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

Monday, December 22, 2014

Gearing up for a little fun

 My good fiend calls his studio the Imaginarium. I wanted to make him a sign that had some resemblance to a skeleton watch but simpler. The design had some limitations as the finished piece had to travel inside a suitcase. My friend lives in Hawaii.

I first did a quick scribble in my sketchbook to work out the basic idea. It was very rough but it gave me a chance to thoroughly work out the design before I started on the computer. The original work was done in Illustrator and these vectors were imported into EnRoute.

 I find EnRoute is the easiest tool to use to finalize shapes and work out the radii of the intersecting corners. Once I had things pretty much worked out I separated the pieces like the gears which would be routed as separate pieces.

The gears in fact would be the first reliefs I created - all as simple flat reliefs with raised and sunken portions plus different thicknesses to the two types of gears.

Once the bear and shaft reliefs were built I merged them all to a zero height relief. They would be routed as one file with a thin onion skin background so they didn't fly off the table as I routed them. Some of the gears were very small and all had little surface area for the vacuum table to grab.

The face of the piece was next. I first created a flat relief .

The flat relief was then modified using the dome tool and the outside circle vector.

I decided to create a zero height relief with that same circle vector and then merged the top face of the piece to it.

The last step was to create the lettering as an embossing.

The back of the piece was to be woodgrain. It was as simple as creating a flat relief and then adding a woodgrain bitmap texture. In this shot you can see how much I stretched things out.

The supports for the two styles of gears were done at two heights. These were done as individual reliefs and then merged highest with the wood grained background.

Then it was a simple matter of tool pathing the various rules and sending them off to the MultiCam. Because this piece was rather small and relatively thin I used 40 lb Precision Board for the gears and the top layer. It is even stronger than 30 lb and should hold up well in transit.

In the next entry I'll show how this whole thing fits together. Stay tuned...