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

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Week of discovery

Six years ago I clearly remember the day we pushed the GO button on our first 3D project on our new MultiCam router. It was with pure wonder and amazement as I watched the router magically go back and forth on our block of Precision Board and revealed a piece of art within. 

This week we were privileged to host a gathering of some extremely creative and intelligent people, some of the leaders in the routing world. We were joined by Jeff Hartman, one of the creators of EnRoute Software, Shawn Kirsch, head of product development at MultiCam, Craig Sior, motion control engineer from MultiCam, and Mark Hurt, a MultiCam power user from Hawaii. The purpose of our three day gathering was to both start the first 4 axis projects on our new machine and to talk about what is going to happen from this point forward.

Machine parameters had to be set, dependent on how we were going to use the machine. Every possible facet of the four axis operation was discussed. Initial goals were modest and logical but it wasn't long until more and more complex projects and possibilities were being tossed out. One idea led to another and to another and to another. All was done in good humor and good company.

The first project we put on the new machine was an oversized Coke bottle. I had designed the file a while back, but now was to time to prove the theory and make it all real. As it happened six years ago when I watched the MultiCam route our very first 3D piece the MAGIC was about to begin once more. We chucked up the block in the rotary attachment and set the machine in motion. Here's what happened...

We first used the router in full lathe mode to round the block. Then we used a 3/8" ball nose bit to create the Coke bottle. It took some experimentation to determine overlaps needed to provide a smooth surface. Once the machine had dome it's first pass at the magic we ordered a second pass on select areas with a 1/8" ball nose bit to clean up the lettering and bottle cap.

While far from perfect, the first piece off the router was cause for great celebration. We had gone from zero to sixty in only two short days. Tomorrow the discussion and dreaming continues. Most of the technical talk goes far over my head. No matter. It is one of the greatest of opportunities ever. The new software and capabilities of the four axis MultiCam and EnRoute software will be driven from both an artistic and technical point of view. The creators of the machine and software are working together with myself and others to go far and fast towards endless creative possibilities.

This week five folks put their heads together to see what is currently possible and more importantly to discuss the future direction things will go. This is but the first of many pieces we will do. Already there are far more exciting projects in the planning stages. The folks at MultiCam and EnRoute are working hard to figure out ways to make it possible for us to bring these visions to life on the CNC router. While I watched in awe the first time I saw the machine magically operate six years ago, this time around is even more wondrous for I now am starting to understand the hard work, endless trial and error, and incredible behind the scenes labor and thought required to make this magic possible. 

The three days together will only be the starting point of this exciting adventure. Now the real work begins as the folks at MultiCam and EnRoute create a working software pared with the machine to allow myself and a host of others to create our artistic visions relatively easily by inputting our ideas into a simple interface on our computers. It will certainly take considerable time and effort to achieve.
But the journey has begun for real!