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

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Things go better with Coke!

Back in May I posted this how-to. Since then I've reworked it a bit with a better understanding of how it all works. In a few days we get to try out the file!

Like the files we currently build in EnRoute for our three axis MultiCam, I am discovering there are no end of solutions of how it will be done for the four axis router when we get it next month. Many of the four axis tasks will build on the capabilities of the current software. In many instances the files can be build as they are now and then the reliefs simply wrapped to form the fourth axis files. A thorough understanding of the current software will give us a leg up on what is to follow.

In the last months I have been searching the net to find out just what folks are doing and how they are doing it. What I have found out is many are using '3D clipart' and simply modifying the files to route in the round. It's not that much different than what is happening in the 3 axis world of routing. But I want to do a whole lot more than that. I want to build anything I can dream up. Even with the very limited things I have thought and dreamed up so far I believe I will be able to use EnRoute to achieve most of what I imagine for the four xis router. And since I've discovered that many things that some told me would be difficult or impossible to do on a three axis machine were indeed possible - imagine what will be possible with the four axis machine now in my shop.

As I sipped a Coke and did some sketching it occurred to me how difficult something like a Coke bottle would be with a three axis router. Difficult but not impossible. But with a four axis setup it suddenly became relatively easy. As usual it is as simple as visualizing the various bits and then combning them for the finished result. Let me take you through the process...

It only took a few seconds to locate a good picture on the net of the Coke bottle I wanted. It was the old style with embossed lettering. I also located a bitmap Coke logo. I did a vector trace of the bitmap image of the logo and hand traced the bottle profile in a few seconds more. EnRoute is very good at that task.

Sweep to rails is a task I am now familiar and comfortable with. It looked like a flattened Coke bottle already. This was merged with a zero height relief.

Now it was time to add the flutes. I lined the Coke bottle picture up with the relief and drew two appropriately sized shapes...

These were then duplicated across the bottle.  I counted the number of flutes on a real bottle and then sized and spaced then accordingly. I then modified my relief to form very subtle flutes across the bottle.

The lettering was next. Unfortunately I neglected to grab a screen capture of the vectors for the next picture. I squished them together to deform them horizontally. The thing to remember is that as we wrap around the center axis the thicker part of the bottle will stretch out the surface (by virtue of its distance from the center axis), bringing the lettering back to it's proper shape.

The bottle cap was next. I created a zero height relief and then modified it with the oval shapes. I made them 1" tall and domed steeply. The parts sticking off of the zero height relief were cut off sharply when I merged them of course.

I checked the side view and saw they needed tapering at the top. 

I chose to modify them with a fade bitmap It worked out to be 0.6" that made them blend into the top of the bottle cap.

The next shot shows how the blend bitmap affected the ridges of the bottle cap. 

I then resized and positioned the file before merging it with the original relief. Except for wrapping it around the center axis the file was complete. This screen shot shows how the lettering was squished horizontally in the original file. As it wraps it gets stretched out appropriately. 

The MultiCam drivers will convert the flat file I made in EnRoute to wrap around the centerline of the bottle instead of moving in the X axis like it does on a flatbed router. Until I show the result on the router here's a simulation of roughly how it will look.