3 months by cncdivi

CNC possesses the capability to turn any conceptualized design into reality, and potentially into a successful product. A touch of artistry may be involved if the design is creative enough. Perhaps you’re contemplating designing an ultimate CNC product of some sort. The purpose might be purely for your personal satisfaction, or maybe it’s a concept that could serve well as a Kickstarter project. One thing you might find useful in this process is having a scrapbook of ideas to stimulate your creativity. I personally utilize Pinterest to collate such visual inspirations, which is richly available. As I recently browsed some of my Pinterest images for PC Case design ideas, I started pondering about the various design details that CNC can assist with, which prompted this article that discusses some categories of motifs. Whether your interests revolve around PC cases, bicycles, gunsmithing or other creative possibilities, considering ideas such as these for your own design projects might be beneficial.

Drillium:  Parts Lightening as a Design Motif

I came across the word “Drillium” looking at bicycle parts.  There’s a web site called “Drillium Revival” that talks about 70’s style milling and drilling to lighten parts on bicycles.  I like the word “Drillium” as a way to refer to parts lightening by making lots of holes in the material.  Parts lightening by judiciously removing material without compromising too much strength (ultimately determined by FEA analysis if you’re serious about it) often yields beautiful aesthetics that are highly amenable to CNC and in some cases even impossible without it:


A simple seat post lightened by drilling…


More elaborate and pleasing lightening…


The full aerospace lightening look on this bicycle caliper…


Holes don’t have to be round…

Texturing:  Clean doesn’t have to be devoid of detail

The eye is not used to the absence of detail.  Most physical things around us are full of detail.  The detail helps make things seem more organic and natural.  The walls of our buildings are giving texture, which costs extra, for that reason.  Accordingly, when design is intended to be striking, it tends to be polarized to one of two extremes.  There is either the relentless elimination of such textural detail ala Apple’s iPhone or we may celebrate lots of additional textural detail.  Whether the texture is intended purely as a decorative element or to improve grip, textures are ripe for CNC work:


Golf Ball Dimples at any scale are a fascinating texture…


Texture can be in the form of cutouts, pockets, outlines, or engravings…


Tiled patterns of all kinds make good textures…

Guilloche:  Intricate Engraving and Patterning via Rose Engine

I’ve written in the past about engine turning and rose engines for Guilloche.  This delicate art form is traditionally used as ornamentation for things of great value such as currency and jewelry.  It was done on fascinating and complex machines called “Rose Engines”:


Rose Engines used shaper-like tooling to carve out intricate Guilloche designs based on cams that controlled the motion of the cutter…


Some typical Guilloche patterns…

Modern CNC with the right software can do an excellent job reproducing Guilloche-style patterns.  I’ll have more to say about this in a future article, but suffice to say I have seen it done.

Impossible Shapes

Could you do these things without CNC?  Perhaps.  But CNC certainly makes these things much more approachable.  Move away from straight lines and right angles.  Minimize symmetry.  Consider the more organic look of Nature.  Consider some Impossible Shapes for your designs:


The Jordan Snail Loudspeaker:  Beautiful, and a form that facilitates its great-sounding function…


There are people in this world who could make a gear shift knob by taking a hand grinder to a piston.  I’m not one of them.  OTOH, a good 3D model and the right CAM software with a 4th axis and this is doable…


3D Printing Enables even more design freedom…


These are just a few of the many dimensions of design that CNC enables.  I’ll do another installment down the road with more.  For now, I wanted to get these out there to see what kind of creative juices could be stimulated.  The sorts of creations pictured in this post are what got me interested in CNC in the first place.  It unlocks a bridge from your imagination to the real world of things.  If you have a CNC project that you consider to be artistic or otherwise along these lines, drop me a line.  I’d love to hear about it and maybe publish a roundup of reader’s projects on the CNCCookbook blog.


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