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, October 29, 2010

Vector step by step

A sign like this would be very intimidating to most sign shops. In fact I don't know too many who would even tackle this type of three dimensional project. The truth is that if we think about it and carefully break it down into manageable steps it really isn't all that hard to do. Although challenging I find these projects very satisfying. Since few others out there do this type of work I can charge what it's worth without any problem. By using modern software, tools and materials they are easier than ever to create. I find no shortage of clients who want these types of signs.

The quick sketch I did at the trade show would be plenty to sell the concept of the sign to most of my customers. It conveys the feeling of the sign but still leaves plenty of room for interpretation when I get down to the business of creating the sign.  If at all possible this is as far as I like to go before money changes hands. Unless we have a history that's good the sketch stays in my book and the customer gets no copies until I see green.

Sometimes more information is needed. At this stage I would take some pictures of the customer's excavator or do some searching on the web. Because I was stuck at the trade show when I did the next step I just winged the color version using my digital drawing pad. The end result was a cute excavator but a little research when I got home proved I was lacking a few details.

I could have built any of a thousand machines but since this sign was for my own display collection I did a quick search to find results that showed pictures of both sides of the same machine. These pictures would provide all the reference material I needed.

The vector tools in EnRoute are quick and easy to use. Because the vectors can be easily edited I drew the shapes quickly, just blocking things out. Scale wasn't critical. While there is still lots missing it was starting to look like a convincing excavator already.

Then I edited and adjusted each piece of the rough vector sketch, using my photos as reference. Since the final sign would feature a cartoonized tractor I could exaggerate certain pieces as needed, The hydraulic cylinders and hoses will be added when I assemble the routed pieces.

The triangle was constructed by using the jigsaw tool to create a shape inside three intersecting lines. I used the chamfer tool to round the corners of the triangle.

I added the text next. I used a copy of the triangle (re-sized) under the 'O' in Co. 
On looking at the letter vectors I decided that the 'TRI-ANGLE' needed to be bold. Once I was happy with the spacing of the lettering I added outlines around the triangle and lettering using the outline tool. A rectangle was drawn around 'CONTRACTING' and the ends stretched out using the vector adjustment tool. Everything was centered using that tool.

Then I pulled the sign face vectors over to the tractor vectors and resized them to suit. In about half an hour or so I had all the vectors I would need to create the routing files for this sign. The tractor is backwards again but I will flip it around when we start gluing up the project - or perhaps not depending how I feel at the time.

Next time I'll start creating the reliefs, adding and subtracting to get the shapes I need. It shouldn't take much longer than it did to create the vectors.

Stay tuned...