It is hard to believe that it was only seven 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

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hot rod!

As always it began in my head and then as a quick scribble in my sketchbook. I worked out the basic ideas on paper then set about building the vector files in EnRoute.
While some amazing 3D files of very complex shapes can be built using EnRoute Software, sometimes I like doing things in a simpler way. This sign was of a little cartoon convertible car sitting on a sign with a waving flag as a background. The sign face and flag were built in EnRoute using texture bitmaps I had created. The 3D waving motion of the flag was created by using a fade.
Then a second bitmap was applied to create the the raised areas of the flag using a checkered pattern which was distorted to the shape of the background in Photoshop. The lettering is prismatic shapes built up as reliefs using create relief tools - all pretty simple stuff.
I had thought of creating a complex 3D file for the car but I decided it would be faster and a little more fun to create simple cut shapes, laminate the car up and then hand carve it afterwards to a basic form. I would then add a layer of epoxy sculpting medium to form the final skin of the car. The wheels and tires were created in EnRoute as part of the cutting file for there was no doubt the CNC machine could do them fast faster and better than I ever could. This car would be a happy blend of machine and hand work. Here's a screen capture of the files just before I tool-pathed the reliefs.
The files routed pretty quick for the piece was fairly small. I used a 3/8" ball nose bit to rough things out and then a 1/8" ball nose to make a finish pass. The yellow portion of the car outline was a simple cutout to form the interior of the car. It left a 1/4" thick piece in the relief to form the doors. I cut the pieces from 30 lb Precision Board.
Once the MultiCam was finished I glued the pieces together and left the clamps on overnight. In the morning I removed the clamps and then spent about 15 minutes with my air powered die grinder to quickly form the fenders and rough shape of the car body. I also used the same tool to add texture to the big block of glued up Precision Board that made the body of the sign.
Stay tuned for more progress next time...