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 2, 2012

Kicking the tires on EnRoute 5

EnRoute 5 has been eagerly anticipated for some time. Now it is only weeks away. 

Recently, I was asked if I wanted to test drive a pre-release version of the software. I jumped at the opportunity! I loaded it up on my computer and proceeded to give it a whirl. I had heard rumors of some great new features, but like all users of the program my first concern was how would it handle the things I already do with the software every day. 

I was going to work as I always had first and then I would quickly see how things were different. I'll go exploring and learning the new things a bit later.

The interface looks very similar. The logo and icons are green instead of the familiar blue.There are a few new buttons of course but everything I use is still in it's familiar location. Being a man of moderation I of course loaded it with a massive mesh - something EnRoute 4 had choked on. I was pleasantly surprised to see the rendering was faster than ever and EnRoute 5 handled the task with relative ease. Good news for the things I do. In fact, everything seemed a little faster - even on my two year old iMac, running Windows through Parallels.

I had heard from Jeff Hartman, one of the writers of the program that a new feature was going to be included that would allow us to distort vector lines automatically. This was a feature I was looking forward to. I found it this morning. It is a button called DISTORT in the transform menu. There are three sub menus. Patch Distort, Taper Distort and Noise Distortion. I was noodling around trying all kinds of things and found something VERY EXCITING. 

I knew it would alter vectors and that is a powerful tool. I know I can use this effectively in our work in the future. But as I played around I discovered the Patch Distortion tool also modifies completed reliefs. 

Below I have a screen capture of my experimentation. The top rectangular vector was modified with the noise distort function. I ramped it up to the extreme to dramatically show the effect but it can be precisely controlled by entering values into the box.

The same rectangle was modified in the second example using the Patch Distort function. Gentle sweeping curves and distortions are instantly possible. This is a cool feature!

The third example caught me by surprise. On a whim I opened a completed relief I was building this morning. I tried the Patch Distort function on it and it worked fabulously! I could distort both within the relief as well as the outside contours. This is COOL and will allow me to modify and tweak my designs after they are done. IMAGINE what it possible now!

There are many other new features in EnRoute 5. I have yet to test drive or even discover all these new things. One thing I have heard some buzz about is the ability to now nest on partial and irregular shaped sheets of material. That should be real handy. I look forward to our Spring Sign Magic Workshop where Jeff will show us everything in person. It is going to be fun!

After only a couple of weeks of use I already know I'll never open version 4 again. Version 4 was a huge improvement over version 3 and it looks like the folks at EnRoute have done it again. I already like this new version so much better! I can hardly wait to do a little more experimenting!