Jim McGrews Aspire Camp - Review

Beki Jeremy and James Booth from Vectric were again invited to speak at this year’s CNC users meeting at James McGrew Cabinetmakers in Columbia, South Carolina. The meeting ran for 3 days from Thursday 19th May, through to Saturday 21st and included a varied mix of topics related to CNC and Vectric software.

A very rainy Thursday was taken up with information on tooling and equipment plus a very in depth session on rotary machining from Gary Campbell. The day was concluded by Gary and Michael Mezalick discussing how they had iterated through the design of a rotary cut table leg to explore modeling options and find ways to machine it as efficiently as possible by combining 2D, 2.5D, 3D toolpaths along with some of Gary’s cunning ways to program a rotary axis.  
Friday was a lot better weather, so it was very comfortable in the workshop as James started by showing an overview of What’s New in Aspire and VCarve 8.5. This was very well received with particular interest in the Moulding Toolpath and the Texture Area modeling function. In addition everyone likes the enhancements to drawing and toolpathing such as the ability to now fillet not just straight lines but also between arcs and curves as well. Beki completed the morning session with a look at a slot-together 2D lamp, while this was a relatively simple project; many people commented on how many useful techniques and time saving options they picked up by watching how she drew and toolpathed it.
Friday afternoon after lunch James ran through 12 essential practices for all Vectric software users to become faster and more accurate both with their workflow and their cut parts. An extra session was added to cover some techniques for modeling “tiles” for the new Create Texture Area tool. Beki then spent an hour discussing techniques for assembling clipart using both VCarve and Aspire. This covered three samples to cover basic arrangement through to tilting and fading of Components and ultimately doing more complex editing with Aspire. To demonstrate these ideas Beki used a selection of the excellent 3D projects from www.designandmake.com.

Next up was a guest speaker – Greg Larson from the New England School of Architectural Woodworking, he described cabinet design program that he is involved with called CabWriter and demonstrated how it can be used to design a kitchen. The software works within SketchUp and interfaces seamlessly with Cut2D Pro, VCarve Pro or Aspire as a CAM engine to cut the designs on a CNC. To finish the day Michael Mezalick showed some of his out-of-the-box thinking by covering some very interesting techniques for modeling in Aspire using overlaid parts to make an attractive effect on the corner of a door and also using the STL export and import function to create some unusual and very effective perspective on 3D models.  
On Saturday, Beki started the day with two very different modeling examples. The first was a cartoon emblem which showed the process for building up this type of design from simple vectors using the modeling tools in Aspire. This used organic shapes to create the model. The second example was a revolver that was made up of a lot of clean geometric shapes. In both projects Beki showed how a simple version can be built quickly to fit some applications and then how more detail and embellishment can be added if required. To finish the morning Michael Tyler (who creates Vectric’s projects of the month) gave an overview of some different scanning techniques which he uses to capture 3D data and then looked at some of the tools within Aspire he uses to convert these into workable 3D models.
As in previous years the lunch was excellent BBQ pulled pork and as a bonus this year chicken too! James returned for the afternoon session to battle the post lunch tiredness and also a sudden increase in heat and humidity. For the hardy crowd who remained the first topic was “Making tools with a CNC machine”, looking at how to cut parts which can then be used to form other materials. After an overview of some of the applications and materials you can use, James looked specifically at 4 projects; a printing block for product labels, a 2 part mould for forming a plastic part and finally two different applications for making moulds to press heated solid-surface material. These covered some of the key software tools such as the offset commands and the ability to add-draft angles to any 3D shape. The finished projects generated a lot of interest particularly in the materials and processes used and there were a lot of people ready to head home and try some of the ideas.

Although the tool-making session was very long due to the volume of material many people were still happy to stay for the last two sessions of the day, creating a “Do Nothing Machine” which was a 2D drawing and machining example and then finally a 2-sided letter opener modeled on a gothic looking dagger. Again these re-enforced many of the tips, tricks and ideas covered throughout the rest of the weekend and we’re well received.

Feedback on both the new version of the software and the presentations were very positive and it was nice to catch up with so many familiar faces along with meeting the new set of Vectricians who have joined us in the last year. Vectric would like to offer sincere thanks to Jim McGrew for once again interrupting his business, opening his doors and graciously hosting. Michael Mezalick also went above and beyond this year with the organization of the meeting along with Gary, Greg and all the speakers who came to share their knowledge and ideas. The crowd were very attentive and interested, asked lots of good questions and also brought lots of nice samples to show-off both in person and in photos on their tablets and phones. We appreciate the effort everyone makes to come to these events and as always the Vectric team left excited and humbled by all the nice comments. Now we look forward now to our own user group in Orlando where we’ll be revisiting and further developing a number of the topics from this meeting - Click here to book your place


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