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An Oasis for Innovation

by Suzanne Van Gilder

Located in fabulous Las Vegas, custom manufacturer CT Design leverages home field advantage to bring new materials and products to the market. The local region – with its massive resorts and culture of suspended reality – offers area fabricators a rare combination of producing both volume and wow-factor. For Bryan Thatcher, owner and operator of CT Design, bringing new design solutions to clients also presents an opportunity to continually add technology and related competencies to his shop. “Primarily we do custom flat panel manufacturing for both residential and big commercial projects. We love hospitality, and here we get to push both new and familiar products,” says Thatcher. “You have to be willing to embrace change. On a local basis, we are starting to see the industry evolve. When people visit Las Vegas, they see the latest finishes. It is not always doing what has been done in the past.”

That being said, Thatcher is a classically trained woodworker. After graduating at the top of his vocational class, he opened CT Design in 2003 in his garage. More than a decade later, he credits relationships, continual pursuit of technology and passion for the on-going growth of CT Design. Currently operating with 15 employees in 8,000 square-feet of production space, Thatcher is in the process of doubling the size of his facility by KBIS 2015. At the same time, he is making investments in equipment and software technology that allow him to expand his core competencies from custom millwork and acrylic fabrication, to functioning as an OEM and distributor of specialty products. In the bigger picture, CT Design has its sights set on a broader web-based platform that will allow end users to design their own custom products. “What we are planning for the future is pretty bold. Our objective is to take care of our local market and continually make new relationships,” says Thatcher. “That gives us the opportunity to grow and refine our processes, so that they are pretty much seamless when our online program goes live.” For more about CT Design’s state-of-the-art equipment and plans for the future see Tech Spec page 44.

One of the latest developments to hit the strip is The Linq, Ceasars Entertainment’s new open-air retail, dining and entertainment district. In addition to the expected nightclubs, casino and wedding chapel, The Linq redefines the iconic Las Vegas skyline with the world’s tallest observation wheel, known as the High Roller.

The on-site Linq Hotel includes 2000 modern-chic guest rooms that feature bed platforms, headboards, drawer parts, wall cladding, vanities, desking and tables made from Arauco North America’s TFL with Medina texture. Thatcher’s operating philosophy of building trusted relationships won the project for CT Design. “The material was chosen because of the look and feel, but also because the product is durable and the quality is consistent. We’ve had a lot of success partnering with Arauco as a supplier,” says Thatcher. “In my small facility, we cut close to 30,000 sheets in four months for the Linq Hotel. Each piece was edgebanded with matching tape from Teknaform and prepped for the GC to assemble and install. Arauco’s ability to produce and deliver those quantities of TFL in a timely manner, and it’s established matching programs with complementary materials, are huge boosts for CT Design.”

Following the completion of the Linq Hotel project, Thatcher toured Arauco North America’s Albany, Ore. facility to learn more about the expansion of the familiar Flakeboard brand of products, designs and services – now that the company is a part of Arauco. Gonzalo Zegers, senior vice president Arauco International, explains it this way: “The primary objective of this re-organization is to position for growth and provide comprehensive solutions to our customers using a more effective and efficient operating platform. We will continue to add relevant strategies to those that exist today, and to expand on these through this new structure.”

The local market in Las Vegas is open to non-traditional finishes. CT Design takes advantage of this by functioning as an OEM that sells cut-to-size and specialty products to other fabricators. “One of the ways we are expanding is by bringing new materials to the market,” says Thatcher. “It is common that the more design-driven products are slowly presented to the east coast, and sometimes are not available on the west coast at all. We are lucky that we have both the clientele that is willing to be more adventurous in design, and the technology necessary to process a wide variety of materials into ready-to-use components. That creates opportunity.”

In response to growing demand for high-gloss, pearlescent and super-matte surfaces, Thatcher became the only authorized dealer in Las Vegas for a product called Luxe by Alvic. The panels are manufactured in Spain with a proprietary multi-step process that involves applying film overlay and lacquer to an MDF substrate. “It has the highest scratch resistance in the industry for a lacquer-based build,” says Thatcher. “The surface is glossy with an exact match TFL backer. It’s the best gloss product I have run into in terms of durability and keeping its shape and rigidity. But you have to know how to cut the material, and you need to have the proper edgebander that can apply a very thin PUR to maintain the clean lines. We’ve invested in state-of-the-art edgebanding equipment, and have a great working relationship with Jowat for our adhesives.”

As a complement to the slick Euro-styling of Luxe, CT Design established a relationship with Olon to bring the classic look of five-piece doors to its product mix. “At first we were only using Olon’s program for our own projects. It includes MDF stiles and rails that are profile-wrapped with their flexible NEXGEN laminate. They are assembled so the grain runs in the right direction on each part. The end product looks great,” says Thatcher. “Now, with the way modern styling mixes contemporary and classic looks, five-piece doors fit in really nicely with a full kitchen or hotel suite design. Compared to the solid wood alternative, it is also a cost effective solution. A lot of our OEM clients are taking notice.”

The decorative surfacing industry as a whole collaborates to provide exact matching programs across materials. These mutually beneficial relationships make it easier for fabricators to use engineered materials to efficiently create high-quality products. For the five-piece door program, Olon partners with some of North America’s most popular TFL producers – including Tafisa, Uniboard, Stevens, Funder and Arauco -to ensure that the back panels carry the same design and texture as the stiles and rails. Cathy Hummer, design and specification manager for Arauco North America explains, “Strengthening our connection with OEMs and designers at the specification level allows us to offer solutions from our broader group of coordinated products and services. It also positions us close to the demand drivers of design, so that we can respond quickly.”

Supplier responsiveness – and all the underlying partnerships that make it possible – enables companies like CT Design to confidently take on a wide range of projects while continually developing new ways to meet market demands. “I have passion for custom manufacturing, and I know I am not alone in that, ”says Thatcher. “When you find people that truly care about the success of the industry – whether they are suppliers or colleagues or industry veterans like my mentor Ed Moran – they will bend over backwards to help you truly understand the machines, materials and processes that make quality end products. Those are the people that make the industry better. In the end, it is all about relationships.” 


Photos Courtesy of Caesars Entertainment



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