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, December 9, 2011

New exciting territory

Today we got all the pieces of the lathe attachment and router talking to each other and the code sorted out. I had glued up some blocks of foam for testing. These blocks had a steel pipe glued in each end so I could chuck it into the lathe and be securely held in place. While there were many methods I could have elected for this made the most sense to me and will work well for any size block I choose to work on.

There are three modes the lathe attachment can work in. One is to machine flat surfaces on the blocks, then rotate a set amount of degrees and machine once more. I see lots of possibilities for this mode. Combined with the MultiCam software EnRoute can currently do this no problem. In the pictures below we are doing engrave lettering on all four sides of a block.

Then there is true lathe mode where the piece turns at a set speed and the router head moves down the block. This can be used to crete round stock, tapers or any round shape you wish much as you would do on a regular lathe.

The last lathe mode is to wrap flat lies around an axis. I created a simple (in this case) dimensional file in Enroute, did the tool pathing and sent it to the server. MultiCam translated these files to the router and wrapped it automatically. The file and tool paths I created were rough cuts, for test only. But it was pure magic as the router did something I could never do previously. My mind immediately started racing with the possibilities.

At this point (with mere minutes to spare) it was time for Shawn to head out to catch his plane home.  And after three days of helping set up the router it was time for me to get back to work. The first paying job was set up on the router and it was set in motion.  The job was more corner blocks for the Fox and Hounds Pub project. 

The machine will be kept busy for many hours doing our more conventional work as we catch up on things in the next while. As it works I'll be dreaming of some cool things to create with the new tools.

Thanks so much to MultiCam and Shawn Kirsch for making sure things were set up perfectly and running right! I've learned so much in the last days while he was here.

Now we have the technology at last. I just have to learn to use it.

-stay tuned...