I have an access to this CNC-router (Computer Numerical Controlled) that is mainly designed for routing printed circuit boards. Router itself doesn't limit what you can carve. Wood, metals and plastic are equally good to work with. Only difference is that you have to choose a bit different bits for the router. This article is not intended to be a compehensive information package about routers. This is just to show you what I have done with this machine and what can be done. Now, lets move on.

Main things needed are router machine and a PC that controls the machine. Router is made in Germany and computer is just a regular and old DOS based PC. This router can trace details with 0.01 mm accuracy. Great news for for plexi carving.

Computer controls the X-, Y- and Z-axis with given instructions from file. You can produce material suitable for routing with every drawing program that can export files to HP-GL format. I'll be using Corel Draw 10. If you are making an PCB, almost every schematic program can export the data for routing.

This is the first test that we did when we installed the system. It's routed to a dark piece of plexi. Nasa's Colombia shuttle. As you can see, there are a lot of details in cargo bay and on the wings. This image came with the routing program as an example. I think that this is exported from Autocad.

Then the first bitmap trace. I found this image with Google image search. It was a black & white image that I opened in Corel Draw. HP-GL file was created by using Draw's auto trace function. Opened the resulted file in router software and pressed "start".

Same dragon with two blue leds shining to it. Routed image is only 50x60 mm of size. Great to be used in small window or placed in 5.25" drive bay.

Then something more... revealing. I found this Anime babe with Google too. I opened the image in Macromedia Flash 5 and drew a vector version from that bitmap image. This image is that actual vector image that I hand traced. Then I copy&pasted the image to Corel Draw and exported it to HP-GL.

As you can see, the babe is holding something glowing in her hand. I thought that this could be a good image to try out to make multicolored plexi image. I describe that technique in this article.

Plexi pieces are still 50x60 mm. In this image you can see the carved "spehere" which she was holding. Lets find out if we can make it shine with different color than our babe.

Routed character. Try to realize the size of the image and the amount of details. With thinner routing bit it's possible to get even thinner lines and thus even more details.

How to get the different colors?

The idea is to get different pieces of plexi to glow with different colors. You will need as many "layers" of plexi as you have colors. In this case two, blue and red layers. Tapes at the end of the plexis are to prevent light from the "wrong" led to enter inside. This way every layer will have it's own color.

Character layer's other end taped to prevent red light from entering inside this layer.

Then the final product. As you can see the colors remain in their own layers. On top of the image there are 3 leds that are part of the ColorFade circuit. This is for animating and altering the color of sphere continuously.

Only thing needed now is a big piece of plexi that I can make a wall sized version out of this. :)


I'll be updating this page when I make more of these pictures and carvings. I hope that this article was interesting and a bit informative about routers. If you have something you'll like to ask, I can be reached by using Metku's forum of by email.

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17.04.2002 - ©Japala

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