I've stacked up quite a few products and patents over the years, but most of my work is hidden behind the scenes. By far, most of my intellectual property resides in trade secrets for the manufacturing of products. One of my most prolific areas of innovation is in custom CNC software that solves a problem, or gives a unique look to a project. The following is a peek into one of these software inventions.

First a little history. Back when I was in the custom furniture business, I was asked to carve a lot of doors for other shops. One technique I came up with was to surface a panel, or feature with CNC carved texture. I developed a unique way to program the files and toolpaths so that I could get lots of organic lines flowing in the piece. While it was possible, it was also extremely time intensive programming. A few weeks ago, I had one of those moments where the junk drawer in my cranium, got shifted around a bit, and I had an idea. A software that would accomplish the same or better results than I was getting with my long hand solution, but could accomplish the task in minutes for each design instead of hours.

Essentially what I have created is a program that I can plug my CNC toolpath into, and it will randomize off the line of code with an amplitude and frequency that I can set with just a few inputs. Below is a simulation of a medallion, that is programmed conventionally. The spiral is in a flat plane and this is the non-altered version.

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While this conventional, flat pattern surfaced medallion is interesting, and easy to produce, it feels too uniform and sterile in it's design. A little bit too OCD for my visual pallet. To make this design pop, I took the exact same toolpath, and ran it through my new software, and the results are vastly more inviting to the eye. It flows randomly, joyfully carving along the line, but rarely exactly on the line. The code swerves side to side and up and down from the original code. This invites exploration. It feels like gracefully wandering up a path to see whats around the next bend.

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What's going on here is that the original code, (which is about 1400 lines of sequential Cartesian coordinates), has been offset in a random, organic, and flowing way. The best part is, that I could carve this medallion tens of thousands of times, and never repeat the exact pattern. In fact the number of variations is astounding. For this toolpath, there are at least 45 trillion possible outcomes. Not bad for a toolpath that only takes about 1.5 minutes to run. The altered toolpath runs just as fast as the flat pattern toolpath, on the CNC. So from a production standpoint, there is minimal cost associated with running the code. Just a few seconds to refresh the software, and it churns out a whole new randomized pattern.

This software is going to be extraordinary to play with. A massive number of ideas have popped up as I've been exploring with it. If you would like to have a custom texture on your next project, please reach out to me. Let's create something amazing!

Shane McKenna, an engineer, an artist and self diagnosed with geekitis. I can be found obsessing over any number of creative ideas well into the early morning hours on most days. This software was written from my sick bed as I recover from an illness. Better than bringing on Netflix, IMO. As soon as I get better, you can believe, this new toy is going to get some time on my CNC.

Bringing more creativity to your engineering... Delivering more engineering to your creations.