When I lent my services to a collegue who was working on a film about 12 years ago, I was introduced to the world of cnc. I remember watching this huge machining centre milling out a slab of mdf and turning it into a fantastic set of gears. I knew that it would have taken me hours to achieve the same thing with traditional power tools. I decided then that I would invest in a cnc router for my own business Oxenham Design. At that time I could turn on a computer, but even to check email seemed like a crazy set of operations. I persevered and learned every piece of relevant software I could get my hands on. I am now fortunate enough to be using Vectric's ASPIRE software, and Techno cnc routers, which has helped us to create some amazing projects, both in part, or in full. I thought that this blog would be a great place to share "behind the scenes" adventures with the software, materials and equipment we use, as well as the projects we build.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Bubble gun Finals.

We have been busy at the shop with this current job. It has a pretty serious NDA with it, so I can't post any text or images on the blog. Oh well, I guess I will be able to post the stuff in a year! On a side note, I had a major meltdown with my main PC which resulted in a sudden loss of 98% of all my data for the last year. Yeah, yeah, I know, regular back-ups. I was actually in the process of doing a back-up, but.............................

On another note, I got the final on the bubble gun shoot. Again, This was done for Matt Barnes for the pop artist Lisha Cash for her new album cover. . His stuff is way fun to work on! However,  I secretly think that the gun should be WAAAAAY bigger with Lisha in the background :)

 Press shot for new pop sensation Lisha Cash.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Techno cnc and diversification

One of the few things I will never regret is buying our Techno cnc. I have said before that I have owned other routers, but none of these routers were capable of delivering what we needed all the time. I used to have to turn down some work as I wasn't comfortable with the old routers ability to hold their positional accuracy. One job in particular was 3D machining a vac-form mold from 3" thick cast acrylic. This sheet was in the neighborhood $7000. With that kind of a material cost, I couldn't stomach the thought of some lost steps! That job would have been pretty good money, but at the time, the cost to replace a messed up sheet would have had some serious side effects!
Now that we have definitely moved 'up' to our Techno cnc, I no longer have that concern. It's quite a feeling to not worry about the machine not being capable. The other blessing of owning cnc is the ability to expand on you current business. Don't get me wrong, I love making props and miniatures for film and television, as well as all the other ad campaigns we get to work on. However, this industry can be very up and down. I know a few producers that only find work twice a year. But by expanding our capabilities, largely with our Techno cnc at the helm, we have diversified quite a bit since the beginning. We now carve all the dimensional sign work for 4 sign shops who focus more on vinyl and printing, and we also now have started cutting paint stencils for the city. Like handicap parking and arrows, etc. This becomes an added revenue stream for a company that would struggle on the entertainment industry alone. One of the first thing I really like seeing at the start of the day is the happy face on our Techno cnc smiling, ready to work it's butt off whenever I say the word!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The official YETI trailer

I found the "official trailer" for the Yeti photo shoot online today. DA Media Group guys did a great job with it. I can remember them shooting video all day at the location. The final image came out great! Thanks again to Matt Barnes for including us in a tight deadline, but super fun project! Follow the link at the bottom to get you there!

THE YETI (Official Trailer) from DA Media Group on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Amnesty delivers

We got the Amnesty International job all wrapped up today. It was pretty straight forward so there were no surprises.

I think it's gonna be a great ad campaign for them. When Shanghoon gets finished lighting and photographing it, it will definitely be a striking photo. It was a bit of a struggle working around all the wall panels we are building for this "glow-in-the-dark" adventure game.

23 panels at 4'X8' eat up a lot of room, especially when they are all spaced out for painting. It was a serious maze in the shop today, I got trapped a few times on the way to the office, or outside. It sounds like I'm joking, but I'm serious! I got lost. These wall panels will deliver on Friday(thank God). We also got asked to assemble and paint 10 'art director' awards for a company in Toronto. This was a SUPER last minute job. I.E, we got the pieces yesterday at 3 pm and they need them back by noon tomorrow! It went pretty good considering they needed to be painted and clear-coated with an industrial automotive urethane, then set into resin. The clear-coat needs at least 24 hours to harden, so the timing was crucial for painting/ drying/ casting. We managed though. The awards had miniature busts of famous composers mounted to them. As they supplied the pieces, we didn't have an 'ideal' material choice, we had to use what we were given. These busts were cast in porcelain, so we had to cut them in half with a wet-saw tile cutter. What an adventure! Due to the size, I couldn't use any of the guards on the saw, so I basically got soaked from head to toe with water from the blade. Next time, no porcelain please!


