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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Out of the box

A number of months ago we started work on a fun piece for our own display. We all know how those projects go. The shop inevitably gets busy and the projects get shoved off into a corner and gather dust. Well, our shop is kind of like everyone else's in that regard. The good news is that is didn't stay in the corner for long - or at least not very long each time it got shoved there. We've been making some progress. The project proved to be a little more complex and take considerably more time than I first imagined when I designed it.

The first thing I did was design the vectors. I decided to make all four sides the same instead of adding our name. That made things easy. The trick task on this project would be to curve the sides inward while splaying out the top of the box. With EnRoute there were a number of ways this could have been accomplished. I could have used the Sweep Two Rails function or I could use my favorite technique of applying bitmaps. You don't need to guess which one I used. First up was the vectors - done full size of course.

Next I created a bitmap of a blend which faded from white to black to white again. It was  easy and was accomplished in seconds. I kept in mind that white would raise the relief, black would do nothing. Grays would do in between depending on their value. I applied this bitmap to the relief of the boards and the lettering in separate passed, keeping the numeric values the same so the curves matched.

Then I took a cartoon woodgrain bitmap from my collection and applied that to the boards. The end result looked something like this.

The letters were then positioned on the boards and merged together with a flat background. I was pretty happy with the result as it looked pretty much as I had imagined. I kept the boards slightly oversized as I would need to trim them on the table saw to get the corners cut at a forty five degree angle. I would measure the wooden box I would glue it all to get accurate measurements.

I grabbed an end view shot off my screen to show just how much curve I managed to achieve using the blend bitmap.

Next time I'll pick up where we left off...