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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Parametric Textures

There are a number of ways to create textures in EnRoute. One of the methods offer unlimited possibilities. This is called Parametric TEXTURES. They are created by mathematical equations and go in all directions infinitely. No tiling necessary here.

The first step is to create a relief. Select it to light up the box we want.

Then open the parametric texture box officially called BasicNoise Texture. If you hold your mouse on the button you will see an array of options. Select the texture you like.

For the next example I picked the brick texture. If you click on the template window there are a bunch more options. To the right of the window are the parametric options. Adjusting these numbers will adjust the texture. The preview window makes it easy to see what you will get. 

The possibilities are literally limitless. If you get a texture you really like you can save it as a strategy, ready to call up again when you need it.


Here's one called tree bark. I did it three times and adjusted the numbers slightly each time.

Here's a weave with different settings.


 The possibilities are truly endless.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


There are often a number of ways to accomplish any given task in EnRoute, sometimes with subtle differences in the results. To be an accomplished user of the software we need to become familiar with as many as possible and then use the one that suits us best.

Today I wanted to show how I like to use the 'LIMIT TO HEIGHT' function. As with all of the lessons so far I first drew a square vector to create the base relief. Then I used the star maker. It is simple to use. I input 5 for the number of points and then created the vector.

I selected the square vector and opened the create a relief menu. I then selected the bevel tool and the create or add to button. Then I selected the LIMIT TO HEIGHT button. I entered two values into the boxes...  the base height (vertical measurement)  and the overall height that the relief would be limited to. The angle of the bevel was set to 45 degrees

The result was a 45 degree bevel around the outside.

I then selected the square relief and modified it with the star vector. I used the same settings for this example.

 As always it is important to check in multiple views to make sure the result is what you expected.

Stay tuned for more cool things in the next posts.   -dan

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Creating shaped letters

This lesson is on creating shaped letters and by that I mean letters with a dome or bevel top. If the strokes of the letter are relatively even and the angle of the bevel or dome is shallow how you use the shaping tools is not as critical but for many lettering styles it matters a great deal.

I started with a square shape and a letter 'a' once more. Then I selected the square and created a flat relief that was 0.3" thick.

Then I selected the box and the letter 'a' vector and used the bevel tool to modify the base relief by adding the beveled letter. I used a base of 0.2" (this means the sides of the letter are 0.2" tall before the bevel starts.) I used a little steer angle than I usually would have because it shows the things I want to better than if I had used a shallower angle. In the top view it looks pretty good at first glance but if you look close (red arrows) you can see that where the thin strokes join up with the thick ones it is not quite right.

The perspective view doesn't show much from this angle and the letter actually looks pretty good.

The side view of the letter does not offer much information unless you really know what you are looking for. The ridge of the tail in the 'a' slopes down some.

The front view shows how things are looking much clearer. Notice the there red arrows. Notice that where the strokes of the letter are wider the crown of the letters is much higher and where they are thinner the crown of the letter is much lower. This is not correct but there is an easy fix.

So a little different approach is needed. I backed things up until we had the flat relief once more, then selected both the flat relief and the 'a' vectors. This time I selected CONSTANT HEIGHT instead of NORMAL, then added in a height of 0'2". I did not change the value of the base. This means that the letter will still rise 0.2" vertically before we begin the bevel top. Notice that the angle of the bevel is not active. This angle is instead determined by the height value and varies depending on the width of the letter or shape. I then hit apply.

When I render it the result is quite different from the first try but does not look that different in the top view. at first glance. On close inspection (red arrows) you can see the thin strokes now meet the thick strokes at the crown of the letters.

In the front and side views the changes are much more evident. Notice how the crowns of the letters are now all the same height and the angles vary according the the width of the stroke of the letter.

The same principles apply to sing the done tools to create letters. I first used normal mode to modify the relief. It shows the same faults as the bevel tool.

So I backed things up and tried again using the constant height. Like the bevel it loos much better this time around.


Stay tuned as we go a little further each time.  -dan

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Merging highest and merging lowest

As we get into these lessons about how to use EnRoute it is important for those new to the program to start at the beginning and learn the basics before jumping to the harder stuff. Repetition is critical to learn it well. As you do each step predict what is about to happen and understand why. Then after each step take the time to render and look at all four views. See what happened. If what you see was't what you expected back things up and try something different. 

