ArtCAM Pro used to house homeless birds
Blue Moon Designs, is a relatively new company, Randy Martin, the owner and chief designer, used to sell software for a living. After many years on the road, dealing with the stresses and strains of that job he decided to make a change. Having always enjoyed amateur woodwork he decided to start a company using CNC machines to carve decorative Bird Houses and so Blue Moon Designs came into being.
They wanted the Bird Houses to be original, fun, rustic products at a reasonable price. Randy designed a range based on faces where the birds fly in and out the mouth or nose. The challenge with these products was to make sure they were well finished individual items but also that they were produced in an efficient manner.
To solve the problem of carving low volume parts in mini-production runs, Randy converted a Scolpitrice carving machine to be CNC controlled. This machine has 16 spindles which can simultaneously cut the same part. He has some other customized machines as well giving his shop a total capacity of 26 spindles and up to 65 cut parts per shift.
The next problem was creating the models and toolpaths he needed to cut them. Originally, based on his designs, he commissioned a carver to produce some masters and also made some himself. These were digitised and then the toolpaths created on the scanned data in a CAM package. This method worked but was costly for each design; it also meant that editing the part to create variations was impossible as the CAD surface modelling software he had could not manipulate the scanned data.
Randy worked this way until about a year ago he first saw ArtCAM Pro at a local woodworker’s trade show. "I realized immediately that ArtCAM was much more suited and easier to use than my current software”, he explains, "After trying it, I was convinced and then it was just a matter of financing, even though it was more than I intended to spend, I could already see there would be a quick return on investment.”
With ArtCAM Randy now uses a different approach to develop his ideas. Typically he sketches the idea for a new design and scans the image into ArtCAM. Using the drawing tools he cleans up the sketch. Then he uses a library of component pieces taken from existing designs as well as parts he sculpts and scans, and even parts created completely within ArtCAM. He says this is similar to creating a strange Police "Photo-Fit” image!
ArtCAM Pro’s flexibility with dimensional data means Randy can take his designs and quickly modify them. He can also take parts of these models, integrate the other elements and then quickly create a completely new product. Randy explained, "It used to cost me $1000 per model to develop them and I could not even edit it once it was done, with ArtCAM Pro I can create the models at a fraction of the cost and in much less time”. He goes on to say "I particularly like the Interactive Sculpting Tool, which lets me blend and shape areas before cutting a prototype. ArtCAM allows me to edit and modify the designs just the way I want and the sculpting tools are just one of the key features that make ArtCAM indispensable in the business.”
Once Randy has perfected the model then he uses the flexible machining strategies in ArtCAM to create the toolpaths. Cutting small production runs means it is essential to generate an efficient toolpath, to get an excellent finished product. ArtCAM lets him create these toolpaths and also simulate them to check the finish. Parts are cut in batches and then stores as inventory until someone orders that design, they are then assembled and finished to the customers requirements.
Since it was formed, Blue Moon Designs has developed a good network of US based dealers for their fun Bird Houses and are hoping to expand into Europe actively looking for distribution there. For 2006 and into the future, they will create an annual selection of products. These will be created in limited editions and should quickly become collector’s items.
As well as the production side of the business Randy enjoys the custom work and walk-in jobs that he can do with ArtCAM, "Recently we were able to carve a restoration component for a 150 year old piece of furniture”, he explains, "By scanning the original part it was easy to repair the model in ArtCAM and then carve an accurate replacement.”
The custom side of the business is something that Randy would like to develop more over the coming year and he is also looking to expand into other areas, "We are hoping to develop a range of designs for other products and we’re also now offering the service to carve parts for other companies who may need to make multiple copies but do not have our capacity for production.”
Randy thinks that even with there current use they are just scratching the surface with what ArtCAM can do, "Having attended the ArtCAM User Groups and Trade Shows I can see the value of exposure to other ideas and applications and I look forward to exploring other uses for ArtCAM into the future.” Randy concluded by saying, "I used to sell high value manufacturing solutions and wish it would have been so obvious a cost benefit to our customers as that we get from ArtCAM”.
Thanks to Randy Martin of Blue Moon Designs for his help with this article. For examples of their work or to contact him to learn more about his carving machine conversions, please visit www.bluemoon-designs.com.