It is hard to believe that it was almost ten years ago I witnessed a CNC router in action for the very first time. I was fascinated and simply had to have one! Although I had been in the creative end of the three dimensional sign business for most of my life I didn't really know what I would do with one of these machines - but I just knew it could do fantastic stuff.

Along with the CNC router I discovered the wonderful material called Precision Board and the glues, primers and other companion products they offer. Since then we have gone through many tons of the material using it in most signs and projects we tackle. This journal will chronicle our many adventures both past, present and future. I'll talk from the perspective of someone who pushes these products to the creative limit on a daily basis. I'll be adding to the stories two or three times each week. -dan

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Brand new experience

I first saw a CNC router in action at a sign trade show in Las Vegas only five years ago. I knew immediately I wanted one for our shop. It would be a radical change in direction for us and a huge investment too. While we had long specialized in three dimensional projects and signs we had never used high density urethane before in a meaningful way.

I had met Kellie Miller of Precision Board (Coastal Enterprises) at a couple of Letterhead meets. I had fiddled with the samples they gave out at such meets. With the arrival of my high tech MultiCam CNC router I placed my very first order.

Before I put any paying projects on our router I was determined to learn to use it. The technology had certainly arrived. CNC routers and the software to drive them allowed for users to incorporate textures and dimension in ways only previously imagined. But in my considerable research I found no one who was using the software to anywhere near it's capability. We were about to change that in a big way.

After considerable research we had selected EnRoute Pro software to create our files. Although somewhat daunting in it's learning curve it offered the mosts user friendly package. I broke out the manual and set to work. The very first dimensional routing file I created was the letter'A'.

In the next weeks I learned to create vectors which are used to build reliefs in the program. We experimented with bitmaps, learning what worked and what didn't. We generated ton of samples and filled our dumpster with the experiments gone awry. While I was learning to run the router we also were learning about the properties of this new medium - Precision Board. We learned about paints, faux finishing and a whole lot more. We also learned that we favored a much heavier Precision Board than most other shops used. We made the decision to only stock 30 and 40 lb densities of board in our shop. We liked the durability it offered. We also strongly felt the extra cost was more than offset with the savings of time as we finished it.

Before we were done we had gone through the entire alphabet and generated tons of samples for our shop. These samples provided us with the education we required. They also were proudly displayed on our walls. We had built it and now our customers would come.

I documented our learning journey and sent it to SignCraft. Amazingly the very first letter 'A' was featured on the cover along with an entire article of this amazing new process of generating 3D signs. Our world and the way we did business had changed. This journal will be a record of that continuing process...