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, 31 July 2013

Sorry, I couldn't quite hear you

The ear was the next model to machine on our Techno. Unlike the lips model, the ear needed to have the backside machined, so it wouldn't look so thick.
If I don't have to limit my toolpaths to any particular area, and I want to double side machine it, Cut 3d from Vectric software is the best for me.

You can do it in Aspire, but Cut3d is WAY easier, and the interactive tab placement feature makes adding tabs a breeze. Plus it calculates the top and bottom toolpaths at the same time.

I Machined the ear on our little Techno, as the other parts of the build were being cut on our bigger machine.
The next part of the build was the Facebook like button. They wanted it in 3d, but as everything for Facebook needs to adhere to strict guidelines, and be pre-approved, it was safer to stay with laminated flats, pulled right from the icon pack. The base was pocket milled into 1/4" black pvc.
Each layer was cut, then added into the recessed pocket.

Pretty simple, but looks kinda cool!

The final part of the build was 12 grey letters cut from 1/4" pvc, then painted grey. Pretty straight forward, that's for sure!

Now I can get back to our crazy octopus for the sign contest!
You can follow the progress of everybody's different take on the sign at our forum, just follow the link:


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Pucker Up!

Last week was borderline killer for us! We had both Anna and Ojars working on a commercial build that had 9 oversize props, and less than 5 days to do it in. I'll post that build when the commercial airs.

Right after that build, we had another short deadline for studio delivery yesterday. Not as grueling, but after the last job, I was pretty tired :)

I can't say what the ad campaign is, other than a still shoot. They needed 12 letters, that will be copied and duplicated in post to create a sentence, a set of lips, an ear, and a dimensional Facebook "Like" button.

After the mouth was modeled,
 I brought it into Aspire for further work. It's a whole lot faster and easier to texture a model in Aspire, so that's where i do it.
At the size of the lips (4"), I used a bark texture instead of a skin texture. This would give me a faster way of adding the deeper depressions, than physically having to sculpt the geometry.
Once I was happy with this part of the model, it was off to our Techno cnc.
The router time was pretty quick, and I worked on the next part of the file while it was cutting.

In order to get the teeth as clean as possible, I machined them separately. The lips were cut with a 1/16" tapered ball nose, and that meant that the mouth opening was going to have a small draft due to the cutter angle, just until the cutout pass though. It also meant that the teeth wouldn't get fully machined if I had kept everything one piece. The remedy was to extend the barrel curve that the teeth sit on, just to give me the most amount of machining room around the teeth, and cut them separately.

Once the model was machined, I used the mouth opening vectors to profile cut the teeth portion out.
I just wouldn't have gotten the detail in the teeth any other way. Without the length of the tapered ball nose, my other 1/16" cutters weren't long enough to do the job.
This also made the painting a whole lot easier!

Tomorrow I'll post the rest of the build!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

8X the Fun!

I finally got away from the computer for a while yesterday, and was able to start cutting the mechanical tentacles for our competition entry.
A little hard to see white, on white, but the cutting went well
By the last linkage of the tentacle, the parts are getting a little small!

I just did up a parts count for the tentacles. There are, including spacers, 10 individual pieces per link. There are 10 links per tentacle, times 8 tentacles!
That's a total of 800 pcs. PLUS I still have to design the tentacle mount to the body, Probably another 80 pcs for those.

Stoooooopid Jamie says "Let's build an octopus"..........Pffff!..........Stoopid Jamie.

BUT.....I think it will be WAAY cool when it's done:)

However, during assembly, it seems I forgot to trim the tabs of the side in the computer file, so I ended up having to do that with the table saw after. It wasn't too bad, as I could run the brass rod through the holes, and cut 8 of them at a time.

The assembly was pretty fast, and everything ended up working out, except for the aforementioned trimming mistake. Each one of the pulley's will get a belt that connects to the next one down the line, with the big and small pulley's alternating one side to the other.

7 more to go!


Monday, 15 July 2013

My Competition Entry is Starting!

