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

Friday, July 23, 2010

Why EnRoute software?

Today someone asked me why we chose EnRoute Software. It's a great question worth answering here! An extension of that question is why after almost five years do I stay with EnRoute and continue to endorse it so enthusiastically?
Back when we were searching for a CNC router I looked at everything. The information was perplexing and overwhelming to say the least. I had no experience with complex computer programs or CNC routers. I didn't even know how to work with vectors. I came from the bitmap, Photoshop side of things. I am anything but a 'computer guy'. So everything we were looking at was brand new.
We ended up purchasing a top end MultiCam CNC router. I wanted a sturdy, reliable machine that would allow me to concentrate on the art I was producing and think as little as possible about the software and hardware we were using to help us create it. We wanted a machine that would impose few limitations on what we could do back then or in the future. The software we selected had to do the same. Because our experience with complex software was so limited our MultiCam dealer recommended EnRoute. He felt the learning curve was the shallowest and yet the program was still very powerful. Our dealer also felt that EnRoute would continue to be on the cutting edge in the future. Trusting him, we made our choice and bought EnRoute.
We were different from most shops in our approach to learning to operate our router and the software to operate it. I purposely had no jobs scheduled for production on it. We would wait until I had a handle on things. The folks at our local MultiCam dealer did their best to show me what they knew. We were cutting out shapes in minutes. But I wanted far more than that! I wanted to do dimensional pieces for the most part. About this time our dealer had schedules some training course with EnRoute. He also scheduled some one on one time with the instructor for us. I broke out the manual and did my best to struggle through the learning curve. Books and manuals aren't my strong suit.
The first project(s) we did was all the letters of the alphabet as samples for our walls. Each was different, each pushed the boundaries of what we knew to that point. As I worked I immediately saw the possibilities of what was possible and in short order was doing things that hadn't been done with the software before. I sent photos and a story of my excitement over this wonderful new tool to SignCraft www.signcraft.com  They published the article and put the 'A' on the front cover of the magazine.  That in turn captured the attention of the folks at EnRoute. We became good friends over the next while.
It also garnered the attention of others from around the world who were interested in doing these same things with their CNC routers. After sending off countless emails and answering many phone calls we decided to join with the folks at EnRoute in hosting a workshop here in our studio/shop twice each year teaching and showing how we make this powerful program do these amazing things. We've now hosted more than a hundred people in our shop, many of whom have been using other 'competitor' programs. Each workshop I hear of what the other programs can't do or of how complex the procedure is for the same task. More than a few of our students have made the switch to EnRoute after watching it in action at our workshop.
In October it will be five years since I started on this amazing journey. We've done some very cool projects in that time. We've also been privileged to work closely with EnRoute in teaching others in how to use this program and in exploring new ways to use it to it's full potential. Jeff Hartman (one of the creators of EnRoute) has been our guest teacher at many of our workshops. He often explains the thought process he and his brother Kent are going through as they write new features for EnRoute. In doing so I understand how the program works so well.
On occasion, through our friendship with the folks at EnRoute, I have been privileged to catch a glimpse of things currently in development for EnRoute. While I can't reveal anything here about the future, let me say it will be exciting and will make some pretty cool stuff possible. Although I acted largely on the recommendation of my dealer when I started almost five years ago, in retrospect, it was the absolute right decision for our needs. The software has few limitations. The learning curve is relatively modest compared to some of the other 3D routing programs out there and yet the program is plenty robust and powerful. While I am anything but a computer type guy and very limited in my technical knowledge, the software works beyond my wildest dreams. In all likelihood I will never do all the things that EnRoute is capable of.
I would happily recommend EnRoute to all I talk to.