It is hard to believe that it was almost ten years ago I witnessed a CNC router in action for the very first time. I was fascinated with what I saw 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 and LOTS of hands-on practice I quickly found out that my MultiCam router was capable of just about anything imaginable.This journal will chronicle that journey to date and continue each week with two or three entries as I continue to explore just what is possible with this wonderful tool... -dan

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Instant fancy bracket

We are finding no end of projects and pieces for the MultiCam  CNC plasma cutter on our Viking ship project. There will be a suspended braided rope net connecting the two ships. This means we have to build a substantial frame on the side of each ship to tie the nets to. Rather than simply sculpt a rather plain timber archway we decided to incorporate some fancy brackets. They would be designed to look like the figurehead of each ship. We loaded the cut files we had created for those pieces and then sized and modified them using EnRoute software to be our angle brackets. The four heavy duty brackets were cut from 3/8" thick steel in minutes and then we'll weld them into place on each side of the arch.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A lift please!

We've found the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter a very handy tool to create all manners of brackets, lifting lugs and joining connections for the Viking ship features we are creating for Motiongate in Dubai. One size and shape does not nearly fit all.

As we designed out features many weeks ago, we engineered into the structures hard points to mount, join and lift each feature. These were located precisely in order to achieve a balanced and safe load as we lifted each piece. On the bottom or end of each piece is a place we can bolt it to a custom size pallet which is designed to slip into a shipping container and not allow side to side movement during the 11,500 kilometre journey to Dubai.

We had to do all this plus design the hard points in such a way they would not be obvious when we were done. These sturdy mounting plates had to blend into the scenery.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Big time saver!

In years past we would have built a piece like this all by hand. We would layout the piece by hand and then with a handheld plasma cutter would have cut out the sheet metal. All holes would have been hand drilled. As you can imagine it was slow and involved lots of grinding to smooth out the edges. The upper section of the keel would have been hand formed in pencil rod and then welded in place. The blades on the keel and axe would be hand paid out and plasma cut as well.

On this project everything was designed in EnRoute (in minutes) and then sent to the Multicam CNC plasma cutter. The many pieces were cut in a few more minutes- complete with the many holes. There was minimal grinding to touch up the edges. Knowing the pieces were very precise meant we simply had to line up the edges of the back and front and then weld away. Everything fit perfectly and was nice and square. As you can imagine this saved a great deal of time and labor!

Friday, June 24, 2016

It is all about the details!

Using EnRoute and our Multicam CNC plasma cutter has allowed us to put in an incredible amount of detail into the Viking ship project for Motiongate in Dubai. The battle axes are a great example. It was a quick process to design the files using EnRoute. It boiled down to a simple outline of the axe and then the detailed pattern cutout. A second piece of sheet metal was cut to weld behind the pattern. When welded up it gave the illusion of engraved metal. The wedge shaped pieces which were welded in to give the axes a taper were also created using EnRoute and the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter.

Today we did the last of the painting on the target features and the axes look absolutely fabulous!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It's looking like the movie now

It is always interesting to watch the steps of each piece we create. First, there's the development of the idea on paper and on the screen, sometimes with small scale models. Then the piece goes through the engineering stage, to make sure the structure underneath fits inside and holds everything up securely. Then it's out to the shop to begin construction. Steel tubing is cut to length and the welding starts. For most of our pieces the plasma cut steel is designed as we go through the build process. Measurements are taken and then its back to the office to design the pieces in EnRoute. They are sent to the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter to create the piece and then it is welded into place to begin the process anew. And so it goes for weeks.

Once the structure is complete we attach the lath and then trowel on the concrete. this is carefully hand sculpted. After the concrete cures it is time for the painting crew to do their magic. As with all of our projects we do not skimp on the paint. A minimum of three coats of base colours are applied before we begin a series of glazes, and dry brushing to gradually bring the piece to life. After many weeks of hard work the piece suddenly comes to life. Our skillful crew of talented painters blend the warm colours on the wood and cool colours on the metals and rocks to create absolute magic. It's now looking like the movie, 'How to train your dragon'.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Big visual progress

Work continues on the Viking ship project for Motiongate Park in Dubai. With the deadline quickly approaching the entire crew is working hard to finish off the features.The piece closest to finish is the large target. The last coats of the base colours were painted on yesterday.

That meant we could apply the glazes today. The painting crew worked in teams, liberally applying the brown and dark grey glazes and then judiciously wiping them off. This process takes advantage of and highlights the textures and cracks. The plain grey instantly turned into believable rock.

Certain areas were left very dark or even second coated to make them look deeper.

Once the glazes were done and dry it was time to go back and apply even more magic. Lighter colours were dry brushed on highlighting the tops of the rocks and the deep texture. Then we sponged on various shades of greens, greys, tans and oranges to create believable looking moss. More dark glazes were brushed on to create streaking and aging. And some various colours were flung on with wet brushes to create more texture. The process looks pretty random but it takes a lot of practice  and skill to get it all looking right.