Monday, 13 June 2011

Amnesty International

This week we are onto physical jobs. I must say, I really enjoy both sides of the work we do. I got to do a ton of 3d modelling last week, a couple of models were for a sign company in Indiana for use in their Aspire software, and the other modelling was for some theme park characters. With that out of the way, we are onto fabricating physical stuff now. One rather large job on the go is fabricating 4'X8' modular wall panels that will fit together in a "tab and slot" fashion. Although their isn't a lot of creativity involved, it still requires some engineering on our part, especially as we will never put it all together. The client will do this part, very, very, far from here!

The other job is a lot of fun though. It's for Amnesty International. They have a "Just One More Candle" ad campaign going on. They require a smooth, heavily worn, wood table surface with an AK-47 on it. The cool part is that the whole gun needs to be covered in wax, encapsulated to the table. The only part that has no wax on it is the trigger area. It makes sense to me that "just one more candle" would have rendered the gun useless in the hands of children soldiers. Due to the time line, we decided to go with an AIRSOFT rifle. It looks authentic, and I could get it next day.
 So the first order was to get the table surface rocking! I decided to go with pine as it has great character once it gets stained. I drew up the board dimensions in Aspire, and pulled the bitmap trick again. I imported some images of wood-grain into the software, and quickly converted that to a 3d surface. Once I had the geometry, I needed to smooth it considerably. I applied the smoothing filer at maximum. Next I just stretched the model to fit my board dimensions and tool-pathed it right from there. I just re-stretched it, changing the look of the relief for the other 3 boards. Then for my favorite part, firing up our Techno cnc! It really is a pleasure to use our Techno. The interface is so well laid out,  and the process from pre-processing the tool-path file to a finished piece is SO easy. I had done an extremely tight toolpath step-over of .020" with a 1/2" cutter to avoid any sanding, and as I was busy on the wall-panels with Mike, the extra time on the Techno didn't matter much. It took it 48 minutes to machine a 12"X 70" board with my wood-grain relief. Not bad for the step-over I chose! The boards however, did need some sanding as the pine decided to get furry in some spots. Way less sanding than the hull section we did a while ago though.

They wanted the wood finished in a fairly dark stain, as the image needs to vignette to black. I mixed a great browny-blackish colour, and went to town. After the stain had set up for a bit, I put on a good wet coat of polyurethane. I will tweak the surface finish tomorrow and start on waxing down the gun to the surface.


Friday, 10 June 2011

George Lloyd

 George Lloyd 1952-2011

 Today I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to a man that I have been blessed to have known for almost 20 years. This was a man who I got to know one small step at a time. Over the the years, he became a man I could trust and count on, without judgement, regardless of the circumstances. Everyone has 1 or 2 people in their lives that are more than just acquaintances- they are the people you admire and respect. Maybe they would hold a flashlight in the rain if you needed, or would drive all night to make sure you were ok. George was this man to me. He always had a smile for me, and would be truly interested in whatever it was I had to say. Over the last year and a half, I felt closer to him than ever, both through conversation, and seeing how he affected the people around him. I am grateful to be able to say that I have no regrets, and no unfinished business in his and ours relationship. I would have loved to have been able to spend another 20 years of my life knowing George, but that is not meant be. This is why I will never forget the years I did get to spend with him. George will never be just my Father in Law, he will always be my friend.


Thursday, 9 June 2011

popcorn and an air cannon make a wave!

Well I finally got the finals for the VISA PAYWAVE campaign we worked on. This job was done a while back, but due to infamous NDA, I was unable to post. This was a pretty neat job for photographer SHANGHOON.

Basically we were to replicate what popcorn may look like if you could pay for it and leave the kiosk with it lightning fast! This sounds like a job for our air cannon. Our small air cannon is made from ABS plastic pipe with a rather large release valve, allowing the stored air to vacate the chamber all at once. This results in some serious action from a relatively small amount of air. On the hockey puck shoot we did a while back, this same cannon launched a hockey puck around 100 feet on 30 psi! We fabricated a special holder, and loaded it with popcorn for this crazy shoot. After a loud pop, coupled with  Shanghoons laser trigger, the results ranged from "whatever" to "wow". It was a great shoot day, and Shanghoon's a great guy to get to work with!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

A revolve style tutorial

Before we build on the banner tutorial, I thought I would add a small tutorial on spinning a relief. I don't know if anyone else has done this yet, I haven't seen anything on this, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been done either!

 Revolving simply means to spin a profile in a circle, similar to turning a "bowl' style shape on a lathe. This is quite a bit more flexible than the "create shape" function in terms of actually using an exact profile. In this tutorial, we will create a crazy rim for a tire. Again, as always the instructions fall BELOW each image.

