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.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

On the router awhile!

Today was the first day since the holidays that I was back making physical stuff in the shop. Most of the lawyer sign got cut. I still have some offset cuts to run to clean up some of the relief edges.
This is a fairly big sign at 48" wide by 56" tall. It will be 4" thick when it's all said and done. 2" for the front carving, 1" for the steel structure inside, and a 1" backer plate to sandwich it all together. I actually got the steel frame structure painted yesterday.

I also was able to get a lot of modeling work done on the shark themed dispenser that is going to be in some kind of theme park. We won't be making the physical model at our shop, we were just hired to model it. It's proving to be alot of work as our model needs to fit over a dispensing unit whose dimensions can't change. I modeled a tube that represents the machine stand-in, so hopefully I can get the proportions to work with the original designers "quick sketch"
It looks like a giant PEZ dispenser right now, but that will quickly change as I progress on the modeling. It's fairly big, at 72" tall!

While our Techno was busy hammering out the Lawyer sign, I was able to get our little I-carver tabletop cnc running the "mechanical fish" that will grace the front of our "Institute" sign. So far I am quite liking this little I-carver. It's a stepper based machine, so it's slower than our beloved Techno cnc, but it does hold it's own. I have been running it for almost a month now, with no lost steps on any files I have run. Servo motors can spoil a man, but this little guy hangs tough for sure. I have decided that I will probably write a small review on this guy, so I will be posting that in the near future. It's VERY easy to set up and run, and it doesn't require a connection to a separate PC, it's all built right in to the gantry. I just save the toolpaths to a jumpdrive and plug it into the router. The other nice thing is that it comes with it's own brushless spindle with a softstart, so it's a whole package ready to go. Plus the clamping hold down system is pretty sweet! It's process area is 15"X20"X4" and is perfect as a secondary machine for small stuff while our Techno cnc is tackling the bigger projects. It's definitely designed for people who are just getting started with cnc, and don't need a complicated and overwhelming interface. I just wish they could have 2 modes that the controller could run in. The simple one it comes with, and a more elaborate one that could offer even more flexibility down the road, as a newcomer gets more experience behind him. It's a got a lot of bang for the buck, that's for sure

Here's the finished fish. It will get a lot of detail added to, so this is just the base form. I haven't cut the hinged tail, or the other side yet. I'm hoping the I carver can do that in the morning. I also hope to get the "lips" done as well. These are going to be Sintra bent around and pinned to the hing point already carved on the base form. I didn't want to just machine these, as I wanted them to look like they could move. After I had modeled the fish in Hexagon, I was able to export the lips to a small piece of software I got years ago. Basically this software imports "low polygon" models and flattens them out so you can make a paper model. I haven't made any paper models yet, but I do use it for flattening geometry for cnc routering.

 It works quite well on low level geometry. You can see the vectors are faceted along the edge, but are easy to fix in Aspire before toolpathing. It is so much faster, and way more accurate than trying to figure it out "old school"



  1. John Christensen5 January 2012 at 09:20

    What is the name of the software? I was looking for something like that this last summer.

  2. Pepakura designer. There is another one called Ultimate Unwrap 3d which looks pretty good. Pepakura designer is only $38 and works very well!