Doing one small thing different can change the results dramatically. It was very daunting for me when I started but after bumbling through it a hundred times I figured it all out. Now anything I can imagine is possible. The complex things always take a little figuring.

Even now after eight years of using the program I can't use it if the phone is ringing or I am being interrupted. By their very nature things need to be done in a specific order to get what we want. It takes linear thinking and my brain does not naturally think that way.

Today we will start with the same vectors as yesterday. Getting to this point is a good review of the drawing tools and I encourage you to start from scratch - just for practice.

Our first step is to create a domed relief. I opened the CREATE RELIEF  (yellow loaf of bread) command and then selected the DOME tool, ADD or CREATE A RELIEF button and adjusted the angle to 17 degrees. The default angle of the dome is 45 degrees. Then I hit the apply button. Through experience I knew what I would get but to check I double clicked the TOP button (top left corner) to see all of the views. Then I hit render (light bulb). It looked just as I expected.

Then I selected the outside of the relief and the 'a' vectors. I opened the create relief box (yellow loaf of bread). This time I wanted to modify the relief by adding the 'a' to it so I selected the ADD TO RELIEF button. Since I wanted to raise the letter equally from the surface I next selected the flat relief button. I then entered a height value of 0.2" Then I hit APPLY.

When I rendered the relief (light bulb) I liked what I what I saw but top views can fool you unless you look close and know what you are looking at.

I double clicked the TOP button (top right corner of the top view) and when all four views opened I double clicked the PERSPECTIVE button. This gave me a closeup of the relief which I could rotate to make sure I liked what I saw. Notice how the 'a' follows the contour of the domed square. This is what I was looking for. All is good.

Now suppose I instead wanted to retain the dome on the square but wanted my letter to remain flat on the top. I use many of the same steps but do things slightly different to get this result. Create the vectors and dome the top of the square as before. Then use the CREATE RELIEF to make a separate relief of the 'a'. The height of the 'a' does not really matter as we will have to do some adjustments to get what we want.

To see where I was at I hit the render button (light bulb) When the relief was rendered the 'a' was just peeking out a little from the domed square relief. No problem.

TO fix this I went to the front view with the letter 'a' still selected. I could see the box tucked into the dome. With only the 'a' still selected I used the up arrow to nudge the 'a' upwards until I was happy.

Again go to the top and perspective views to make sure you have achieved what you were looking for.

The thing to remember at this stage is that we still have two reliefs. If we were to tool path it like it is the letter would first be routed and then the domed square. The letter would then be gone. I know this from experience. So we have to merge the two reliefs together. To open the tool for this you need to select the MERGE button. This looks like the two mountains being pushed together. (yellow and green)

Once the box is open it is simply a matter of following some simple steps. The first prompt asks you to select the base relief. It will turn blue when you select it. This is the relief you wish to modify. (generally the biggest one) Now in the screen capture I have not yet done it but for this operation you need to select the MERGE HIGHEST button. (this is the middle button. Then push the blue arrow

After you push the blue arrow the box will prompt you to select the reliefs you wish to merge with the base reliefs. As you select them they will light up in RED. It is important that you select them one at a time and not group them first to try and save some time as this will not work. When you have all of the reliefs selected hit the green arrow.

Then check what you did by hitting the render button and also looking in the various views. One thing to note is that the base relief has been modified with the 'a' relief. But the 'a' relief has not been modified and is still there. It is no longer needed and should be moved to another layer or deleted. On a simple file it's no big deal but when you do the crazy stuff I do the less stuff the better when we are done and move on to tool pathing.

 Now let's try one last thing for this lesson. Create the vectors once more. Then dome the square and create a separate flat relief of the letter 'a'.   Go to the front view with the 'a' selected but without the render on. Notice the 'a' is tucked down inside of the base relief. We are going to modify the base relief using this sunken letter in much the same fashion as we did when we added it to the top.

The only difference is this time we used the MERGED LOWEST command instead of MERGE HIGHEST.

The results in the top view look identical but the results were very different in the perspective view.

So you can seen the importance of checking all the views as you go through the steps. One wrong button can produce results that are very different from what you may have expected.

Repeat until you are comfortable with what is happening. Next time we'll go just a bit further.