Custom Dragonslayer motorbike from Baycraft Designs

Bill Palumbo, owner of Baycraft Designs has been an ArtCAM customer for two years now. Prior to working with the program he had been using a number of different CAD and sign making programs. Due to the wide variety of projects he takes on, in his shop, he needed a software package, which would be versatile. " I might be cutting out kayak parts on a Monday, engraving marble headstones for deceased pets on Tuesday, carving large signs out of high density foam on Wednesday,"

I asked Bill for his thoughts on using ArtCAM, how he came about choosing the software and the changes it has made to his business:

"Before choosing ArtCAM, I was going back and forth from one program to another, and it meant a series of learning curves every time I encountered something my current software library could not handle. Added to this was my thought to expand my sign making abilities up to the next level; 3D carving. I was fortunate enough to have access to the ShopBot Forum, and I asked a lot of questions regarding which programs others were having good luck with. This helped me to eliminate some well-known programs based on feedback regarding their actual application to what I was hoping to accomplish. Some had quirky interfaces, others had poor/limited tech support, etc.

Dragon head detail created in ArtCAM Pro

Just about this time Delcam came out with a program called Millwizard, which I purchased to test. Simply stated it was a small part of the milling section of ArtCAM offered as a stand-alone package. It instantly changed the focus of what I wanted to do here in my shop. Once I found out that I could generate very good 3D signage with minimal effort, I started to concentrate on 3D work. I did a bit of research and found literally thousands of free 3D files on the web, just for the asking, and I started to carve anything that looked interesting. This immediately reflected in the kind of jobs I was now able to undertake. While there were others in my area with CNC equipment, no one was able to do the kind if work I was now putting out. Word got around pretty quickly and I started to get jobs from other sign makers.

This presented a new set of challenges however. I was occasionally asked to create images I could NOT find on the web, even through some of the "designer for hire" services, without considerable expense, or waiting time. I saw that I was losing work since I could not (yet) create my own 3D files. While working at a signmaking show that year I went over to the ArtCAM booth, and spoke with James Booth regarding my success with Millwizard, and asked for his advice as to the direction I should be headed in. He gave me a tour of the ArtCAM software, and it’s capabilities, and there was no question that this was what I was looking for. It would allow me to consolidate my CAD, sign making, and 3D programs into one easy to use package, that was icon driven, and incredibly easy to learn. It also provided a new battery of tools that would allow me to do all of my design work in house.

Mounting the dragon head onto the bike
Implementing ArtCAM was seamless. I was up and running right away, and able to generate cutting files within the first few hours I used the program... "

I worked my way through every icon and experimented with all of the features. I invested a few dollars in Styrofoam, and began to cut tests of anything I wanted to experiment with. I also took the 3 day training class and found a LOT more information which let me streamline my design process even further. I was now adding features to projects that would have been out of the question only months earlier. I even added new products to my repertoire.

I began to carve lithophanes, first out of acrylic, and later out of solid surface materials. Their uniqueness helped to attract people to my shop and this generated other work. I tried working in different mediums, and the ability to generate precise, logical tool paths, let me economize my usage of materials, and working time. I also found that by adding a few 3D embellishments to relatively simple pieces I was able to increase their value tremendously, and the time it took to do so was minimal.

Before very long I saw that ArtCAM was the only program I was using for over 95% of the work I was doing..."

And in just the last two years alone the program has been changing as rapidly as my needs here at the shop. New tools have been added, in many cases prompted by requests from people in the field such as myself, who were looking for ways to complete certain projects. Each succeeding revision has turned out to be a tighter, more powerful tool. And in an interesting turn of events I have found that I occasionally get requests to create files for other shops that are using much larger, and consequently more expensive, equipment. They had bought into the idea that having these machines would be the way to create products that could help to offset their monthly payments for them. I will generate a file, and then do a sample cut for them. Then it becomes obvious that the REAL key to creative CNC machining is in the software….

As with everyone else using ArtCAM, I wait to see what they will be offering in each new version. I have been able to play with Version 6 for a few weeks, and I can already see that some of the newest tools will again make things easier for me here. I am a one man, two robot ("Raoul", and "Rhonda") shop, so I don’t have a lot of spare time to spend on the phone with someone’s tech support staff because they "forgot" to document an important step here or there. As with all machine owners, I can get frenzied in the middle of a group of projects and get my parameters confused. ArtCAM is logical enough to recognize when I enter incorrect data, and it will tell me what it really needs from me to continue the job. As I described to James awhile back, the real beauty of ArtCAM is that they have taken an incredibly powerful and complex program, and fitted it with an equally comfortable, and easy to use interface.