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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

EnRoute Workshops

The 2015Workshop Series

Learn New Techniques with EnRoute

EnRoute Workshop Schedule for 2015

• Phoenix, AZ, March 5-6 @ Multicam Technology Center
• Atlanta, GA, March 19-20 @ Madera Arts
• Dallas, TX, April 16-17 @ Multicam Technology Center
• Chicago/Great Lakes, May 14-15 @ Multicam Technology Center
• Denver, CO VIP event Sept 16-18*• Hackensack NJ, October 8-9 @ Multicam Technology Center• Anaheim, CA, December 3-4 @ Multicam Technology Center
*Meet the EnRoute developers at this special 3 Day "EnRoute Pro" event in Denver, CO. This will be a more advanced, three day class focused on 3D surfacing, carving and texture creation specifically for the sign and woodworking industries
 “The EnRoute workshop was worth every cent. The instructors patiently relayed, in detail, every aspect of EnRoute’s 2.5D, 3D, Rapid Texture techniques and the many other functions of Enroute. I am now able to take advantage of the tremendous features provided in the software. Thanks Enroute!”
- Henry from H & S Marine Plastics, New York/New Jersey Workshop Attendee


Early Bird Discount Space is limited, so register early to guarantee your seat. It's $995 to attend but you save $200 when you register 30 days before the class. Attendees from 2014 save $300 when you register 30 days before the class.
To register, contact Terri Wright
1800.229.9066 x114 or EnRouteSales@ThinkSAi.com


Bring your own computer and follow along on your PC with a demo version of EnRoute we’ll provide. No key required. Here is the 2-day class schedule:
Day 1, 8:30am - 5pm
Morning – It Never Hurts to Know the Basics
• EnRoute Concepts Review
• Toolpath Basics
• Nesting
• Output & Ordering
Afternoon – Advanced Toolpathing / Cutting
• Inlays
• 2-1/2 D
• Rough, Fine & Clean Tools
• Advanced Entry/Exit
Day 1 Wrap-up and prepare for Day 2
Day 2, 8:30am - 5pm
Morning – Now for some Fun Surfaces
• 3D Surface Concepts
• Building a Relief
• Parametric Textures

Afternoon – EnRoute Rapid Texture
• Seed Contour, Objects as Seed Contours & 3D Reliefs with Rapid Texture
• Rapid Picture (Photo Cutting)
• Noise and Distortion
• Day 2 Wrap-up and Q & A
EnRoute Classroom
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lectern - Part four

I've long believed that if we come up with better ideas as we are building something the plan needs to be adjusted. Sometimes it means a little more time or materials but the whole idea of doing this kind of work is to do the very best we can possibly do.

After the weekend off I came back into the shop to work on the lectern.  I assembled the base and set the stand back on. As I did some finishing and fitted the gears I decided they were just too far apart from the base. After looking things over I decided the gears that theoretically adjust the tilt of the table needed to be part of the brackets rather than stand alongside. The solution required parking the gears and then cutting them to fit around the brackets. A little sculpting epoxy blended the seams together nicely.

There is still some small bits to route and assemble but it won't be long until it is time for paint. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Lectern - Part three

 The upper portion and motor base of the lectern stand was a challenging piece to build. There were a number of ways I could have handled it but I chose to do it with a combination of domed reliefs and one mesh. The piece we were building today was shaped a bit like a funnel with a horizontal tube in the middle and a lightbulb shaped thing on the top. An axle would go through the top part for the big gears and through the horizontal tube ('motor') for the smaller gears.

The round bulb was the first and easy relief using the dome tool.

The round horizontal shaft was next. Again I used the dome tool to create this relief. I would cut the rounded ends off later.

Next up was the side down funnel shaped base. The mesh tool was used for this shape. I drew out the vectors and then used the revolve tool to create the mesh.

A square zero height relief was quickly created. Then I selected this relief and the mesh to activate the combine tool. The other oddly shaped zero height relief was also created at the same time. I would use this relief (merge lowest) to clip the ends of the hot dog shaped relief to a square shape.

I then selected this new relief and merged highest with the lightbulb and the hot dog shape.

Once I had one relief I used the zero height odd shaped relief to clip the ends of the horizontal axle.

 I then created a round (flat topped) relief which would form the horizontal motor. This too would be merged highest with the rest of the relief.

Since the horizontal motor would have some square tubing inserted down the middle I created a zero height relief for that and modified the base relief by merging lowest with that square shape.

 The very complex shape was then finished. Now it was simply a matter of using the slice tool to create layers which would be routed singly and then glued back together after they were cut.

I duplicated and flipped one set so I had both halves of the funnel shaped base. I then aligned all of the pieces to the bottom of the plate and then nested them to fit tightly together. It was time for the MultiCam to do it's job whittling them all out of a 2" thick piece of 30 lb Precision Board.

