Wood carving with 3D technology

11 agosto 2020

We met Elia Salcher, head of production, and Moritz Ploner, sales executive, of 3DW, a highly innovative wood carving company based in the Gardena Valley.

3DW is a highly innovative company that develops and creates objects in wood using 3D technology such as professional 3d scans and 3D printers. They are based less than one hour away from Bolzano, in the Gardena Valley, famous for its Dolomites and for its craft works, especially in wood carving.

Inspired by the one century-old tradition of crafting wood, a group of local professionals active in the sector decided to apply digital technology to this special kind of craftmanship and launched 3DW. Their aim was to go beyond what you can realize through manual skills, explore new way of carving wood and create new products.

We met Elia Salcher, head of production, and Moritz Ploner, sales executive, in 3DW offices located a few kilometers away from popular touristic location St Ulrich, to get to know more about the story and activity of 3DW.


How do you define your business and how do you see yourself?

ES We see ourselves as “solutions finders” and “makers”. Clients come to us with an idea in mind of what they want. Sometimes it is a quite rough and vague one, sometimes it is very specific. Whatever the idea is, we help them make it true.


How did you come up with the idea of starting such a company?

ES The company is not a family-owned one. It was founded by a group of professionals active in the wood carving sector. They wanted to create something new, highly innovative and experimental while continue working with a natural and traditional material like wood.

Which were your expectation at the beginning?

ES We expected to digitalize wood carving in order to offer innovative ways of realizing wood products. We are happy to say that we are succeeding in doing this. Our aim is not replacing the work of local artists. We see our work as being complementary to theirs. In fact we work for artists as well as for architects, designer, furniture manufacturers, inventors, event managers and innovation centers.


Which are the main challenges you have to deal with?

MP Working with wood is beautiful but challenging at the same time. Sometimes we are asked to produce set of identical objects. We need to explain our clients that with such a natural material like wood this is not possible. Wood products usually don’t have the exact same color and change over time. We are not dealing with plastic. Every object is unique, and this is also the interesting aspect about it.


3DW is about bringing a lot of innovation in a traditional activity such as wood carving. How did people in town welcomed your idea?

ES Some people at first did not understand it, but as said before, we do not see ourselves as competitors of local artists. We explore different techniques to create products that would be impossible to do by hand. Our technology allows us to realize more complex works. We can create special shapes, carve more quickly and with very high precision.


How do your machinery work?

MP It is not easy to describe how exactly these innovative pieces of technologies work because they are all very different. To make a good work you need to have a good overview of all their characteristics. Once we developed the idea together with our client, we work on the model. We program the machines so to define precisely all the different work steps. The 3D printers must be set up accurately to carve the wood with the best precision possible. Once our machine is set and the raw piece of wood is placed on it, the carving can start. For ten hours of work done by the machine, we need as many of supervising to make sure everything runs smoothly.

It is not enough, as one might imagine, just to play “START” and everything works by itself. Setting the machine correctly and having a high-quality outcome is a big challenge and it is a kind of art. It is important to be able to use every machine for the right kind of work. Each piece of our technology, each of our 3D printers has different characteristics and the better you master them, the more accurately you can use them.



How do you find new clients?

MP Mainly through good work and reliability. For us it works a lot with word of mouth. We do a pretty unique activity. In the area we are the only company of our kind and probably in Italy too. Clients are happy with our work; they talk about us in their entourage and so we get new orders.


Which are the skills needed for someone to work in your team?

ES One of our main challenges is to find our staff because there are a lot of skills needed. We need multilingual employee, because here three are the languages spoken: German, Italian and the local Ladin language. Being increasingly active in the international market, we use a lot English too. We look for people who know about wood and are passionate about the tradition of carving, but most of all who are eager to learn and ready to be multitasking. For us it is important that everyone in our team, even those working in sales and administration, knows what is going on in the laboratory, and what exactly technology allows you to do.