About three years ago, Peter Frykholm made a decision to get out of the professional rut he was in. So he did what most people do at that stage, he evaluated what he liked to do and what made him happy. For Peter, he knew he enjoyed mountain climbing and woodworking. Finding a career that combined the two might have seemed far-fetched for most but Peter was able to pull together a pretty unique business plan to meet the challenge.
He arrived at the idea of creating small topographical wood carvings using 3D modeling and a CNC router. Using Colorado pine, he began carving all of the great peaks, valleys, and ski areas of the Mountain West and beyond. He creates his models using raw USGS topographical data.
His business, Precision Peaks, purchased a 3-axis Shark Pro Plus HD CNC Router. The machine itself was completely capable of handling his 3D projects. However, he quickly realized the CAM program the machine came with may not be the most efficient software to handle the highly detailed models he needed.
His problem was cycle times - he needed to reduce them to handle client orders in a timely manner. Both his roughing and finishing cycles took significant amounts of time due to the complexity of his 3D surfaces. The software that came with his CNC router didn’t have the optimal toolpaths to machine this type of job efficiently.
“The CAM software that came bundled with my machine was adequate for launching the business and proving out the idea, but over time it became evident that I was very limited in terms of what it could do,” says Peter.
“I purchased BobCAD-CAM software specifically to increase the number of 3-axis roughing strategies that I could employ, and the result has been profound,” adds Peter. “On most programs, I’m now able to reduce machining time by about 30% without compromising on the finish quality.”
To start off, Peter used the BobCAD-CAM wizard guides to assign a plunge roughing operation to remove the bulk of the material from his stock. The plunge roughing strategy is available for both 2D and 3D model work and offers the ability to program the toolpath based on four different pattern options. Various control type options within the CAM software allow you to plunge the tool to a specified depth, offset of the contour, or to peck drill down to the set depth.
Once the variables are set within the machining wizard, the CAM software automatically generates the CNC router toolpath. Following the toolpath creation, the user can use the simulation system to inspect the machining operations prior to posting the g-code to the CNC router. The simulation has a lot of great benefits but one of the most useful is identifying costly gouges and machine collisions before they hit the machine.
With just a small amount of experimenting, Peter was able to determine the new cutting conditions that would allow him to maximize production within the capabilities of his CNC router.
“The BobCAD software is robust and comprehensive. I barely tap into all the functionality. But for my focused purposes, it is exactly what I need. I can quickly load a new 3D file, apply my machining preferences, do a quick check for collisions and other issues, then post the file and be on my way to the shop in a matter of minutes,” says Peter.
Peter admitted that getting into this business came with its own learning curve.
“I am not a professional machinist, nor do I have extensive training with CAD-CAM programming. I am always on a steep learning curve,” he says.
He relied on BobCAD-CAM’s technical support and training team to get him going initially.
“When I purchased BobCAD, I needed a bit of hand holding from the technical support department and they were very helpful in answering my questions and getting me over a few technical hurdles. Response time was quick. I feel that the company wants me to be a successful user at the end of the day,” Peter explained.
Once the CNC router has done its part, Precision Peaks lightly sands the wood to remove any sharp edges. They don’t do much post machining work on the models. They like to leave the models in a raw and tactile form in order to emphasize the nuances of relief. Post-sanding, each model is treated with a natural wax to protect it and highlight the grain of the wood.
Peter prefers to use standing dead timber for his stocks as this is a dry and structurally sound wood. His finished pieces may feature small cracks, knots, pitch pockets, insect markings, and discoloration. These aren’t flaws; they’re what make each piece unique and full of character.
For Peter, Precision Peaks provides the fulfilling career he was looking for. For his clients, they get the opportunity to take the mountain adventure home with them. To learn more about Precisions Peaks, check out their website HERE.