As soon as the rockwork was dry it was time to take off the upper sections. We have to build stands for all the pieces. Next week they will be stuffed into containers and sent off to sea for their journey to the middle east.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Making best use of the metal

In the years previous to our getting the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter we spent many, many thousands of dollars having a local machine shop cut steel plates which we used in the building of our features. The plates are mostly used to bolt welded steel frame sections together and for mounting the features in place when they get to their final home. With EnRoute software and the MultiCam plasma cutter now handy we can create the plates on demand and in any shape of size we might need. We also make hundreds of other pieces that are used throughout our creations and sometimes in all welded steel features. With the use we now get out of the software and machine going back to having someone else do the cutting would be impossible now.
Thither than simply throwing a 4'x8' sheet of steel on the machine and fill it with plates, we now make our plates with scrap steel. The plates now only cost what it takes to run the machine, a few consumables and the man to run it. The fact is that when we cut parts for the Viking Ships (or whatever else we might be fabricating) the irregular sized and shaped leftovers add up in a hurry. These scraps need to be taken care of one way or other and they can't simply sit out in the weather gathering rust until we need them for some small piece. Shop space is too valuable and in short supply to store the bulky pieces there. The solution is to create three or four files of the various sized and shaped brackets and plates we use most often and cut them from the scrap. The rest of the waste steel will go into the recycle bin.

Viking ship progress

There hasn't been a lot of routing done in the shop over the last weeks as we concentrate on the extremely large Viking ships and target features for Motiongate theme park in Dubai. We are making great progress however. Both ships are now out of the shop getting their final framework welded into place. They are just too large to do inside the shop building. The two big mast assemblies head off to the galvanizers today. The large target feature is also out in the parking lot getting it's final paint. We continue to create cutting files and the MultiCam CNC plasma cutter is busy churning out little bits and pieces of brackets and lifting lugs to finish things off. We hope to send off the first pieces of the first ship off next week to the galvanizers and then the push to complete the sculpted concrete will begin.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

New video feature of EnRoute 6

Todays project is a simple dimensional washroom sign. The purpose of posting it here is to show off a new feature of the newest version of EnRoute (6) =. This feature is that each function has a video attached to it. This is a huge plus for those learning the program or simply expanding their capabilities. I was never one to read manuals - especially these days when it is available only onscreen.  It's just too clumsy for my test. But this new feature of EnRoute 6 allows you to simply right click on the function and a video pops up explaining it in detail. How easy is that!

The washroom is marked with both a man and woman symbol which will be raised and have a sandblasted wood background. They are just under 12" in each direction. I started with the vectors created in EnRoute.

I first would create a flat relief. Since the piece of 30 pound Precision Board I was using was one inch thick so I made a relief 0.6" thick.

Now I know how to make a relief but if you didn't you would right click on the create a relief icon and a short movie would pop up.

Then with the new found knowledge it was time to put it into action. I then used that same tool by selecting both the base relief and the figures and raised it 0.4" to pop up the characters on the sign.

Then it was time to add the sandblasted woodgrain to the background. I imported a bitmap from my TEXTURE MAGIC COLLECTION.  It is 300 DPI and measures 11" across - far too much detail to route at the scale it opened. So I enlarged it so the washroom sign fit into one of the bands. I also drew a square vector around the base relief which would effectively reverse the mask of the figures to create the grain around them instead of inside.

Then I right clicked on the bitmap texture icon. This brought up the movie.

Once I was familiar with how to do the operation (by watching the movie) I performed the operation. This finished off the design of the sign making it ready to tool path and send off to the MultiCam.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Large Viking target sculpted!

The router has been very quiet of late as we concentrate on getting out the large sculpted features of the Viking project at Motiongate in Dubai. The process has been long and arduous at times.

I remember well the first time I watched the movie 'How to train your dragon'. As I looked at the wonderful textures and color of all of the invented digital world in that movie I thought how cool it would be to build it for real. When we were offered the project to build the two Viking ships we jumped at the chance!

The two Viking ship project quickly grew to include the target and dock features. We did the concept drawings and models in a few days to win the project. Then began the long process of designing the structures that would be underneath. We did the initial design using EnRoute software. The structures had to break into manageable sections to allow them to be dipped into galvanizing tanks. Then they had to bolt into larger assemblies which would fit into shipping containers. We would venture into new territory as we began the lengthy process of cutting and welding together thousands of pieces of heavy duty steel to form these incredibly strong frames that met both local and international standards. Our MultiCam plasma cutter got quite the workout! We learned of the galvanizing processes and the special techniques to allow vent holes in everything we built.

Then at last we came back to what we do best and that is to sculpt the concrete skins over all of that framework. In the last week we have been working on the large target pieces. Today we finished the last of the concrete on the large target feature. The two broken masts will be sculpted tomorrow along with the last shield on the small target feature. Then we will be start laying on all of the magical colours of the movie to make it real at last! Stay tuned for the results...