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Use CNC woodworking to create bas-reliefs

Machining traditional 3D reliefs in various types of wood

Rudolf Thiele is an experienced wood turner from Sachsen (Germany). He has started his own company and produces wooden articles on a large CNC milling machine. This machine has been fondly baptized as his "wood printer"
A wide range of products have been made so far, like wooden signs, ornaments for furniture, memorial tablets and scale models. Core business is the production of wooden bas-reliefs, including the modelling of the relief geometry. See the examples on the Thiele website (in German).

Dragon geometry in 3D CAD
The dragon in DeskProto
The dragon geometry.

As an example of such bas-relief a dragon is shown. Rudolf Thiele uses various modelling programs to create these relief geometries, and considers these tools to be one of the cook's secret recipes.
The resulting STL files are typically quite large, and here DeskProto comes in. Herr Thiele states: "No program is available that can convert a 3D geometry file to a 3D NC file quicker than DeskProto."

The dragon model on the machine
The dragon model on the machine, detail view
The BZT router is machining the dragon relief in beech wood.

Herr Thiele uses machines made by German machine manufacturer BZT. He started his company with a small desktop model: a BZT PFL-330, however soon found out that for this application he needed a larger machine. As BZT offers a broad range of machines that was no problem at all.
The CNC milling machine shown above is BZT machine type PFE-1500-PX, and has proved to be an excellent tool for this application. The total machining time for this dragon relief was ca 3 hours.

The resulting wooden dragon model
Second dragon model, different wood type
Two versions of the dragon relief, in beech wood and mahogany.

The first time that he downloaded and tested a DeskProto trial version, a couple of years back, Herr Thiele was not yet very impressed. He now blames language problems and his being inexperienced with computers, as the second trial proved to be very successful. A clear case of love on second sight.
The love even is intense, as he says: "DeskProto is part of my everyday life, as much as having a beer after work". As this quote comes from Germany, it means a lot :-)

Horse relief in wood
Great bas-relief of a farmer with his horse.

The farmer with horse has been machined in glued beech wood. Such glued wood provides large panels at reasonable cost, and without the tendency to bend or warp.
Note the difference in color between the wood when on the machine and when finished: finishing includes an oil treatment which makes the colors deeper and warmer, and emphasizes the wood's natural grain.

Lithopanes of two city gates
Lithopane of the Frauenkirche in Dresden
Three lithophanes, lit from the back side.

A Lithophane is a work of art created in thin translucent material, that can only be seen when it is illuminated from the back side. Traditional (19th century) lithophanes have been made by casting porcelain, however these artworks can of course very well be created in other materials, using CNC machining. Further see the DeskProto Lithophane Tutorial videos
The bitmap-to-relief conversion that DeskProto offers is a great tool to create such lithophanes. See the above examples made by Herr Thiele: machined in 2 mm thick PVC sheet material. Absolutely great pieces !

The DeskProto Coat-Of-Arms relief
The free DeskProto Coat-Of-Arms relief in beech wood, with text and graphics in mahogany.

One of the free STL files on the DeskProto website is the Coat-Of-Arms geometry. That file has been used to produce the above relief. The initials "A.R.T." (for "Andrea and Rudolf Thiele") and the town name "Wurzen" on the banner have been machined (2D machining) from a different type of wood, and have later been added to the relief.

a piece of bone
relief of a bird, in bone
relief of a dog, in bone
A next 100% natural product as material for machining bas-reliefs: bone.

The latest additions by Rudi Thiele are these two miniatures, machined in bone. Bone proves to be a great material for CNC machining: brew yourself a nice beef stock and save the soupbones for further processing. Herr Thiele suggests to also use two eggs in the stock for a better taste...
The miniatures have been machined on the same large BZT machine, using a sharp conical cutter and a high spindle speed (26.000 rpm). Machining time was about 15 minutes each. The walnut "frame" has been added later: a great detail !