Firstly, open a new project with a size of  20" X 30" I chose a thickness of 3". Also set the 'Modelling Resolution to HIGH(3X)

The first step now is to draw our outside rail. Use the circle tool to create a circle 16" in diameter. Then hit the highlighted "CENTER IN MATERIAL" button. This makes all of our alignments easy.

Then switch to the "NODE EDITING" tool in the drawing tab. select the middle left node of the circle and right click. From the fly-out menu, select "CUT VECTOR" You'll notice that the node has changed to a green colour. What this does is breaks the closed circle into an open circle. This becomes our 1st drive rail for the "2 RAIL SWEEP" function to use.

Now we want to "CTRL-C" then "CTRL-V" to copy and paste the same circle. Switch back to the "SELECT" tool and select the circle. Then select the "OBJECT SIZE" button from the 'EDIT OBJECTS' tab.

This brings up the "EDIT SIZE" dialog box. Enter a tiny value of .005" If the "LINK XY" check-box is checked when you hit apply, you should see the X and Y values become the same. If not, just enter the same value of .005 into both boxes. You now should have a nearly invisible circle in the center if the page. Go ahead and close out the dialog box.

Select the "RECTANGLE" tool from the 'DRAW VECTORS' tab. Draw a rectangle close to the circle and enter a value of 8" wide and a height of 4".

Now we switch back to the "NODE EDITING" tool and select our rectangle by clicking on the very bottom line of our rectangle. Now we right click and choose "DELETE SPAN" from the fly-out menu. This gives us our open cross section for the "2 RAIL SWEEP"

Now we get to define the cross section of our overall rim profile. Have fun trimming and joining vectors. Whatever shape you can make. Just remember to leave the vertical lines alone on this one.

This is the profile I came up with.

Now we need to switch over to the "MODELING" tab. Just double click anywhere in the empty blue space on the left, it should switch over for you. Then we select the "2RAIL SWEEP" icon which looks like a leaf and is found under the 'modeling tools' section. Now we shift select our 1st and then 2nd drive rail, and lastly our cross section. Remember it's a 2 rail sweep, so we need to select our 2 rails first!
Now, if your profile sweeps your cross section in reverse of what you were thinking, undo the last 2 rail sweep and select your drive rails in the opposite order, always selecting the cross section last.

TA-DA! We have created a revolved shape using the 2 rail sweep. Perfect for our rim model.

Lets add the spokes! Or more precisely, removing the spaces between them.
Go ahead and draw the vector that will become the space between the spokes. Make sure that your final shape is where you think it needs to be in relation to the rim shape. When that's done, we want to select the "ARRAY COPY" button found under the 'edit objects' tab.

After the dialog box opens up, we want to select our newly drawn spoke spacer. Select the "CIRCULAR ARRAY" button, as we want to copy these around the inside of the rim.
As we centered our rim in the center of our workpiece at the beginning, (my workpiece was 20" X30 ")
I have set the "centre of rotation" at 15" and 10"  Check the 'rotate copies', as we only drew 1 shape, and put in the number of copies you want. I chose 5, but you could have more or less, whatever you would like to see.

Now you should have 5 shapes representing our spoke spacing.

Let's swithch over to our 3D modeling tab. Double click anywhere in the empty blue space in the drawing tab. Once your in the 3D modelling tab, shift select your 5 rotated vectors and the 3D relief, hit the "clear area inside" button highlighted in red.This will "punch out" the rim with our shapes.
Looking good!

Lets add the lug-nut holes now.

I drew 3 circular vectors and a 6 sided polygon. The polygon will be our 'nut', the 2 outer vectors will be our "hole" and the small inner circle will represent our threaded "stud"

Again, we will select our grouping of circles and the polygon, and "array copy" them. Use all the same settings from when we copied the rim spacers earlier.

Switch back to the 'modelling' tab. We now want to select our 2nd largest circles and our relief, and hit the highlighted 'clear relief INSIDE selected vectors' button. This will punch 5 holes through our part.

Now select our 5 outer most circles and select the highlighted 'create shape' button.

Under our settings, we want to select the flat shape profile, and assign a height. In my case, this was 1.125" . Also make sure to select the "MERGE" button at the bottom.

This should be the result were after. A flat bottom pocket hole.

Next is to select our 5 polygons that represent our 'nuts'. Select the 'Create shape' tool and assign a height to the nuts, and use the flat profile. I chose a height of .250" At the bottom off the dialog box, make sure the 'Combine with other components' is set to ADD. This is because we want to 'ADD' this shape on top of our pocket hole.

