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Big Blue Saw Blog General Updates

The Secrets to Waterjet Cut Lettering

Words have power, doubly so after they've been blasted into quarter inch thick stainless steel.

Imagine you're making a waterjet cut sign out of metal and want to have lettering as negagive space (holes). (This is the 2nd type of sign shown in our article on turning logos into signs.) Or perhaps you're making machine parts and just want lettering to identify your company.

You've got to choose the right font for your lettering. Not every font works equally well with waterjet cutting. Consider this if you need us to match a particular font for your coroporate identity or design guidelines.

Serif Fonts

Here you can see a typical serif font, Liberation Serif, in a variety of sizes from 16 point (about 1/8 inch tall for the capital letters) to 72 point (capitals about 0.57 inches tall). As the name suggests, this font has serifs, those tiny little flags that hang off the end of every line.

Even at the 72 point size, the detail is just too fine to be cut by the waterjet stream, represented in this diagram by the tiny red dot. In this diagram, the white area represents solid material, while the black area is the negative space, or hole, where the waterjet will cut out.

At 100 points (0.8 inches), shown below, the waterjet stream can barely reach into the serifs.

Below, at 200 points (1.6 inches), we now have enough room for the waterjet stream to reach into the serifs and do a good job representing their shape. Again, the red dot represents the size of the waterjet cutting stream, which places a limit on the amount of detail that the waterjet can create.

 

Sans-Serif Fonts

Let's compare that with Liberation Sans, a sans-serif font in the same family. At 72 points, the waterjet stream can reach most of the areas of the letters, with the exception of a few narrow spots like the lower section of the "a". It might be possible to fix this type of area up manually. Also note that the square corners of the letters will have to be rounded off. This is seen in the next image.

At 100 points, the waterjet stream can now reach all points of the lettering except the sharp inside corners. This is less than half the size needed for the serif font.

The size at which it becomes practical to waterjet cut will depend on the exact geometry of the font used, but most serif fonts are not practical below about 1.5 inches tall and most sans serif fonts are not practical below 0.5 inches tall.

Bridging

When you're designing lettering, please keep in mind that certain letters will require bridges in order to connect the center of the letters to the outer part, like the lowercase "a".  In typography, this area is known as a closed counter, but at Big Blue Saw we refer to this type of shape in any part as an island.

Bridges can often reduce the space available for the waterjet stream. In this example below, bridges have been added to the "b", "e", and "a". You'll notice that the ends of the top half of the "e" are quite narrow and will be rounded off. This is with Liberation Sans 100 point (about 0.8 inches tall). The bridges shown here are about 0.1 inches wide, near the minimum of what I'd recommend.

If the font is too small, the bridges can make the text harder to read. Here's the same bridging done on a 72 point font:

In general, bridges should flow with the natural strokes of the letter for the best appearance.

There are other ways to do it, though. You could do all horizontal bridges, and have them aligned as closely as is practical. Note here that the shape of the "a" does not allow the bridge to be aligned with the bridges on the "b" and "e".

A common variant on this is to add bridges through all the letters, even those without islands, to provide consistency.

 

Vertical bridges centered on the island area are another popular choice.

I do recommend at least 2 bridges. This allows for maximum stability when the parts are cut and during handling. As I mentioned, the minimum size you should consider are around 0.1 inches wide, but this will vary depending on the material and size of the island. Larger islands will need more bridges. Thinner material will require wider bridges to support the island.

Below you can see a few more ways that the letters could be bridged. Create your bridges to look good and hold the islands in place based on the type of material and the font you're using.

More on this topic

 

 

 

Zoolophone: Animals as Musical Instruments

Recently I heard about a pretty cool project from Disney Research, Harvard, Columbia University and MIT that used waterjet cut parts to make a zoolophone: a xylophone with animal shaped keys. James Tompkin, one of the zoolophone's creators, was kind enough to pass along the DXF outlines used to make their version of the zoolophone, as well as the material and thickness needed.

I ended up modifying the outlines to be cut slightly. Also, I had to substitute the more common 6063 T5 for the somewhat exotic 6063 T83 that was originally used. Neither of these things affected the sound much as far as I could tell.

zoolophone outlines

For the stands, I used some small chunks of EVA foam. I had tried using various materials like thumbtacks, wood, and felt, but found that the foam worked the best. I found that placing the supports near the center of the shape gave better sound than placing them at the edges as the original creators did. This may have been due to the fact that they were using a less dense foam.

