decorative pieces in a metallic medium
I first became acquainted with the Othermill Pro in my engineering research work with the Layered Assembly team, and I quickly fell in love with the precision of this desktop milling machine. After a few months working with the Othermill, I discovered a feature in Autodesk Fusion 360’s CAM module which allows the user to direct the tool path of the machine along 2D sketch lines and curves. This feature was incredibly exciting to me; I envisioned the Othermill’s tool as a paintbrush which could paint intricate on a canvas of any material of my choosing. Inspired by my vision of Othermill as artist, I purchased some aluminum plates and started sketching designs.
My first aluminum engraving project took the form of poetic bookmarks which I gave my girlfriend for Christmas. My girlfriend is a remarkably literary individual, seemingly always reading at least two or three novels at any given time. To appeal to my girlfriend’s literary lifestyle, I took inspiration from a literary hero of mine, William Blake, an artist-poet extraordinaire who engraved poems and surrounding artwork onto wooden plates in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I started on this endeavor in Fusion 360 by sketching an alphabet of stylized letters which I then dragged and dropped accordingly to form the words of the poems I had written. Once the text was in place, I began sketching the accompanying artwork, which was more or less as simple as sketching with a pencil and paper. Having completed the design, I defined the proper CAM settings and exported the design to a gcode file to be read by the Othermill. Finally, I let the Othermill go to work, and after cleaning off the aluminum shavings, the bookmarks were complete.
The success of my first engraving project left me wanting to try it again, but this time on a larger scale. My mother’s birthday was also coming up, so I decided to turn my second project into another gift. I chose the image of Jesus Christ, as my mother is a dedicated Christian. I was also looking forward to the challenge of sketching a detailed human figure in the Fusion 360 software. Though the sketching is intuitive, it is noticeably more cumbersome than hand sketching when dealing with fine details, such as facial features and wrinkles in clothing. Due to Fusion 360’s sketch limitations, I designed the figure of the Christ to be comprised of straight lines and simple curves, while omitting certain major features including lips and pupils. These choices create a non-realistic, unique, and distinctly stylized image that meshes quite well with its aluminum medium.