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 13, 2011

More blue sky

Last night I found myself thinking about the new four axis MultiCam that is on the way to our shop soon. My first project immediately came to mind and as I tried to concentrate a little on the TV show I scribbled in my sketch book - working out some changes and details to my original drawing. This is a normal process for our projects. The original concept remains true, but details quickly come into focus as the deadline approaches to actually get to work.

As I worked things began to change. The balloon became fancier and the new fangled wheels gave way to old fashioned skids. The propeller pylons came straight out from behind the seat instead of off the bottom frame.

In the next series of drawings the engine got duel exhaust  and foot pegs made it easier to scramble into the cab. The balloon gondola also became a single seater.

As I continued to draw everything came tightly into focus in a hurry. A driver appeared and the two cylinder motor moved from the front of the body to behind the seat and exposed instead of under a hood. This will allow for some fun detailing with the sculpting epoxy. Everything now looked balanced at last. With the last changes the idea at last was going to fly!

I decided the balloon would be puffy and quilted. Difficult to fabricate by hand I reasoned this tricky task was a snap for EnRoute and the four axis CNC router. I have already built most of the EnRoute file a few days ago, but that work and the processes involved is still under wraps so I can't show it here quite yet. Basically our hope is to build it flat and then wrap the file around an imaginary cylinder to form the balloon. I'll post the results as soon as I can.

The scale of the balloon was established by the parameters of the rotary attachment on the new CNC, meaning it could be 20" in diameter. I settled for 18".  This will make the balloon about 26 inches long. So After supper today I snuck out to the shop to put in a little time welding up the steel frame that will form the basis for the gondola. I drew the rough shape out in soapstone on my welding table and then sketched in the motorized gondola underneath it. 

Then I set to cutting, bending and welding up the frame. In about three quarters of an hour my task was complete. The heavy rod is 5/8" bar, plenty strong to hold the gondola in place. For the skids I used 1/8" x 1/2" flat bar, the frame 1/8" x 3/4" flat bar. 1/2 " & 1/4" pencil rod made up the balance. 

Stay tuned for more developments on this part of the project. And as soon as the new router arrives you can count on me kicking the balloon into gear as a test piece. I can hardly wait to see how it performs!

-Stay tuned...