For every piece of furniture or object I have in mind to make using digital fabrication, I spend a lot of time thinking how the components will be assembled together. These components can be other pieces cut out of the same plywood sheet or externally-manufactured items like dowels, hinges, bolts, electrical cords etc.
Being able to draw an object in CAD is one thing, but as I wanted to use plywood milled using CNC routing, I would need to go through a few more steps before I could give the CNC router operator CAD files he could use.
The decision to use plywood milled by CNC routing has implications at every stage of the design. The fact that plywood is a sheet material means that I’ll have to break it down into parts that assemble together. It feels like I have to put my IKEA thinking cap on and work out a flat-pack arrangement of parts and the order they should be assembled. I need to become the cartoon man in the IKEA instructions.
If you are familiar with routers and electric drills as woodworking tools, then you can imagine a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) router as one of these attached to a robot arm. You can program this arm to cut a material (like plywood) along the lines you want by preparing a CAD file formatted in a certain way. But first, I'll explain a bit more about CNC routers based on what I've learned so far with the CNC routing company I use, and how I found this company in the first place.
If you’re considering digital fabrication for solid objects then you’ll need to become familiar with Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) or be able to call on someone who is. It’s the language everyone in digital fabrication speaks, whether they are involved in 3D printing, water jet cutting, CNC routing, laser cutting or any other additive or subtractive digital fabrication technology.