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

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Building a textured routing file

For the Sign Magic Workshops we create a name plaque for each participant. The purpose is to give our guests a lasting memento as well as to demonstrate various texturing painting techniques. The first plaque is for Roger, a talented and award winning sign maker in his own right. It uses a variety of techniques which I'll explain in detail below. Everything was done in EnRoute Pro software.

I typed in the text using a cartoon script. Immediately I knew I would need to modify it. To show why I first did a small sample test with the text only. The areas where the shapes merged tend to thicken or bulge a little. But this is easily fixed. I traced the letters with new vectors separating the problem areas. But when I created the reliefs using these vectors the looping lines did funny things. The solution was to carefully cut the shapes and then line them up so the shapes overlapped.

Using the outline around the letters I created a flat relief .5" tall. (the height is arbitrary) Then using the oval I would make the dome from I modified the relief to the dome shape by inputing the same angle for the relief. This meant they would match.

Then the dome background was next using this same vector and settings with the dome tool. Looking at the front tool we can see the letters sticking through.

I imported one of my bitmaps (wiggly weave) , sized and positioned it so the holes between the weave lined up around the oval. 

Then I selected the relief, and bitmap and input a value of .2" This meant the black would do nothing, the white would rise .2" and the grays would be in between depending on their color value.

Then I selected the lettering outline and in the front view used the arrow keys to nudge it into position in relation to the weave background.

I then created a half inch frame with a slightly rounded top using the dome relief tool. Next I created the profile of the rope using four circles which were then combined and sized.

The rope was created as a mesh shape using the extrude tool. It takes some practice but I got it right the first try )this time) using seven rotations. I used the arrow key once again in the front view to bring it into position. Then after selecting the rope and frame I merged them together to modify the frame relief with the mesh object.

Lastly I used my letter vectors to add the domed lettering.

This was tool-pathed using a 3/8 ballnose bit for a rough pass and a final pass using a 1/8" tapered bit with an 80% overlap. Tomorrow morning I'll be running the file on the MultiCam and starting the next name plaque. Stay tuned...