By Mike Folts
“The sum of the square root of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side” And while the Scarecrow didn’t get this quite right, he was trying to quote the Pythagorean theorem. A function of Euclidean geometry. I don’t know, it’s all trig to me.
This equation, among many others, is how data points on any given shape are defined. This is true in two dimensions as well as three. In the not-too-distant past these data points were calculated, one at a time, by hand. Defining a curved edge or surface on any given part took forever… you know, hours, or even days. I know this to be true because I’ve had to do it. Computers have put a welcome end to that headache. We take for granted the fact that computers can do a gazillion trigonometry calculations per second.
I’ve been an artist for a long time, but it was just recently that I began working for a graphics company. Until then, I had no clue how art was transferred from the artists original work to print. The technology is astounding. Even more amazing is how one goes about cutting out complex shapes. The complexity of the software is mind boggling, but actually doing it is simplicity itself. Artwork is brought in via several different means; scanning, photography or creating the work digitally are a few of the processes that are commonly used. Once that happens, a few mouse clicks creates an outline around the desired shape. From there, the router operator can point a mouse to the shape as if to say “See that squiggly line right there… yeah, that one… Now cut that sucker out”. A few minutes later… voila.
The CNC router is an amazing machine. You may be familiar with the standard woodworking router that is controlled by hand. The CNC router is similar, but the router head is mounted on a gantry and its motion is controlled by a computer, while the cutter is revolving up to 50,000 rpm. By contrast, your lawn mower blades revolve around 3000 rpm. The cutter can work in all three dimensions. Routing can be done with a vast array of materials, including numerous plastics, woods, foams, laminates and even metal/plastic composites can easily be cut on the CNC router. WOW… Imagine the possibilities.