As anyone who has shopped for leather furniture or bought a vehicle with leather upholstery would attest, leather is a major investment. People in the leather upholstery business face an expensive proposition. They are working with a very costly commodity, and reducing waste and getting the best cut possible out of a leather hide is essential.With Lasernest, patterns can be projected onto the leather hides to allow the best cut, saving time and eliminating waste. Furniture manufacturer Erpo International of Ertingen, Germany, is taking advantage of laser technology not only to save time and eliminate waste, but also because it provides more flexibility. Traditionally, a worker positions cardboard or die patterns on the hide, placing, or "nesting," them as close as possible. Moving the pattern pieces around to avoid flaws and still save on product was time-consuming.Now a semiautomatic laser-based system is helping workers evaluate and nest the pattern pieces more quickly, and hides can be cut immediately. Humantec Industriesysteme GmbH of Wemding, Germany, developed Lasernest, a system for nesting, data processing, storing and report generation.With this system, a hide is laid out on a vacuum cutting table, and the laser projects the templates of the selected model onto the hide. While human expertise is still needed to assess the quality and individual irregularities that make each hide different from the next, the operators can decide more easily how best to place the templates because they can see and feel the hide through the transparent drawing. They can move and group templates easily. Recuts can be generated and cut at any time. The system stores the process and reports the rate of exploitation of any given hide. After data storage, the hide can be cut.Erpo decided to switch to Lasernest when its previous roll-stamp machine became outdated. The company chose the new technique mainly for its flexibility and time savings, said President and CEO Thomas Jungjohann. "We wanted to be able to change between various models during the cutting process without time-consuming preparations," he said, "and we needed greater flexibility for smaller orders. Also, the high cost of individual stamp knives made changes in models very expensive with the old system." According to Humantec, the capacity of the system is between 80 and 120 hides per eight-hour shift, and 2 to 4 percent savings of material is possible.