It’s a familiar scenario to many a woodworker- you’ve designed your project, figured out the dimensions, but now it’s time to start cutting and you need to figure out the best order of actions for the materials you have. Some people work with pen and paper, others grab scrap wood or cardboard and make a rough model, and some people just dive in and figure it out on the way. Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a software program that takes the guesswork out the equation and show you the most effective way to make it.
It’s called Carpentry Compiler, and it almost sounds too good to be true. Simply design your project in the program, and the software will tell you if you can make it with the materials available. Then, the program will give you step-by-step instructions to actually cut and assemble it. It doesn’t stop there though- the software can also give you different building options, for example building something more quickly, or with less material waste.
So for example, if you wanted to build a birdhouse, you would start by inputting the wood you plan on using for the project into Carpentry Compiler. You then design the birdhouse, with the software confirming this it is possible to construct using those materials. Finally, Carpentry Compiler would give you exact instructions on how to build your birdhouse using the tools and materials you have on hand. The video below goes into more technical detail.
Right now, Carpentry Compiler still exists primarily as a research project and the software usability is in alpha. However, the team is continuing to develop it further and plans to release the source code by the end of January. Whether you’re a small shop woodworker, or someone looking to make a production run of furniture, this is a tool you should keep your eyes on.