Once the router finished cutting the pieces I started the assembly process. I first used our tables to cut channels into the back to accept the welded steel frame. I could have built jigs and allowed our router to do this task but it was quicker to just do this process by hand. The steel frame was laminated into the middle of the assembly.

I sourced some adjustable feet for the display. They are slightly smaller versions of the feet on our MultiCam - just one small detail to make this thing feel authentic. Our supplier was able to deliver in only a day!

Jack, our welder had been busy cutting steel and welding up a sturdy frame while I designed the cutting files for the inner plywood skin.

As always I fit the pieces at every stage to make sure it is all looking and working correct.

Next we'll begin working on all of the bottom pieces of the base before we work our way to the top. The MultiCam Robot Man is also proceeding. I'll be posting the progress on him soon. Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lectern - Part two

The gears were next up. These were fairly straight forward and totally done in EnRoute. I first drew two circles for the big gear. I then drew a rectangle with slightly tapered ends. I reproduced and rotated this rectangle to form the gear teeth.  The smaller gear was created by using the point node tool to shorten the tapered rectangle. this was then rotated to form the gears. 

Then I added the middle circles to form the hubs. The gear teeth were combined with the outside circles.

For the spokes in the big gear I drew new rectangles and used the point edit tool to round the ends. This allowed the spokes to be perfectly round then I made then into reliefs.

The first step in making the gear reliefs was to create use the add to command to make flat reliefs that were an inch and a half high, the same thickness as our Precision Board.

I then used the dome tool to create the round spokes.  As I looked at the result I decided the gears would look better if I added an inner round piece to the gear body. This was as simple as creating two offsets (one inside and one outside) These new vectors were made into a separate relief using the dome tool.

The last step was to build the hubs. These were separate flat reliefs that were two inches thick. I then used a new circle vector (not shown) to create a new zero height relief  I merged (highest) all of the reliefs to this new relief. The center hole was created by merging (lowest) a zero height relief.

I created three copies of each  gear (for a total of four) and flipped two since they had to fit to the back when they were laminated together. As I set up the router I purposely left a thick onion skin (1/16") for a couple of reasons. First it helped the vacuum table hold the small pieces in place during the routing. Once the pieces were finished being cut from the Precision Board I left the skin in place between the spokes and in the center of the axle hole. We use Coastal Enterprises one part PB Bond240 guess which expands as it cures. This means it oozes out a little. The onion skin kept it from doing this in the center portions. Cleaning up the glue on the outside is easy with the die grinder.

Once the glue had cured the onion skin cleaned up easily with minimal work or rather should have.
But this time I out-smarted myself. Although I had carefully lined up the gear teeth I didn't hold the gear up to the light to sight the lining up of the spokes. This meant the first pair of big gears was sent to the dumpster. You can bet I took more care the second time around and got it right too.

Next post I'll be working on the tapered base which was a little more challenging. Stay tuned...


Lectern - Part one

Building rather complex objectss is something I enjoy immensely. As I designed I knew from experience just how I would accomplish building the files in EnRoute, how I would machine them with our MultiCa, and how they would then be assembled and finished. Because Precision Board has certain limitations as far as structural strength I knew just how we would weld up a steel frame to go inside. Because the lectern would have to travel many, many thousands of miles and stand up to use in many trade shows we had to get it right from the start.

As I started building the files I first decided in my mind how many pieces we would build and how these pieces would be layered. I first had to decide scale.

The riveted front motor housing was the first piece to be made it a relief. This was fairly straight forward. The file was built entirely in EnRoute.  The inside and outside circle determined the dimensions of raised layer or outer ring. The intersecting lines would be the counterpoints for the rivets.

I then typed in an 'M' and sized and positioned it in the center circle. I didn't get a screen capture but I used the jigsaw tool to get the shapes I needed around the 'M'.

Creating a flat relief was the first order of business.
 Then I used the center shapes around the 'M' to drop the center.
As a last step I created the rivets by modifying the relief using the dome tool.

The table support bracket was next and again it was fairly simple. I defined the shapes using the vector drawing tools.  The rectangle at the bottom was used to segment off the bottom piece. I defined this area using the jigsaw tool.

Then I used the offset drawing tool to create the outline of dropped center portion of the bracket.

At this point I changed my mind and decided that the top (big) flat side of the bracket needed to be as deep as the round collar at the bottom. To do this I created a rectangle of appropriate size. I positioned the rectangle vector and used the jigsaw tool to again define the dropped portion (not shown.)

The round hole through the bracket was created by making a zero height relief. This zero height relief would be merged lowest as a last step to create the hole.

I then made one more outline to make a zero height relief. All of the pieces would be merged (highest) to this relief

The two table top brackets would each have three layers with the center layer  being cut out to accept the steel support. 

With the first two reliefs needed for the lectern created it was time to fire up the MultiCam. The pieces were routed from 1.5" thick 30 lb Precision Board.