It is hard to believe that it was only six 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 - but I just knew it could do fantastic stuff.
Through extensive research I quickly found out that with the relative simplicity of EnRoute, CNC routers were capable of just about anything imaginable. This journal will chronicle that journey to date and continue each week with two or three entries as we continue to explore just what is possible with this wonderful software... -dan
With the routed signs securely mounted to the tree and the armature all prepared, today was the time to begin the application of the fiberglass reinforced concrete. It was carefully layered on and then allowed to set until it was perfect for carving. Then our skilled carvers began their work of transforming it into a gnarly and twisted tree. They began at the top and worked their way down in the same way they had applied the mud a short time before. It took just over two hours for Matt and Jenessa to carve the tree.
The concrete will be allowed to cure a few days before it gets it's final paint and glazes.
In a previous post I showed how I added the steel structure into the routed horse. Two 5/8" thick steel rods protruded out of the back. These would then be welded into the sculpted tree structure making for a very strong but almost invisible mount for the signs. Here's the concept drawing used to sell the idea to the client. It's a very quick sketch.
The first picture is from the front of the balloon adventure sign. The mounting rids are already welded to the steel structure of the tee but not yet trimmed. They protrude past the frame of the tree.
Here's a second shot of the same sign from the back after the rods were trimmed and the tree armature built and meshed.
The horse sign is also mounted in similar fashion with the two protruding rods welded securely to the tree framework.
Here's a shot of the entire tree (from the back side) with both signs mounted.
The hand sculpting on the tree and balloon will complete our work save for final paint. Stay tuned...
The Balloon Adventure sign looks simple but there were a bunch of steps to create the routing file. The bottom section of the song was pretty standard. As always I started with the lettering vectors. I created these in Illustrator and then imported them into EnRoute where the rest of the file creation would take place.
I used the offset tool to create a lettering double border, then created a flat relief using the outside line.
I then modified this relief by selecting both it and the next inner vector. I added to the first relief and in the process raised the next border.
The letters were then created by modifying the original relief one more time using the letters as my mask. I used the bevel tool this time with a base of 0.2" I also used the constant height function as the letters had thick and this portions. This altered the angle to create all the same height on the top point of the bevels.
Then we were on to the balloon portion of the sign. I created the vectors in EnRoute and then used the revolve tool to create a mesh.
I then created a zero height relief in a rectangle surrounding the ballon. I selected both the balloon and mesh to allow me to merge them together. I used the merge highest command.
I then used the slice tool to create all the slices of the ballon. This would allow me to cut them from a piece of 30 lb 1.5" thick Precision Board.
I then tool pathed the file before sending it off to the MultiCam router.
Precision Board is strong stuff, especially the 30 lb board, but it is not structural. There are plenty of ways to add structure to a sign but my favorite method is to weld up a steel frame and then laminate it into the sign layers with only the mounting points sticking out when we are done. Doing it this way means there are no screws to let go, and limited ways we can get corrosion. It also looks good.
The carousel sign I posted yesterday is to be mounted to a sculpted tree. Today's task was to glue up the four layers of the carousel sign. The horse itself had been sliced into two layers to fit into inch and a half thick Precision Board. I also cut two other layers from 3/4" thick board. One had slots cut into it to accommodate the 5/8" steel rod frame and the last layer would serve as a backing to seal it all up. We would use the PB Bond-240 one part glue made by Coastal Enterprises. It is spread on the piece and then activated with a spritz of water. It expands slightly as it cures which means it squishes out a little on the edges. This is easily sanded (or with the die grinder) off when we prep our signs.
If you look at the next photo carefully you will notice lots of details. I measured each rod to go into the routed slots (measurements are noted in red felt pen) I then cut bars to length and placed them in the slots and tacked them up with the MIG welder. I then pulled out the assembly and welded it all permanently. The next task was to weld on the two mounting bars perpendicular to the frame. These would be poked through the backing and welded into my tree.
I then glued up each layer. I like to use deeply embedded screws to fasten things together as well as the glue. I know it is overkill to both glue and screw but it gives me peace of mind. We'll fill in the screw holes with a little Abracadabra Sculpt epoxy just before paint begins.
I'll spend a half hour or so with the die grinder to take off the excess glue, even up the sides and texture the back. Then it is off to the painting department. The crew is anxiously awaiting...
We were originally going to make the carousel sign include a half of a real carousel horse that I had salvaged a number of years ago. But as we got into the build of the park the space where were going to put the sign it was decided that the space will now be shared with the balloon adventure sign. (I'll post that entry tomorrow)
The redesign of the positioning of the signs meant we had to take another look at the sign design too.
I dud a search online and came up with a beautiful STL mesh file of a carousel horse. Buying this mesh file would save many hours of modeling. I bought it from www.3dmodelclub.com I've used their models from time to time and have always been very pleased with the quality.
I imported the model in EnRoute and sized it appropriately. I then merged it with a zero height relief and used the slice tool to take away the square zero height relief.
I then created the border around the horse and lettering. These borders wi=ould be used to create layers.
I then merged (Highest) the horse to the first flat relief.
The second border around the lettering was created as a separate relief as it would overlap the horse just a little.
Then I merged (highest) this border to the one underneath.
Adding the lettering was the last step. I used the bevel tool to modify the original base relief.
I used the slice tool to cut the relief into two layers. They were then positioned and tool patched before being sent to the MultiCam to be routed from 30 lb Precision Board. The resulting file turned out pretty cool!
The sign will now be glued up and then hand finished. Everyone is calling dibs on painting this little beauty. Stay tuned...
The wagon wheel was created in EnRoute and routed in five layers which will be glued up afterwards. Because of this I created copies of various parts of the files as I went. I also created each element separately and then merged them afterwards. I started with the spokes of the wheels which were created with the dome tool.
The rim of the wheel was next.
The letter outline was next along with the wheel hubs.
The outer portion of the hubs was tapered. To accomplish this we used the bevel tool at a very steep angle and limited the height.
Then to put in the axle holes I created a zero hight circle and then merged lowest with the height.
The rim of the wheel was also raised and rounded using the dome tool.
Lastly I created the lettering in various layers.
The layers were then tool pathed and sent to the MultiCam for routing from 1.5" thick 30 lb Precision Board.
In the next post I'll show how it all went together with a structural steel frame inside.
The next sign we are routing is the is for the wagon wheel attraction. A gopher will be perched on top of an old wagon wheel, eyes wide, mouth agape as he stares up at the giant wheel looming overhead. We'll make the bulk of the sign on the MultiCam from 30 lb Precision Board. It will be layered and have a sturdy welded steel frame inside, as always. Today, I'll show how I put the vectors together in readiness to create the routing file. This is the rendering we started with. It was done as a sketch in my sketch book, scanned and then reworked in PhotoShop, using my Wacom pen and drawing tablet.
The starting vectors were done in Illustrator. I spent about fifteen minutes creating the starting file I wanted. The vectors were then imported to EnRoute to be modified and then to create a routing file.
I separated the spokes of the wheel and then used the jigsaw tool (on each segment) to pull out the center.
I then used the point edit tool to round out the ends. This would make the spoked round - without any bulges or sharp edges.
After re-centering the spokes I added the axle hole and wheel ring. Borders and an outline were also added to the letters.
That made the vectors ready to create the reliefs. I'll post that process tomorrow.