Monday, July 9, 2012

CarveWright Designer and Shopbot...yup.

I've been wondering about this since the good people over at LHR technologies created the 3d file importer for Designer (their application for the CarveWright).  Wouldn't it be cool if you could create a file in Designer and then export the .stl file?!!! (a 3D format).  Turns out that the answer is now YES!   Why, you ask?  Well, I find the Designer application to be about as easy as falling off a log to use.  It's simple, you get what you see and it does a fantastic job of turning greyscale images into relief. 
With the recent addition of 3D tools available for Designer, I thought it was high time to give it a whirl.

I began with a pet project.  Some movie/tv folks are putting together a kickstart project called "Space Command". It's retro-science fiction. Think 1950's rockets done with modern technology.  I was immediately drawn to it.  Many Trek veterans are involved and they've raised a fair amount of money but can use more.  I recently saw the logo work that Michael Okuda had created for it, and thought it would lend itself easily to a carve.  Let's start in CarveWright and end on Shopbot!

Here is the artwork created by Mr. Okuda:

Here it is imported into CarveWright Designer:
Now you can see it in 3d in Designer:
Now we can export it to an .stl file:
So far so good!
Now I can import it into almost any application that can run an .stl file on the shopbot. From cheap to expensive, almost all will get it done.

I decided that I'd like to round the edges off a bit...lots of curves in 1950 I used a smoothing tool on it.

Loaded up some Azek pvc on the shopbot and she began to carve!
Soon I'll be trimming it and painting it.  An 18" diameter piece from a CarveWright Designer file (the CarveWright has a 14" limit on a single width board).  I'm thrilled with the quality of the file and the carve.  I think this piece will bring a few dollars for a great project!  I'll show finish work soon and tell you how you might be able to get it!

Gettin' Dimensional

The last couple of months have been full of murals and conferences and meets. Painting outdoors is a blast, but the whole time I've been thinking about carving dimensional pieces in the back of my mind.  I have projects I need to complete and I'd like to be fully up to speed on the shopbot as soon as is possible.  This weekend, I decided it was time to work out the method for importing 3d models.  I can build things in the software for carving, but I thought it would be great to be able to build a 3d model and then import it and carve it.
Just to get the method figured out, I found a fun but inaccurate model of one of my favorite movie models...the Nautilus from 20,000 leagues.  I spent some time working out how to slice it, size it and generate the toolpaths.  I set the machine to carving and went about my business.
This was carved in some 1 1/2" HDU in about 2 1/2 hours.  I hadn't really expected it to go so well on the first shot, but I was pleased that it did!

I hate to waste things, and while this model is not accurate, I couldn't resist putting a little primer and paint on it.  I've been playing with primer textures ever since I took Dan's class and this seemed like a good place to try out something different. The boat is underwater and I thought I'd put a swirly texture around it.  It reminds me of an old technique used on gold leaf to add a circular pattern...I thought it would be cool to translate it to primer texture!

Now it's time to move to larger models and bigger carves...the fun is on now!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

CarveWright conference!

I have had the very good fortune to speak at the first two conferences held by the makers of the CarveWright cnc machine.  I share some of the methods I've developed and talk about everything from robots to paint.  I always make sure there aren't any objects for them to throw before I begin.  They provided generous applause, which may be nothing more than thanks that my awful jokes are over.Here is just a sample set of pictures of the amazing work being done with this little machine:

This year was a particular treat.  I finally had the opportunity to meet another user named Brandon MacDougall in person.  He created the guitar and mandolin seen above.  He uses the CarveWright to create many of the pieces and turn his 3D models of instruments into reality.  You can see much more of his work at .  It also turns out that he worked heavily on some 3D work on shows like Star Trek Voyager and Enterprise.

I enjoyed talking with him and found out both the awesome and not quite so awesome aspects of the world behind the tv screen.  His passion for it is obvious and I suspect we'll see more of that kind of work from him in the future.  Our hosts might not have enjoyed the extended "video toaster" and "lightwave" discussion as much as I did, but they were gracious.  The owner of CarveWright and his wife have a lovely home and have been kind enough to let me rest my head there both years.

New software for the CarveWright was released and I finally had a chance to really sit down and play with it.  There are 2D vector tools and 3D tools that blast the door wide open to what can be done.  It was especially exciting for me, as all of this work can be used on the CarveWright and exported as .stl for the ShopBot!  I have a feeling you'll be able to buy the Designer application as a stand-alone very soon...I believe there is a place in every shop with a large cnc machine for the CarveWright. It can be used to prototype and build pieces more quickly than a large machine in certain cases.  Now a file can be generated and scaled up for the larger machine. Wow!

Check it out at:

Now it's time to clean up the shop and get back at it.  Big things looming. Can't wait to start!