Modelling 3D Rotary Projects

Elaborating 2D designs with 3D clipart pieces

This section will present how to add 3D clipart to basic fluted column presented in Simple rotary modelling using 2D toolpaths.

A simple way to start with 3D rotary models is to use add pieces of decorative clipart that is provided with Aspire. This process is very similar to adding clipart to single - or double - sided project, however there are some additional considerations that are specific to wrapped rotary machining.

To start, switch to the Clipart tab. Then choose a piece of clipart and drag and drop it into the workspace. Aspirewill show following message:

To understand this message, we need to consider the flat view of our model, after importing the clipart. Flat view can be accessed by clicking Auto Wrapping button.


As can be seen, the model contains only the selected decorative piece on the flat plane. Although the column is obviously a cylindrical solid, so far we only used 2D toolpaths to carve details on the surface of cylinder. So the fact that machined piece is a cylindrical solid, derives only from fact that the blank is a cylindrical solid itself. Aspireallows the 3D model to also describe a solid body.

In this example the intent is to only place a decorative piece on the surface, rather than define body of the column. Aspirecan see that we did not model a body and we are placing a piece of clipart, that is likely to be placed at the surface. By responding 'Yes' to the message we can confirm that it is our intent to use the component to decorate a surface.


The above message is only displayed when the 3D model is empty. Regardless of user choice, this message will not be displayed again for this project.

More clipart can be placed as desired. Then the 3D view can be inspected. Once design is finished it is time to create toolpaths. In order to create 3D roughing toolpath, use the 3D Roughing Toolpath. Then create 3D finishing toolpath, using 3D Finish Toolpath. Select settings that are most appropriate for given application, while remembering which axis is rotating. The choice of axis may be particularly important if rotation axis speed is slower than linear axis.

In this example the decorative clipart that was added was not recessed. That means that after 3D machining the flat areas around clipart will be recessed due to clipart 'standing out' of the flat surface. Therefore existing 2D toolpaths needs to be projected. This can be accomplished by selecting Project toolpath onto 3D model option and recalculating the toolpaths.

Making a tapered column

This section will explain how to make a tapered column by modifying the basic design from previous section.

So far only the surface details were modelled. In order to make a tapered shape, we need to model 'body' of the shape in addition to surface details. For that purpose, zero plane component can be used. It is added automatically for rotary jobs.

Double-click the zero plane component to open Component Properties. Enter 0.8 in the Base Height box. Select Tilt option. Click Set button in Tilt section, then switch to 2D view and then click in the middle left and then in the middle right. Set the angle to 3 degrees.

Since the modelling plane was adjusted for placing component on the surface, it needs to be adjusted again, so the component body is not 'inflated'. To do that open the Material Setup form. Adjust modelling plane by moving the slider down, until the Gap Inside Model is 0.

After modelling a tapered shape, the 3D model of column will have a desired shape. However clipart pieces in the narrower parts have been distorted, as can be seen below. To fix that, one needs to stretch the components in the wrapped dimension, to compensate for distortion.

Tapered column with distorted clipart
Tapered column with clipart stretched to overcome distortion

The distortion that has been demonstrated above, applies also to toolpaths. That means that wrapped toolpaths will match flat toolpaths only at the surface of the blank. The closer to the rotation axis (i.e. deeper) the toolpath is, the more it will be 'compressed'. This fact have a profound implication for 3D toolpaths. Consider the example shown below.

As can be seen if there is substantial difference in diameter in different parts of model, generating one 3D toolpath for whole model will result in wrapped toolpath being overly compressed. Thus it is usually better to create boundaries of regions with significantly different diameter and generate separate toolpaths using correct settings for each diameter.

Modelling turned shapes

This section will present a basic technique for creating turned shapes.

Modelling turned shapes is quite easy. It requires a vector representing a profile of the desired shape and a Two Rail Sweep tool.

To start, create a new rotary job. Then either draw a profile using available drawing tools or import profile vector. This example used a chess pawn profile, as can be seen below.

Open the Two Rail Sweep tool. When the rotary job is created, the software inserts a special layer called '2Rail Sweep Rails'. It contains two blue lines on the sides of the job, that are perpendicular to the rotation axis.

Select both of those rails and click the Use Selection button. The rails will then be highlighted. Then select the profile vector and click apply. Inspect the 3D view to verify the results.

Modelling cross section

This section will explain how to model desired shape using Vector Unwrapper.

The Vector Unwrapper is useful when rather than modelling a profile along the rotation axis, it is more intuitive to specify a desired cross section. The tool transforms a vector, representing a cross section, into a profile vector that can be subsequently used with Two Rail Sweep tool.

Suppose we would like to create a hexagonal-shaped column. Let's start by creating a new rotary job. In this example job has a diameter of 6 inches and is 20 inches long. X axis is the rotation axis and Z origin has been placed on the cylinder axis.

We need to create a hexagon using Draw Polygon tool. This vector will serve as a cross section and can be placed anywhere in the 2D view. In this example the material block diameter is 6 inches, so the radius of the shape cannot exceed 3 inches.

When the shape is created, select it and open Vector Unwrapper. The tool will display a crosshair in place where the rotation axis is crossing the profile and a circle with the diameter of the material block. This will help you determine whether the shape with such cross profile will fit in current material block.

In this example, the Use Center of contour option was used. That means that rotation axis will be placed in the centre of vector's bounding box. One can also tick Simplify unwrapped vectors option to fit bezier curves, instead of using series of very short line segments. After apply is pressed, the unwrapped version of the selected cross section will be created, as have been shown below.

This example shows the unwrapped vector for a cylinder rotating around the X axis. If your rotary axis is aligned along Y the unwrapped vector will be horizontal. It is worth noting that unwrapped profile have 'legs' on each end. Those are needed to ensure that correct height will be used in the next step.

The tool automatically creates layer called 'Unwrapped Vectors Drive Rails' on which it places two blue line vectors on job sides, parallel to the rotation axis. In order to extrude the profile, open the Two Rail Sweep tool. Then select top and then bottom rail (left and right when Y axis is rotation axis) and confirm selection by clicking Use Selection button. The rails will now be highlighted. Now click on unwrapped vector and press apply. The 3D view will show a hexagonal column, that can be seen at the beginning of this section.

Modeling Plane

The desired cross-section will only be achieved if modelling plane is positioned in cylinder centre. That means that Gap Inside Model is reported as 0 in Material Setup form. Otherwise the resulting model will have incorrect diameter and the cross section will become rounded.

The Vector unwrapper is not restricted to simple shapes. In principle it is always possible to use convex shapes and certain concave shapes. The example below shows a heart profile unwrapped.

Heart-shaped vector and its unwrapped version
Extruded heart shape

If cross section in question is concave, one could imagine straight line starting in the center of the shape and touching a point on the boundary. If the second points keeps travelling along the boundary and each line is not crossing another point on the boundary, then it is possible to use this cross section. If the line does cross more than one point on the boundary, this part of the cross section will not be represented correctly.

All the examples so far used a single cross section. However it is also possible to use multiple cross sections.

Let's take another cross section and open Vector Unwrapper. Then drag the rotation axis handle a bit down from the center. If snapping is enabled, it can be used to help position the rotation center, as can be seen below.

Once we have another unwrapped cross section, it is possible to use both during Two Rail Sweep. For example unwrapped heart profile can be placed twice on the left and twice on the right. The second unwrapped profile can be placed twice in the middle. Such arrangement may result in shape morphing, as can be seen below.