Delcam's ArtCAM software helps create a winner

3D Image of the Dragon's Head
Dragon's Head Mounted on the Motorbike

One of my favourite reasons for using ArtCAM is the fact that it is such a flexible program. There are times I get ideas thrown at me, and I’m expected to turn them into tangible, touchable products. In some cases I’m lucky enough to have a "concept” to work from, while at other times based on my past track record I get the green light to "wing it”.

"Dragonslayer” was a little of both. One of the neighbouring shops in my complex builds custom motorcycles. In the past the owner had been hand carving HDU foam pieces, and then using epoxy to attach them to the frame or tank of the motorcycle. This year the shop decided to do something special for Daytona Bike Week, but as often is the case, time started to close in on them.

They knew I had been doing 3D pieces for some time, but we had never found a project we could all collaborate on. In this case they came to me and presented the idea; a custom "chopper” with a dragon’s head on the front fender, and full "scales” running down the gas tank and fenders.

In order to make the departure date deadline we decided to scan in a model of a dragon, and modify it as needed. I used the 3D "probe” attachment on my ShopBot with a custom stylus, and generated a point cloud, which we then converted to a 3D-DXF file.

From there I imported it into ArtCAM so I could begin the cleanup process. The point cloud file was pretty rough since the stylus tip was not able to get into certain areas on the model itself (see photo below) so I used the "sculpting” tools within ArtCAM to fill in the holes, and erase the unwanted materials. I then converted the file into a relief and mirrored it. This allowed me to machine two "opposing sides” of the dragon’s head from the one file.

In order to get maximum detail, as well as maximum strength, we chose "Butter board” for our carving stock. It’s a very dense (48 lb.) high-density urethane foam which carves beautifully and when done requires almost NO priming before painting.

The body scales were a little different story. Since the bike was being built as we were creating the pieces for it, I could not get the fenders or gas tank long enough to do a full probe of their shape. So we used 60 grit sandpaper and taped it to the body. We then rubbed Styrofoam pieces against the fenders /tank to get the shape of their curves transferred onto the foam. I then placed the foam onto my ShopBot table and probed the inside curves. Again I generated files to bring into ArtCAM, and this time I drew a vector profile around the probed curves to approximate the shape of the scales. I then took that file, and made a tool path. For the fenders/tank we needed something, which we could shape easily so we chose 18 lb. Density Precision board. Once the "inside” curves, and profiles were cut, we used epoxy and fastened the scales to the motorcycle. From here the fairing was done using standard auto body tools to generate the final shape. Then the process was handed over to the owner of the shop who happens to be a master with an airbrush. After spraying multiple coats of epoxy primer for strength he did his magic with a great paint job that is SO good, no one can tell where the scales end, and the "shadow lines” begin. Even the "rivets” are PAINTED on, and unless you are inches away you can’t tell…

When the bike was completed, and in it’s trailer headed for Florida, we did some figuring and realized that by using ArtCAM we had saved almost 40 hours of carving time compared to the method the shop had previously used. In addition we had machined pieces that were far more accurate than the previous methods, and it freed the shop owner to work on other tasks necessary to get the bike out on time. "Dragonslayer” has since been displayed at a number of custom shows, and won numerous prizes for our efforts. As a result of this collaboration we are now working on preliminary sketches for a newly proposed project, a motorcycle which will look like a mermaid, stay tuned.