In recent years, the great outdoors has captured the interest of more people than ever before, in their own backyards and beyond. Although the outdoor industry has always been substantial, it experienced a spike in growth following the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, over 10 million new enthusiasts have embraced outdoor recreation and activities.
The outdoor industry includes over 53 activity sectors—including hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, and camping—that require specialized equipment to enjoy. Notably, the awning and rooftop tent markets have seen significant increases in demand, as more individuals and families seek to enhance their lives through outdoor experiences.
Outdoor industry manufacturing leaders now face the challenge of meeting those demands efficiently. Eastman Machine Company stands at the forefront of advanced textile cutting, providing companies with the cutting equipment and software necessary to scale production while maintaining the highest level of quality.
Reimagining Awning Manufacturing with Eastman
Awnings are an affordable and accessible way to enjoy the great outdoors without having to travel far, mitigating some of the discomforts of sun exposure and higher temperatures. Because they can be added to homes, businesses, and public spaces, market potential and demand for sun shades are high. However, the manufacturing process isn’t simple. Traditional awning manufacturers require all measuring, tracing, and cutting of materials to be done by hand. It’s a time-consuming process that requires a high degree of skill, which is both hard to find and expensive in today’s manufacturing landscape.
Working with MPanel, Eastman unveiled Awning Designer, software built to simplify the patterning process for sun shade sails. The software allows designers to select from a library of sun sail and other awning models, input measurements and specifications, choose a material, and generate nested patterns for the manufacturing process. Once the patterns are created, a file is produced and sent to an Eastman fabric cutting machine.
“Our Awning Designer is a great tool to use with our S135 static table or C135 conveyor models,” said Amy Denning, Vice President of North American sales at Eastman. “Our S135 is great for smaller volume jobs, custom jobs, and companies looking to dip their toe into automation. Our C135 is a conveyorized system for companies with higher volume orders and cutting needs.”
Paired with Awning Designer, Eastman cutting machines allow outdoor industry manufacturing companies to manage labor. Traditional, non-automated processes require at least three workers to manually pattern and cut materials. With Eastman’s solution, only one operator is required to run the software.
Awning manufacturers aren’t the only niche in the outdoor industry benefiting from Eastman’s ability to make cutting more efficient while reducing the need for highly-specialized labor.
“We chose to work with Eastman because we feel they offer the best platform for their customers to integrate into their production and build upon,” said Willy Totten, production engineer at Go Fast Campers. “Additionally, with our machine being a first of its kind from Eastman, we knew we would need a solid, US-based support team. Eastman’s customer support has been just that! Responsive and fast with spare parts, software updates, and whatever we have needed to keep the machine running.”
We chose to work with Eastman because we feel they offer the best platform for their customers to integrate into their production and build upon.
Willy Totten, Go Fast Campers
Go Fast Campers uses Eastman’s American-made conveyorized L135 Laser System for prototyping and product development. The company built a custom software integration between the textile laser cutting machine and production scheduling software, enabling them to use the machine autonomously to fulfill daily cut fabric needs without holding an inventory or batch cutting. The L135 eliminates the need to hold a cut parts inventory and dramatically improves Go Fast Campers’ cutting quality, speed, and accuracy.
“It’s made our production as lean as possible while running the machine minimally, and simultaneously freeing up our operators to do other tasks,” Willy said.
Using Eastman’s fabric laser cutting machine has significantly improved Go Fast Campers’ labor efficiency. The company has grown and diversified its soft goods production without the need to increase its fabric team. “The laser head in particular has also opened up our product development team to new materials and fabrics. These benefits are passed on to our customers in the form of constantly improving products, new products, and price stability,” said Willy. “The same team members sewing and assembling parts are the ones cutting them.”
Work With Eastman
Eastman continues to bring the latest, most robust advanced textile cutting solutions to manufacturers. As a member of the Advanced Textiles Association, we’re always looking for ways to efficiently and effectively cut new materials and improve your manufacturing processes.