Take a look at the video below to hear my version of the zoolophone in action. Thanks to Steve Sparks for the audio production assistance.

Sale On Aluminum May 9 through May 11



Ready to save on custom CNC waterjet cut parts?

Big Blue Saw's sale runs from Monday, May 9, through Wednesday, May 11, 2016. The sale features discounts on waterjet cut 1/8 inch thick aluminum 6061 alloy. (That's 0.125 inch or just over 3 mm thickness.) All orders placed online during the sale for this material will automatically receive a quantity discount.

Examples of Savings



This 21x21 inch robot baseplate is usually $114.40 in quantity 1. During the sale, it is only $56.05, a savings of 51%.


The nameplate you see above is typically $92.10 in quantity 1. During the sale,  you can pick it up for only $10.60, for a savings of $81.50.



This gearbox side plate shown above normally costs $92.10 in quantity 1. During the sale, you'll receive the quantity 10 price: just $9.93 for one piece. That's 89% off!

All the parts above are shown on our examples page.

Getting The Sale Price
You will need to order online during the sale to take advantage of the low prices.  Read about how to format your CAD files for use with Big Blue Saw. Or, for decorative pieces, you can use a properly formatted PNG or GIF file with our online quoting system as well.

When you've got the design ready, upload it to our online quoting and ordering system.

Wrapping Up

Big Blue Saw's sale is Monday, May 9, through Wednesday, May 11. Save as much as 89% off on waerjet cut custom parts from aluminum 6061 in 1/8" thickness.

Get your CAD or PNG/GIF files ready and place your order with our online quoting and ordering system.

 

Get Ready: Sale Coming On Aluminum


Our Next Sale

Do you remember the last time you got a big discount on custom CNC waterjet cut parts? At Big Blue Saw we like to announce our sales early so that our customers can get their designs prepared before the big event.

Here's the deal: Big Blue Saw's next sale will run from Monday, May 9, through Wednesday, May 11, 2016. This time around we will be featuring discounts on 1/8 inch thick aluminum 6061 alloy. (That's 0.125 inch or just over 3 mm thickness.) All orders placed online during the sale for this material will automatically receive a quantity discount.

Examples of Savings



This 21x21 inch robot baseplate is usually $114.40 in quantity 1. During the sale, it will be available for the quantity 10 price of only $56.05, a savings of 51%.


The nameplate you see above is typically $92.10 in quantity 1. During the sale,  you can pick it up for only $10.60, for a savings of $81.50.



This gearbox side plate shown above normally costs $92.10 in quantity 1. During the sale, you'll receive the quantity 10 price: just $9.93 for one piece. That's 89% off!

All the parts above are shown on our examples page.

Getting Ready
You will need to order online during the sale to take advantage of the low prices. Get your CAD file ready early so that you're not in a rush on the final day of the sale. Read about how to format your CAD files for use with Big Blue Saw. Or, for decorative pieces, you can use a properly formatted PNG or GIF file with our online quoting system as well.

When you've got the design ready, upload it to our online quoting and ordering system. Again, it pays to get started early to identify any problems with your design before the sale starts.

Wrapping Up

Big Blue Saw is having a sale this coming Monday, May 9, through Wednesday, May 11. Save as much as 89% off on custom parts from aluminum 6061 in 1/8" thickness.

Get your CAD or PNG/GIF files ready early to make sure that you can order with our online quoting and ordering system. Check back on the day of the sale, and sign up for our mailing list for a reminder of when the sale starts.

BattleBots 2016

As you may know, I started Big Blue Saw many years ago to help scratch my own itch of building fighting robots. So I'm happy to make TWO exciting announcements today regarding season 2 of BattleBots, TV's top new fighting robot show.

1. Big Blue Saw is again sponsoring Aptyx Designs. Aptyx Designs built Bite Force, last year's BattleBots champion. They've got a big announcement on their Facebook page coming up soon, so follow them there for more details, plus great information about how they put together their robots using waterjet cut parts from Big Blue Saw.
aptyx

2. In other news, I will be competing AGAINST Aptyx Designs as part of Chaos Corps at BattleBots. Chaos Corps is an all-star team of builders including myself and Big Blue Saw Customer Advocate Julie Simancek. Our robot, Bombshell, packs a wallop and looks beautiful as well.
Stop by our Facebook page, click the Like button. Special thanks to our sponsor, SendGrid, for making this all possible.
bombshell

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Waterjet and Laser Cut Custom Parts.
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Phone: (678) WAY-SAW4 (678) 929-7294