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

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Routing my first sculpted 3D file

Happy New Year!

It's a holiday today and so I came out to the shop to just play a bit. Over the holidays I've been working on 3D files and then trying to figure out how to export them so they can be used in EnRoute. As usual there is a brutal learning curve. And I'm struggling through it by sheer force - as always.

In making the files I was so intent on what I was doing I didn't do any screen captures. At this point I am so mixed up it would most likely just confuse everyone in any case. But in spite of myself I am getting some results I like. I am working on a piece that honors the Fox & Hounds Pub's 'founder'. He's a fictitious dude - as is the date of the founding but it is fun never-the-less. I'm hoping the owners will like him enough to hang the sign in the food service area by the cash register near the restaurant.

I created the 3D mesh in a program called ZBrush. If you think EnRoute is complicated don't even try ZBrush. It makes my head hurt. But I did manage to churn out a mesh file I kinda liked. It will take a little hand sculpting to make it usable. ZBrush doesn't export in a format EnRoute can use, but a trial copy of Rhino did the conversion to DXF that I needed. Then I made it into a relief in EnRoute and tool pathed it using a 1/2" ball nose bit. Because I was whittling it from a 3" thick block of 40lb Precision Board I needed some serious length in the bit and the 1/2" did the trick. I wasn't worried about detail as I'll carve and sculpt that in later. Here's a quick movie of the MultiCam in action on the 3D file

While the face was being cut I whipped up a background plate and lettering oval for the sign. This was pretty standard stuff using a few of the bitmap textures from my TEXTURE MAGIC collection. The lettering is prismatic. I routed it in two layers so I would get the depth I needed to accommodate the 3D head of the pub founder. 

I'll be sculpting in the neck and shoulders by hand as well as a little more detail throughout.

The sign looks good in it's rough state but will hopefully have a lot more impact by the time it is finished.  I'll be back to post pictures of the progress. Stay tuned...