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, September 2, 2011

A key piece

Back when I purchased the MultiCam CNC router I had doubts whether the machine could effectively make single small pieces cost effectively. I was told the machine would best be used as a production tool but I had no interest in doing production work. I can now say with authority that the router is a wonderful tool for doing detailed pieces singly or in small runs. I work quickly but the machine can do this type of thing five times faster than I could do it by hand - even counting in the design time for the files. Best of all it works while I do something else.

One of our current projects is a faux brick archway between the pub and the entry area. Yesterday I was discussing details with the owner. She asked for a keystone in the arch - with some detail carved in. I suggested the letter 'D' for Dan or Debbie...  depending on who saw it.  While the brickwork will be hand carved from concrete, the keystone was best made on the router.

I made up a quick sketch on a piece of plywood to test the size. It looked good.

The first step was t create the vectors in EnRoute. the keystone measures 11 inches tall and about 10 inches wide at the top corners. To minimize routing I would create a relief  of just the background inside the border and then apply a texture bitmap. The pieces would be routed from 1.5" thick 30 lb Precision Board.

I used a bitmap from the TEXTURE MAGIC collection, enlarged it and applied it using a value of 0.2". The black does nothing, whites raise by 0.2" and the grays are in between. 

The tool path was simple on this piece. For the background routing I used a single too, a 3/8" ball nose bit with a 90% overlap. To cut the files out I used a 3/8" end mill. 

The file ran in a few minutes while I answered some emails. 

Next week I'll show some pictures of the keystone installed with the bricks carved around it.