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, October 13, 2017

Building a mine car

I find it a great deal of fun to design rather complex designs and then figure out a way to fabricate what I have imagined. We are currently working on a good sized theme project called the Cloud Buster. It is a drop tower ride. The thing that separates this ride from all of the others is that the one hundred and twenty-five foot tower ride will be positioned on top of a seventeen foot tall concrete tower. Our job is to theme the concrete structure to fit into the adventure golf course below. I have chronicled the sign for this project previously on this journal. As with all of our projects it started with an idea and a concept drawing.

The concrete tower will be hidden by wrapping a portion of a mountain around it. A mine shaft will go through the centre and guests will be able to golf through this feature.

Construction of the theme work is now well underway. The tunnel through the structure is being fabricated in two sections. This will be lifted into the centre of the golf and then slid into place (no small feat). Then the six outer sections will be craned into place around the tower and bolted together. As with much of our work we will sculpt the rock and timbers from fibreglass reinforced concrete.

A mine car will be situated where guests enter the mine. It will add to the theme and also act as a number marker for the hole. Our client was inspecting the progress on the mine shaft early this week and noticed the work I had done on our rail car which was sitting in the shop parking lot. (Samples work!) He asked for his mine car to have the same kind of detail he saw on our rail truck. I did up a quick concept and he gave it the thumbs up!

I designed the car totally in EnRoute. Everything would be created from steel which meant our MultiCam plasma cutter was going to get quite a workout. The pieces were cut from 1/4" and 1/8" plate steel. I allowed three days to design, cut and fabricate the mine car. I did all of the fabrication by myself, save for when I needed some lifting assistance. I managed to do it all in about twenty hours of work.

By quitting time today the fabrication was complete. We'll sculpt the rocks in the car and the base using fibreglass reinforced concrete. The car will be allowed to rust to make it look old.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tank Details

The wind up key mount was the first accessory relief to be created for the tank. I started with a flat relief 0.2" tall.

The rivets were the next modification by using the dome tool.

The centre was the next step, also created with the dome tool and the add to command. 

In order the take the guess work out of where to drill the hole for the key I added a digit to the centre using the dome tool with the take away command.

Next up was the hatch lid. It started as a simple flat relief.

This flat relief was modified using the dome tool

The two mountain g arms were created as 1/2" tall flat reliefs.

These two arms were then combined with the lid of the hatch.

The hatch itself was the next step/. It was created as a flat relief which was 0.2" tall.

The raised ring and lid mounting flange vectors were then used to modify the flat relief using the add to command. They were raised 0.8" making the piece a total of 1" tall (the same thickness as our board)

The last step was to add the rivets using the dome tool.


That finished the reliefs for the tank. It was a simple matter of tool pathing them and sending the files along to the MultiCam to be cut from 30 lb Precision Board.

Building the tank turret

The next part of the tank we are building is the main turret.  It is pretty simple but it uses tools in ways not often done. The turret is built in two pieces - an upper and a lower half.

The first step is the create a relief using the bevel tool, but we'll do it with a twist. That is to use the limit to height tool which effectively flattens the top with a nice bevel around the edge.

The gun barrel mounts to the front of the turret and so we needed to build a box on the front. This is done as a separate relief. I made this 0.8" tall - just like each half of the turret.

The gun mount relief were then combined with the turret reliefs.

The two halves of the turret then got a round modification by using the ADD TO RELIEF command using the two circles as masks. These reliefs were created separately and then merged highest with their respective halves of the turret. The large circle is the top portion. We'll build a hatch onto it shortly.

That's all I can fit on this post but next time we'll build the final bits to get this ready for routing.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why 30 lb Precision Board?

We use 30 lb Precision Board in our shop exclusively. I often get asked why and so I did up this little video for my answer. It is much quicker than typing...   :)   I first answered this question four and a half years ago...   here   and my answer hasn't changed.

Why I chose a MultiCam CNC Router

When I was in Salt Lake City at the EnRoute Summit I was asked to tell the story of how and why I chose a MultiCam CNC router. This is a video of that story...

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Building a tank - part one

I find it a lot of fun to build rather complex files in EnRoute. They are both challenging and a great way to learn the functions of the software. Once mastered the functions of ADD, SUBTRACT, MERGE HIGHEST, MERGE LOWEST and REPLACE allows us to build some pretty interesting shapes to create just about anything we can imagine.

The second project we built at the Salt Lake City EnRoute Summit was a cute little tank. The tank was about eight inches tall. It was routed from many layers of 1" thick Precision Board.

To build the tank you have to first figure out how many layers of routed Precision Board there will be and what is on which layer. I started with the track which will be built in a front and back layer for each side of the machine. I built the vectors in EnRoute. 

I started with a flat relief of the centre portion of the tread. I forgot to grab a screen capture of this step but as I recall it was 0.3" thick. The sprocket segments were next and these were added to the first relief to a depth of 0.2"

The raised boxes were next and these were created by modifying the base relief to a height of 0.2"

The wheels were next but because they overlapped the sprocket pieces they needed to be built as separate reliefs to a height off 0.6"

These separate wheel reliefs were then merged highest with the base relief.

The centre of the wheels was then depressed using the dome tool. I created a base of 0.1" (vertical sides) and an angle of 17 degrees. I also used the subtract from command.

I checked the front view in the non-rendered mode to make sure I had achieved what I wanted.

The wheel has were next. These were created by using the dome tool with the add to command.

Once more I checked in the front view to make sure I had what I wanted.

The lug nuts and rivets were the next order of business. I could do these all at once as they were all the same height. I used the dome tool to modify the base relief.

The cleats of the tracks were next, They were created as separate flat reliefs that were 1" tall. 

Once again I checked the front view to make sure they looked as I imagined they would when I pushed the enter key on my computer.

The track cleats were spaced off of the centre portion of the assembly just a hair which meant I had to do one of two things. My first option was to create a zero height relief and then merge highest with the separate elements. This is the option I did here.

In my workshop I nudged all the separate cleats towards the centre portion and because they now overlapped the centre relief I could combine them in one click using the combine relief function in EnRoute.

To facilitate the easy mounting of the tank track to the tank I created a rectangle which I used to make a 1" high separate relief. I then copied and flipped the tank track relief and positioned the block in the center of the inside half of the track. This was then merged highest with the track. 

Both the front and back tank track reliefs were duplicated as two copies of each were required. I could then tool path the reliefs and send them off the the MultiCam. As always we used 30 lb Precision Board. While the tank tracks were being routed I was busy building the files for the rest of the tank. Stay tuned for those steps...