Finally, select the smallest circles, and add a height to them. I chose .125"

 There you go! Our rim is done.

 Lets add a tire now.

 Select our outer circle we made in the beginning and using the 'node tool' drag-select our original nodes we cut apart at the start. From the right click fly-out menu choose "CLOSE VECTOR" and then "MOVE ENDPOINTS"

CTRL-C then CTRL-V to copy and paste this vector back into the drawing. If you double left click, you will get the manipulator handles to appear. If you grab the bottom right handle while holding the SHIFT key down, you can drag the circle bigger while keeping it constrained to the centre of our page. Drag it out until you like the proportion for the tire side wall width.

Shift select both our 'tire' vectors so they highlight in pink. Switch to the modelling tab and select the "CREATE SHAPE" tool. In the settings, choose the dome feature with an angle of something like 54 degrees. I chose a base height of 2", but yours might vary based on YOUR cross section you drew for the rim portion.
Lastly make sure the "MERGE" feature at the bottom is selected and hit apply. If the tire is to high or to low compared to the rim, play with the 'base height' setting to correct it.

 Now all our tire needs is some branding!

 I selected the text tool and typed out a name for our tire. Then I selected the 'TEXT ON A CURVE" tool. I set my parameters shown in the image and hit apply. Now my text is wrapped onto the tire.

 Finally, select the "CREATE SHAPE" tool from the modeling tab and select the text we created. Select the flat shape profile and add a height of .060" Make sure it is set to ADD at the bottom, as we want to add this new shape to the tire.

There you have it. A branded rim and tire. The names a little big, but there's no such thing as 'BAD PRESS"!


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Banner tutorial part1

 Our Aspire software is very flexible, and used in a wide assortment of industries. But the most widely used industry would probably have to be the sign industry. It definitely is the ideal software for this. Most of my readers do use the software for this purpose. I was asked to write a tutorial that would make it easy for a beginner in 3D to get up and running quick. With a lot of thought going into what I would create, I decided on a banner. This is definitely a model that sign makers could use, and it helps take some of the mystery, and the unexpected results, out of modelling a relief in 3 dimensions. As our next couple of jobs are all being done in the computer only, this works out well. Please comment if you are not clear on any steps, I WANT people to understand, and chances are, if you have questions, someone else has 2. The written steps are BELOW each of the images. As this tutorial is about the 3D side of things, It would be good if everyone already had a handle on drawing vectors. If this isn't the case, and people let me know, I will do a tutorial on 'drawing with vectors' for this same model.
This is what the vector outlines for the banner look like. We only will need one side of the ends, as we will duplicate them to the other side when we have built them. It is important however, to draw these vectors a certain way.

The red areas are all the separate vector objects. These are all CLOSED shapes, which simply means Aspire
knows that each one of these red areas are individual objects, and not simply just lines touching each other that look like a shape.

Now we need to create the additional vectors that we will use to fuel the 2 rail sweep feature that makes Aspire so powerful.

 We need to use our guidelines for the next few steps. This will help us line up all of our pieces. Drag 2 guides
to each side of our flag tip vector object.  Then drag down a horizontal guideline, we will use the horizontal guide as a constant bottom edge for all of our cross sections. This will also help Aspire give us predictable height results.

Now we need to create our cross section. As you'll notice, I have just used the bottom edge of the flag tip object, as a visual guide for the cross section. You'll also notice that the cross section is an OPEN vector, it has no bottom to it. This is important because Aspire can't use a closed shape as a cross section.

 Now we need the 2 'rails' that we will drive the cross section down. For this banner, they are just 2 straight lines on each side of our flag tip, set right on top of our guidelines. Using the guides helps keep everything lined up.  It is VERY important that these 2 lines go beyond our flag tip shape, both at the top and bottom. This is so we have enough room later to cut our shape out of the 2 rail sweep extrusion.

After we have our cross section and 2 rails drawn, we want to select our flag tip vector, as well as our 2 rails and move them to their own separate layer. We will leave the cross section vector, as we will need to refer to it as we draw the rest of our cross sections. Layers are a very powerful way of keeping things organized in Aspire, and should be employed to the max whenever possible! If we don't, most projects will become VERY cluttered and confusing very quickly. This is done by selecting the vectors we want, right clicking, and selecting 'move to new layer' from the fly-out menu. Call this layer "1"

At this point, I would suggest opening the 'layer control dialog' box by pressing the highlighted button in the drawing tab under the LAYERS heading.

