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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Don't do this at home!

I get quite a few emails each week from readers of this blog. Many of them are stuck on a fairly complex piece and seeking help. I know how these folks feel for I was once in their shoes. The difficulty in my case was that I was seeking to go from knowing nothing to going to light speed. And I wanted to do it in an instant. But EnRoute (and other complex programs too) is not like that. I suspect that many other folks are the same. The key to mastering the program is to learn the basics first. Once the user is comfortable with the basics it is time to add a few tricks to the bag - but one at a time. Eventually we get a handle on the program and can do more much more complex projects.

Today's project is fairly complex or at least it was for me. It was tricky to keep track of all the different elements and how it would go together. I won't be doing a detailed step by step on this project but will show how it all goes together in the hope of inspiring some other cool projects out there.

I designed the logo some time ago, with a good working knowledge of EnRoute I designed it with the eventual building it the sign firmly in mind. Even so the sign caused a few sleepless nights, thinking it through carefully. I will need at least four copies of the sign, some of them double sided. And they were to be built in three (or more) sizes too - just for good measure.

The logo was already vectorized, but the file was designed to print nicely. I had to simplify things a little to make it suitable for creating a routing file. That was the first step.

I thought about how it would be routed in layers and then pulled out each group of vectors. These were merged, combined and new ones created using the jigsaw puzzle tool until I had the vectors for each layer created. The screen shot below captures the second layer I was working with.

In the next screen shot the second layer I would route was laid over the first so I could visualize how the sign would go together. These two layers will be done as simple cutouts, necessitating a fair amount of handwork to finish the sign. 

The single sided signs will be routed in four layers. Below are the vectors required for each of the four layers.

Because I required different versions of the sign I duplicated the files and modified them to suit. The top one is a simple version of the sign without the square box underneath. The second is normal, while the bottom row is the same sign flipped in reverse (except the lettering)

Now that the vectors are done it is a simple matter is sizing them and then creating reliefs for the two layers that need it. Then it is off to the MultiCam to make the signs a reality. We'll go through a whack of Precision Board on these babies! It should be fun!