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, June 22, 2016

It's looking like the movie now!

It is always interesting to watch the steps of each piece we create. First, there's the development of the idea on paper and on the screen, sometimes with small scale models. Then the piece goes through the engineering stage, to make sure the structure underneath fits inside and holds everything up securely. Then it's out to the shop to begin construction. Steel tubing is cut to length and the welding starts. For most of our pieces the plasma cut steel is designed as we go through the build process. Measurements are taken and then its back to the office to design the pieces in EnRoute. They are sent to the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter to create the piece and then it is welded into place to begin the process anew. And so it goes for weeks.

Once the structure is complete we attach the lath and then trowel on the concrete. this is carefully hand sculpted. After the concrete cures it is time for the painting crew to do their magic. As with all of our projects we do not skimp on the paint. A minimum of three coats of base colours are applied before we begin a series of glazes, and dry brushing to gradually bring the piece to life. After many weeks of hard work the piece suddenly comes to life. Our skillful crew of talented painters blend the warm colours on the wood and cool colours on the metals and rocks to create absolute magic. It's now looking like the movie, 'How to train your dragon'.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Big visual progress

Work continues on the Viking ship project for Motiongate Park in Dubai. With the deadline quickly approaching the entire crew is working hard to finish off the features.The piece closest to finish is the large target. The last coats of the base colours were painted on yesterday.

That meant we could apply the glazes today. The painting crew worked in teams, liberally applying the brown and dark grey glazes and then judiciously wiping them off. This process takes advantage of and highlights the textures and cracks. The plain grey instantly turned into believable rock.

Certain areas were left very dark or even second coated to make them look deeper.

Once the glazes were done and dry it was time to go back and apply even more magic. Lighter colours were dry brushed on highlighting the tops of the rocks and the deep texture. Then we sponged on various shades of greens, greys, tans and oranges to create believable looking moss. More dark glazes were brushed on to create streaking and aging. And some various colours were flung on with wet brushes to create more texture. The process looks pretty random but it takes a lot of practice  and skill to get it all looking right.


As soon as the rockwork was dry it was time to take off the upper sections. We have to build stands for all the pieces. Next week they will be stuffed into containers and sent off to sea for their journey to the middle east.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Viking ship progress

There hasn't been a lot of routing done in the shop over the last weeks as we concentrate on the extremely large Viking ships and target features for Motiongate theme park in Dubai. We are making great progress however. Both ships are now out of the shop getting their final framework welded into place. They are just too large to do inside the shop building. The two big mast assemblies head off to the galvanizers today. The large target feature is also out in the parking lot getting it's final paint. We continue to create cutting files and the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter is busy churning out little bits and pieces of brackets and lifting lugs to finish things off. We hope to send off the first pieces of the first ship off next week to the galvanizers and then the push to complete the sculpted concrete will begin.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

New video feature of EnRoute 6

Todays project is a simple dimensional washroom sign. The purpose of posting it here is to show off a new feature of the newest version of EnRoute (6) =. This feature is that each function has a video attached to it. This is a huge plus for those learning the program or simply expanding their capabilities. I was never one to read manuals - especially these days when it is available only onscreen.  It's just too clumsy for my test. But this new feature of EnRoute 6 allows you to simply right click on the function and a video pops up explaining it in detail. How easy is that!

The washroom is marked with both a man and woman symbol which will be raised and have a sandblasted wood background. They are just under 12" in each direction. I started with the vectors created in EnRoute.

I first would create a flat relief. Since the piece of 30 pound Precision Board I was using was one inch thick so I made a relief 0.6" thick.

Now I know how to make a relief but if you didn't you would right click on the create a relief icon and a short movie would pop up.

Then with the new found knowledge it was time to put it into action. I then used that same tool by selecting both the base relief and the figures and raised it 0.4" to pop up the characters on the sign.

Then it was time to add the sandblasted woodgrain to the background. I imported a bitmap from my TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION.  It is 300 DPI and measures 11" across - far too much detail to route at the scale it opened. So I enlarged it so the washroom sign fit into one of the bands. I also drew a square vector around the base relief which would effectively reverse the mask of the figures to create the grain around them instead of inside.

Then I right clicked on the bitmap texture icon. This brought up the movie.

Once I was familiar with how to do the operation (by watching the movie) I performed the operation. This finished off the design of the sign making it ready to tool path and send off to the MultiCam.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Large Viking target sculpted

The router has been very quiet of late as we concentrate on getting out the large sculpted features of the Viking project at Motiongate in Dubai. The process has been long and arduous at times.

I remember well the first time I watched the movie 'How to train your dragon'. As I looked at the wonderful textures and color of all of the invented digital world in that movie I thought how cool it would be to build it for real. When we were offered the project to build the two Viking ships we jumped at the chance!

The two Viking ship project quickly grew to include the target and dock features. We did the concept drawings and models in a few days to win the project. Then began the long process of designing the structures that would be underneath. We did the initial design using EnRoute software. The structures had to break into manageable sections to allow them to be dipped into galvanizing tanks. Then they had to bolt into larger assemblies which would fit into shipping containers. We would venture into new territory as we began the lengthy process of cutting and welding together thousands of pieces of heavy duty steel to form these incredibly strong frames that met both local and international standards. Our MultiCam plasma cutter got quite the workout! We learned of the galvanizing processes and the special techniques to allow vent holes in everything we built.

Then at last we came back to what we do best and that is to sculpt the concrete skins over all of that framework. In the last week we have been working on the large target pieces. Today we finished the last of the concrete on the large target feature. The two broken masts will be sculpted tomorrow along with the last shield on the small target feature. Then we will be start laying on all of the magical colours of the movie to make it real at last! Stay tuned for the results...