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.

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.



  1. Jamie,
    This is an area where I'd like to encourage Vectric to expand. It seems like it would be great to have a way to more creatively "slice" a model in Vectric, so as to make sub-assemblies/cuts without bringing in the model a half dozen times, or having to resort to other software.

  2. It becomes an location exactly where I'd like to motivate Vectric to be expanded. It looks like it is always good to have a approach to far more attractively "slice" a single inside Vectric, in order to help to make sub-assemblies/cuts without having attracting the actual model 1 / 2 12 times, or having to resort to various other software program.
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