a similar story--from making thermoformed plastic furniture parts to building CNC routers. Maybe not the "normal" evoloutionary path one would expect, but it worked.


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