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How to CNC machine a styling block model

Brandes en Meurs designed a new FERM power driver

Brandes en Meurs industrial design is a DeskProto user since many years. CNC machined presentation models do help them to successfully present new designs for power tools, one of their specialisms. See for instance the heatgun project they did back in the year 2000.

This gallery project shows a 7,2 Volt Lithium-ion Driver for FERM (Europe) and for Mastercraft (North America). This driver is one of a complete range of power tools developed for FERM and Mastercraft in 2008. FERM mentions to aim at "continuous improvement, not only in technique, but also in design, service or marketing". Brandes en Meurs helps them achieve this aim, using DeskProto as one of their tools.

Sketch of the parts inside the driver
Sketch drawn round the inside parts
Sketch of the outside only
Three design sketches.

The design process at Brandes en Meurs starts with a number of design sketches. At this stage the parts that need to fit in the housing are already known, providing a basis for the dimensions of the new product.
For the outside appearance it is important that the new tool is a part of the FERM product line. The family resemblance characteristics have been defined in the FERM New Design Guide, developed by Brandes en Meurs two years earlier.

Two handmade foam models
Two side views drawn in color
Refining the design using foam models and color drawings.

These rough sketch designs are refined in an iteration process, using both 3D foam models and detailed color drawings (both hand made). For Brandes en Meurs in this early stage of the design process these manual techniques are quicker than using exact 3D CAD tools.

CAD program screenshot
Pro-Engineer screenshot
The driver in 3D CAD, with right the STL export function.

Still 3D CAD of course is needed in order to accurately define the new product. At Brandes en Meurs Creo (Pro-Engineer) is used as CAD system: see the screenshots above.
In this stage a detailed and completely accurate model is created, that matches all production requirements like draft angles, construction details, tolerances on internal and external details, etc.
These detailed 3D CAD models were also needed for communication with all project partners: Ferm, Mastercraft and also the manufacturing partners in China.

DeskProto screenshot: geometry only
DeskProto screenshot: geometry and toolpaths
Toolpaths are created using DeskProto.

From the moment that a first 3D CAD model is available, DeskProto can be used to generate design models: it is not needed to wait until a perfect solid model has been accomplished.
Models for power tools can in most cases be machined as two separate halves, later to be glued together to form the complete model.

A model being machined
The resulting machined model, unfinished
The Isel CNC milling machine in the B and M workshop, and a machined model.

Brandes en Meurs use an Isel GFM-4433 CNC milling machine in their workshop. These models are machined in tooling board, as that material is easy to machine, and very well suited for finishing (spraying in the right color, applying product graphics). Such finished models are of a very high quality, and can hardly be distinguished from the real product (except of course that these massive block models do not function).

The resulting product, Ferm version
The resulting product, Mastercraft version
The resulting product: left Ferm, right Mastercraft.

Finished presentation models are very well suited to present a new design to the board of directors, to large clients, to consumer panels. They can also be used for photoshoots and on trade shows.

The line of 15 Power tools that Brandes en Meurs has designed for FERM and for Mastercraft proved to be very successful. Not only in sales but also in awards: this driver has won both an iF award (D) and a GIO award (NL).

Display with presentation models on a trade show
CNC machined presentation models can very well be used on a trade show.

The Ferm driver has been used as example in the article on 3D Printing versus CNC machining, published in TCT Magazine in June 2013.