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, February 16, 2011

Creating a complex 3D file

The black forest sign is to be routed from multiple layers of 30 lb Precision Board. Practically 2" is about the limit for each thickness - on account of bit length more than any other reason. So when I started thinking about this file I first had to decide where the layers would begin and end.

EnRoute is a very powerful program that gives users many options when creating files. Often these diverging paths lead to the same place. So understand that the way I show is not the only way to accomplish a file like this. But it is the way that makes the most sense for me.

The first thing I did was to create a zero height relief of the final shape I wanted for the crown molding. 

Then I used the bevel tool to create a relief twice as wide as we needed. I would merge it to the zero height relief that hides below it to save only the shape I needed.

To this I would add the flat top and bottom parts of the molding. I like to build all of the pieces separately and then merge them to create my final shape at the last moment.

The egg shapes were created in the same fashion using the dome relief tool. Then I raised them up until they were right near the top of the molding.

This molding  would be routed as a separate layer to get the thickness I wanted for the final piece. The lower part was built in the same fashion as the top molding, one piece at a time until all was right, then using the combine tool all was fit together. I kept a copy of the original vectors to add more pieces as needed - such as the thin top molding to add more dimension.

The three quarter view gives us a better idea of how it will look when it is routed.

The inside oval, reverse dome will be routed from the inner layer. I still have to plan for the steel structure that will go inside the sign. Space for it will be routed into this piece. The sign faces with the lettering will be routed from 1.5" Precision Board and glued on later. The big piece will fit on two sheets of 2" HDU.

It's almost time to put this sign on the MultiCam to do it's magic!