Introduction: Digital Manufacturing - CNC Signs Project

About: Fixer, Finder, Fabricator. I teach engineering to high school students, at St Marys Secondary College in Nathalia VIC Australia

This is the Sixth in a series of Instructables on how to use CAD (Computer Aided Drawing) and CAM (Computer Aided Machining)
We are going to use Vcarve software and although its not free, it specifically designed for making signs, and is more "Art friendly" than prodesktop which is more for engineering projects.
Vcarve has a trial version, to play with but it may not let you generate a "G code" with out paying, which is ok as unless you own or have access to a CNC router or mill you wont need to generate a G code, you can just have a play with it and decide if you like it or not.

If you missed the other projects in this series they are here are here

Digital Manufacturing - project one Key tag

Digital Manufacturing - project two desk name plate

Digital Manufacturing - project three 3D printed box

Digital Manufacturing - project four laser cut box

As computer tutorials don't translate to text very well, for this series of instructables most of the info is in the photos. So click on the first photo and use the arrow keys on your key board to go to the next photo. The boxes in the photos show the location of the icons and have have text in them when you hover the mouse on them.

Step 1: Using Vcarve

If you have seen timber sign in shops and ebay, and though that price is a bit steep  I wish could make that,  well you can and here's how. The first thing you need to do is find and image that you would like to carve. I would recommend that fist time you use this program that you choose a simple line drawing or cartoon, as photographs can have some unexpected results. Also if the image is too small it can pixilate badly and cause issues, our robot friend is perfect for this demo, has he has a black line around the outside all his details.

Things to watch for.
  • The layer button can be confusing, take some time to understand how it works
  • Some images are just not suitable to carve
  • Make sure you choose the correct size material before you start.
  • There are lots of router bits and end mills  to choose from, make sure you select the right one.
  • There are also lots of machines to choose from, choose your CNC machine from the list
  • Vcarve is not a 3D program so you cant import STL files.
  • The material will have to be clamped to the machine, so allow an area for the clamps

Step 2: Setting Up the CNC Router

Fist thing to do is to prepare your timber, it need to be the same size and thickness as your drawing you set up in set step one.
Next Its a good idea to give the timber a coat of stain, so that the finished carving has got some contrast and stands out more from the rest of the timber. If you stain it after the your finished machining the stain will bleed into the text and image and it wont look as sharp.
Another option is painting the sign and wiping off the excess while still wet, this can give a very pleasing result also.

Things to watch for.
  • Make sure the timber is mounted straight in the machine
  • Make sure the clamps are not in the tool path
  • Check the the correct tool is in the machine
  • The XYZ coordinates must be zeroed

Step 3: Painting the Sign

Another option is to paint the sign and remove the excess paint. this is quite easy to do but you will have to work quite quickly before the paint drys.
You will need a solvent, some rags and some paint. I used spray paint but a brush would probably work just as well
  • First wet a rag with Meths or a solvent to remove the paint
  • Quickly apply the paint in the carved out parts of the sign
  • Now go over the sign with your rag turning often to remove the excess paint.
  • If you want the sign to look slick and shinny give a few coats of clear.
I Could Make That Contest

Participated in the
I Could Make That Contest

Weekend Projects Contest

Participated in the
Weekend Projects Contest