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As unlikely as it may seem, elegant home furniture produced in North Carolina and the hottest new skateboards and snowboards made in California have something in common: Each are often manufactured using computerized numerical control (CNC) woodworking machines. Furniture and skateboards share something else. The manufacturing engineering software used to control the machines on which they are made is very likely to be Router-CIM, the reference-standard CNC woodworking package from CIM-TECH, a noted West Chicago, Illinois, software developer and Authorized Autodesk® Reseller.
Router-CIM is even more popular following the launch of the latest release based on the AutoCAD® OEM engine. CIM-TECH believes that the AutoCAD OEM version of Router-CIM will help them not only maintain market share among their traditional base of medium-sized woodworking customers, but expand to both large manufacturers and small shops simultaneously.
"AutoCAD OEM technology helped us quickly deliver the new version of Router-CIM at a price point attractive to the growing number of smaller woodworking outfits that are purchasing less expensive CNC machines," explains Frank Rubino, CIM-TECH president.
"At the same time, because the AutoCAD engine is embedded within our product, we're able to go after larger companies that are not AutoCAD shops and who could never authorize a straightforward AutoCAD purchase. If such firms can output IGES, they can take advantage of Router-CIM," continues Rubino.
Rubino founded CIM-TECH in the mid-eightees with a twofold charter. First, CIM-TECH would provide the worldwide woodworking industry with complete CNC solutions—from PC-based CAD and CAM software to the actual CNC machines. Second, the company would strive to become a full-service AutoCAD mechanical dealer.
Rubino says that at the time of CIM-TECH's founding, the woodworking industry was ill-served in terms of programming tools for CNC machines. "Those firms investing in CNC machines were forced to modify metalworking packages. This proved largely unsatisfactory because the two industries have far different concerns and even speak different manufacturing languages. Woodworkers talk about grain direction and red oak, while metalworkers are concerned with end mills and hot- or cold-rolled steel."
With this untapped opportunity in mind, Rubino and his colleagues developed Router-CIM by adapting the NC Microproducts metalworking package, NC Polaris, to the specific requirements of woodworkers and high-speed CNC machines. The Router-CIM application was always sold in conjunction with AutoCAD software and quickly became the reference-standard CNC woodworking package, especially among medium-sized firms.
By the early 1990s, the woodworking market was undergoing some profound changes, most notably the introduction of much less expensive CNC machines. "Up to this time, typical machines cost $250,000," notes Rubino. "At these prices only certain sized firms could afford such an investment. And, as long as we kept AutoCAD and Router-CIM system costs under ten percent of the CNC machine price, we faced little objection from customers.
"Today, very capable CNC machines are available for $50,000 to $100,000," continued Rubino. "Now, a whole new class of smaller woodworking firms are investing in CNC tools. However, these shops will not invest $20,000 to $25,000 in a full-blown AutoCAD and Router-CIM hardware/software system. We knew we had to do something to address the lower end of our business."
"The scalable pricing made possible with the AutoCAD OEM engine helps Router-CIM compete against less expensive and less capable CAD and CNC tools, which had been cutting into CIM-TECH's market share"
Frank Rubino - President, CIM-TECH
Rubino and his colleagues were introduced to the newly formed AutoCAD OEM program in July 1995. By January 1996, CIM-TECH began formal development of the Router-CIM package based on the AutoCAD engine. Within 90 days, the application was fully debugged and ready for customer shipment.
"Prior to the AutoCAD OEM program, we had mapped out a two-year long program to develop our own geometry engine for a commodity-priced product," says Rubino.
The new version of Router-CIM carries far less overhead than a typical AutoCAD purchase. With the AutoCAD OEM engine embedded at the core of the product, AutoCAD itself is no longer a limiting issue. All of this adds up to a Router-CIM purchase price well within the 10 percent benchmark of the machine tool cost.
"The scalable pricing made possible with the AutoCAD OEM engine helps Router-CIM compete against less expensive and less capable CAD and CNC tools, which had been cutting into CIM-TECH's market share," says Rubino.
Although the price of Router-CIM fits well in the lower end of the woodworking market, the AutoCAD OEM version also allows CIM-TECH to compete at the high end.
"Large manufacturers, including home and office furniture companies, have long recognized that Router-CIM is an excellent product. Unfortunately, because it worked hand-in-hand with AutoCAD, we were often prevented from placing Router-CIM in shops that used other CAD tools, such as CADAM, Catia, or CADKEY," explains Rubino. "Purchasing departments simply wouldn't sign off on what they perceived to be an AutoCAD purchase."
If a manufacturing company can output CAD data in a standard format like IGES, it can take advantage of Router-CIM.
"Now, customers can focus on the functionality of Router-CIM, rather than on whether or not we fit into a corporate CAD decision," notes Rubino. "In these cases, we play up AutoCAD when it is not an obstacle and downplay it if it would prove troublesome. The AutoCAD OEM engine gives us tremendous flexibility to expand the market for Router-CIM," concludes Rubino.