This will open the layer control as a 'floating' palette. You can drag this palette anywhere you want on the screen. If it gets in the way, you can close it. You can always re-open it at anytime, by selecting the the highlighted button again. One of the major reasons for employing layers here, is to be able to visually turn off each layer (by clicking the lightbulb icon next to its name) so we keep our workspace clutter free.

Then we just keep doing the exact same process for the rest of the vector shapes. Setting up the guides, drawing our 2 'rails', and creating the cross sections. Again, use the bottom edge of each banner object as your visual reference for each new cross section, and then move the object and rail vectors to a new layer, leaving out the cross section. Leaving out the cross sections allows us to visually see the cross section shape progressing when we turn off the visibility of each new layer. Again, by hiding the layers we aren't using, we keep our drawing simple and clean. Letting all the cross sections be visible, ensures a smooth flow between each of them while we keep adding the new sections. Remember to give your new layers a name, I would number them sequentially.

Once we have all of our vectors drawn, we can move to the 3D side of things. Oh yeah baby!
We now will switch to the 'modelling tab', where all the 3D functions are located. This is done by double clicking anywhere in the blue portion of the drawing tab. At any time we can switch back and forth from the 'modelling' to the 'drawing' tab just by double clicking anywhere in the empty blue space on each tab.
We now going to call the '2 rail sweep' function into action. This feature is found under the MODELING TOOLS section. It looks sort of like a leaf.
When we select this, it opens its own dialog box, where we can define all the different parameters..
Make sure that our layers pallette is still visible, and turn on our first layer we created earlier.

The first order of things is to select our vectors to define the shape we want to make. You ALWAYS start with the 1st rail, then the 2nd rail, then the cross section. Always in that order. At this point, we want to make sure that we have set our combine mode to merge, otherwise this particular relief won't be very nice looking!
 Now there is a good chance that this may happen! This isn't what we want, This is a result of the starting points of the 'rails' not being aligned to each other. Don't worry, it's a quick fix.
We just need to click the 'reverse rail 2' check-box. you will notice that Asipre highlights the vector node start positions. Now that they both start at the same end, we are good to go. Aspire also creates light grey lines between the rails to give you an indication of whats going to happen.

Now this is what I'm talking about, SAWEET!
This is where you should now be if everything was done right. If yours doesn't look like this, review the last couple of steps, you'll solve it.
Now we need to close out the '2 rail sweep' dialog box by clicking close.If Aspire asks you if you want to keep the current 2 rail sweep, say yes. The next step is to select the newly created component and our "flag tip" vector outline. Multiple selections are done by holding the shift key down. The vectors will change to pink when they are selected, and the 3d 'component' will turn a terra-cotta colour.
We now just need to hit the 'clear area OUTSIDE selected vectors' button, highlighted in red.
This will give us our 'flag tip' shape we want. This is also the reason we drew the vector shapes individually in the beginning, so we could create individual components, and have total control.
We now can turn off this vector layer in the layer control box, and turn on the next set of vectors.

Each new component is created EXACTLY the same way, every time. Don't forget to check that your 'combine mode' is set to MERGE. Each new component you create will be listed in the 'component tree' at the top of the 'modelling tab'
And don't forget to shift select the component AND the vector so you can clear the area outside the selected vector to create the final component shape each time.

You now should have all the elements built to create our banner.

We now can shift select each of the first 4 components in the 'component tree', right click on any one of them, and select 'group' from the fly-out menu

Now that all 4 of those pieces are grouped into one, easy to manage unit, we just need to copy them to the other side of our banner. Making sure that the group we want to duplicate is selected in the component tree(highlighted in red at the top left of the screen) we can hit the 'Mirror Selected Objects' button located under the EDIT OBJECTS heading, also highlighted in red.

This opens the 'Mirror Selected Objects' dialog box. We obviously want to mirror this for the other side, so we will make sure the "Create a mirrored copy' check-box is selected, then hit the 'flip horizontal' button. You should now have a mirrored duplicate of the ends of the banner.

The last step for this is to select our newly created group, by double clicking on it in the 2D window. This brings up the 'manipulator handles' and lets us drag this component where ever you may need it. In this case, we are going to drag it over to the right side of our banner while holding the SHIFT key. Holding the shift key while dragging, locks the movement to the horizontal axis, so it will be perfectly in line with the left side.

Now you have a finished banner, suitable for whatever.

 At this point you could leave it as individual pieces, or you could select all of the components and hit the highlighted "BAKE" button and make them all into one piece.

Really try to understand all of these steps, because we will use them all, plus more, to create something a little more exciting next time!

Please comment with any questions you may have and I will answer them for you.