As I mentioned before, Myself, Dan Sawatzky and Doug Haffner started a challenge when we were in Indiana regarding my "Institue" sign. A friendly competition to push each other creatively.
This was the guy to start it off! I don't actually know how many entrants are taking part, last I heard was somewhere around 15 professionals from around the world, but the buzz on our forum has a lot more people joining the fun!
Here's the link to the posts where everyone is posting progress images and some build logs

Creative CNC-Where Art and Automation Collide

This is the framework for our new mechanical creature. A mechanical octopus! Clearly he's missing his tentacles, as I won't actually be 3d machining those, they'll be 2d profile machined so the 3d geometry is pointless (at this point anyway)

The 3d model is pretty straight forward in terms of geometry. The worst part is the space between the brows, so I employed some creative chopping techniques to get our Techno cnc to carve this.
Because I'm only running a 3-axis machine, undercuts are impossible without slicing the model someway. I was very careful at the modelling stage to limit some undercuts, so when I bring the model into Aspire, I won't lose any geometry. Aspire fills in any undercuts on import, due to 3-axis limitations, so it was important to me to keep the damage to a minimum. I hate modifying anything that comes off our Techno!
The first step was to identify where the zero plane was going to reside in Aspire. Because most of our octopus is "open" geometry, and the various parts are placed in and around the model, the usual Boolean slicing doesn't work. Hexagon hates boolean-ing open, dense meshes. The flattened cube was carefully aligned along the top of the head that has the place between the brows that need separate machining.
With the cube in it's final location, I copied the whole model, so I always have an original. I pulled the bottom of the cube deeper to give me some wiggle room. The octopus geometry above the cube is the only portion I'm interested at this point.
In order to get the the model in Aspire, and be perfectly aligned to the x y and z axis, I drew a cube that gets created automatically aligned to the x,y,z.
By selecting the face of the first cube, that was grouped with the octopus, I "laid"  it on the bottom of the reference cube.
Once the alignment cube was deleted, The top of the octopus head is ready for export into Aspire.
Once I imported, and aligned the head to the zero plane, this is the result. I don't need the body that falls below the zero plane for right now, so I had Aspire delete it. This portion of the model is ready to be machined.

Back in Hexagon, I dragged the face of the splitting cube upwards, to completely encase the top part of the head. As I already have that portion ready to machine.
Now I brought the whole model into Aspire, and centered it down the middle on the zero plane. I will be machining the body from the side, and can just mirror the side over.
With the model now in Aspire, it's time to split that cube off, we don't need it anymore.
I drew a vector line right along the edge of the cube, and used the split component tool to cut the model.
Then I can get rid of the cube by deleting it as a separate component.

Because I was very careful in my alignment in Hexagon, the pieces will line right up. There will be a small amount of seem clean-up, but our Techno cnc will be doing 99% of the work.


Friday, 12 July 2013

The Launch of our new Forum!

I have been spending a great deal of time around all of our projects setting up a new forum! Woo-Hoo!

It is my hope that this forum will be a great place for creative professionals to share their experience, and work, on this new forum. We are not limiting anything here. The only exception is that the work must include cnc automation of some kind, at some point.  Whether it's the fabrication of a concept vehicle, coin design, injection molded toy, sign, film prop or theme park project, it's all good.

Cnc is a huge passion for me, especially when it's combined with art, going beyond flat cutouts.

So, please tell anyone who you feel might like to join, and spread the word!
It has the potential to be an amazing place, with lots of information for everyone, but it does take everyone to make it grow.

The first order of business for it was to have a central location for the sign competition that we, as well as a bunch of other amazing sign artists, are partaking in. I think it will be great to follow everyone's progress publicly, as well as chuckle at the friendly ribbing that I look forward to being a victim of :)
So here's the link

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Goodbye Coors Light Hiker Dude!

Jody got all the tedious miniature barbs fabricated for the barbed wire obstacle course on the Coors Light game.
She used some thin wire, wrapped around a small piece of brass rod, then clipped off each piece, and pulled the barbs out.
While she worked on the barbed wire, I molded the small garden taps, and the posts they're attached to from some Aves sculpting epoxy. I also molded the 2 poles that the zipline attaches to.
While the some of the paint was drying, I drilled out the base for the coat hanger wire poles that the barbed wire attaches to. I purposely made them a little crooked and unevenly spaced. They got a coat of rust colored enamel, and the base got painted in burnt umber for the mud.
We posed the little character to be face down in the mud, and drilled him out for the 1/8" rod that mounts him into the base.

The barbed wire got wrapped around the poles, and painted silver to stand out against the mud. A little clear was added for gloss to make the mud look wet.
The pool and filling hose got installed, as well the bull rushes that have started to grow in the puddle made by the leak!
  The garden hose is also bulging, ready to pop!
But our little contestant seems to not care a bit about the shoddy workmanship of the leaking pool.
We decided to add some waving flags at each checkpoint to dress them up a little.

The final piece was the bent 3/32 aluminum tube for the zipline handle. I screwed a small eyelet into the end to hang it from braided fishing line we used as the zipline.
 And here's the overall final finished game (X2) before the case. I didn't get any good pictures with the case on, as all the reflections made it impossible to photograph!

Goodbye little Dude, I'll meet you at the party cabin!