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, December 13, 2011

Ready set - stop - GO!

Building the reliefs for the Rover's Return In sign was definitely a challenge in the same sort of way as juggling might be. There were lots of things to keep track of and keep in mind as to how they would relate to the other pieces. There were a few false starts. But it was fun.

The background was first. It was a simple flat relief with a texture (Splotches from my TEXTURE MAGIC collection) added for good measure.

I did each relief separately,, keeping little scribbly notes to keep all the different heights handy for reference. The next layer of the background was next complete with the pinstripe border as a routed indent. Then another higher flat layer was added to glue up the building, lower ground under the building and the scroll. These would be build and added as subsequent layers

Then I built up reliefs for each element on the building in a new layer. These were all combined into one file. It looked good in the top view but when I looked at it in the three quarter view I didn't like the way the door and windows were sunken.  I had gone far too many steps to undo... so it was time to give it another whirl and get it right this time. This time I took better note of how thick each element was and it turned out right. The large hole where the big bay window should be is to give us access for the LED lights.

the last two layers were the store front and the canopy with the business name. I created the slope by using the sweep two rails command, then added the lettering. The two side windows on the window bay would be built as separate pieces.

Here's all the pieces laid out for routing. I had the new MultiCam all warmed up and the file was loaded. I decided to check with my client one last time before I hit the GO button. I wasn't positive about the size.

It's a good thing I did. They had decided the sign needed to be a maximum of 24" wide. This meant the building would be a little small to show the detail I wanted to include. A quick decision was made to eliminate the back border and the bottom writing on the original design. The sign would now feature the building only on only the middle background with the pinstripe. It was back to the drawing boar. Happily not all my work would be lost. With the slice command I cut the big background off the sign. Cutting off the background actually allowed me to enlarge the inn building a little... always a plus! I resized all there pieces at once to keep them in scale to each other.

Few other modifications were necessary for the new shape of sign other than moving the cutout that would house the LED power transformer. Then it was time to kick on the router once more.

But all was not done yet. Murphy was still lurking, unseen and unexpected. I had upgraded my computer to Windows 7 over the weekend. This meant I had to reload EnRoute. It's something I do only every two years or so and it is something I am very unfamiliar with - especially since I use a Mac computer on a daily basis. And in reloading I didn't remember to select the MultiCam drivers. When I sent the project to the router it did weird things. I shut it down before I did any damage. While I figured things out I transferred the files to my laptop and re-tool pathed the file. While I was at it I rearranged the pieces to better fit on the board.

Tomorrow I'll begin gluing up the pieces and inserting the LEDs and plexiglass windows. Stay tuned for progress...