As part of one of my many jobs I end up working in Atlanta at the IWF show every once in a while. What is the IWF 2012 show you say?
The full name is the International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair and it happens every other year at the Georgia World Congress Center. With nearly 900 exhibitors showing their wares to over 12,000 attendees from all 50 states and over 60 foreign countries, this is one of the largest wood products related shows in the world. Showing everything from sandpaper to multi-million dollar pieces of industrial woodworking equipment this is the place to be if you have any interest in working with wood.
One aisle over, about 50 feet away happened to be Epilog Laser. They have a nice line of small laser cutters and engravers that have a broad array of capabilities for the price. Needless to say I spent some time over at their booth talking to their technicians and their customers who came by. They were etching and cutting a variety of samples that people could take with them. This is a video of the gunslinger character as it was being cut out from the larger sheet of material.
A little farther away was ShopBotTools, a maker of 3 axis CNC routers. With a large X and Y range compared to the Z travel capabilities, these machines are ideal for flat materials. Mostly used on plywood, plastic sheet or hardwood where only a couple of inches of Z travel are needed. The video below shows the bas-relief carving of the US Navy crest that they were running at the time in a piece of hardwood that was about 1 inch thick. An option that was available for this machine was a drag knife that is ideal for cutting very thin material like hardwood veneer, gasket material, paper or film.
Finally, just down the aisle, was Vectric a maker of 3D software for computer aided design and manufacturing. With a large online user group, free trial versions of their software and free downloads of projects to try out they are the place to start for 3 axis CNC. Not to mention the tutorial videos, support for almost any file type imaginable from every program from Adobe Illustrator files to ProEngineer and SolidWorks.
All this and the standbys like Jet, Powermatic, SawStop, Bosch, Dewalt and many others. If you are interested in working with wood you should definitely make it to this show.