Do you need a singing puppet, some lawnmower sandals or a flying female? How about a torrential downpour, a fireball through your window and a shoot out in the back yard? Well known within the film, television and event industry for the quality of its productions and the speed with which it can realise the visions of its clients, Artem Special Effects Ltd has been in business for 25 years.
Creatively blending traditional artistic processes with digital manipulation Artem is an experienced user of various technologies. Skilled designers and technicians at the company’s West London base employ an array of design and manufacturing tools. One of the most recent additions to their portfolio of software solutions is FreeformÒ from GeomagicÒ, which was provided by Majenta Solutions. With its ability to create highly detailed organic forms that can be fed directly through to manufacturing, FreeformÒ is the leading software for the toy, medical, dental, footwear, jewellery and ceramics industries.
Already in possession of a 3 axis router, Artem had been planning to expand its manufacturing capabilities for some time.
Simon Tayler, Creative Director, explains: “We decided to invest in a 7 axis robot and realised that we needed some software to run it on. We wanted something powerful and that would integrate well with all our other software.”
Andy Freeman, Digital Designer had been using Freeform for many years and was instrumental in introducing it to Artem. “Freeform is the only solution in the marketplace that is organic yet also linked to manufacturing and I knew that Majenta was a provider. From the first time we got in touch with Majenta, our contacts there have been responsive at every turn. They gave us a trial version so we could ensure that it would integrate with our processes. They even lent us a haptic device that got us through the first month of using the software.”
Simon Tayler adds: “We were particularly keen to work with a company offering good technical support and were impressed by the number of Freeform users that Majenta Solutions support. They’ve been really helpful, they are definitely not a faceless company.”
Freeform quickly proved to be cost-effective for Artem.
“It presents more options for achieving a particular outcome in a very short space of time. Lots of shapes just could not by produced by hand quickly enough,” explains Tayler.
He describes the numerous benefits of having a 7-axis robot in combination with Freeform.
“We have the ability to machine in the finished material and to machine complex organic shapes, with awkward angles and undercutting so that the finished product is a single part. We can create perfect symmetry, for example for mould halves, something that is very difficult to achieve manually. We can also scale up with no boundaries and we can verify weight and volume when we are still at the design stage. In addition, Freeform is the only software that allows the user to add IGES lines and specify dimensions for an amorphous shape.”
In terms of customer service, Artem’s new ability is already proving to be a hit because of the speed of delivery. On one recent project the data for a worn, engraved gravestone was produced in one day.
Andy again: “We can do a complex form very quickly and create a rendering with lighting, shadowing, perspective and texture so stunningly realistic that customers sometimes think we have already created a model. Being able to present such a clear image of the finished product without any need to cut material means that we can shave timescales even more. In addition, it is easy for customers to give approval, confident that they know exactly what they are going to get from us, with no room for error.”
“Before, we were playing with CNC capabilities,” concludes Tayler. “It was laborious and fiddly to achieve anything like the results we are now seeing, and our tools were nowhere near as powerful as Freeform. With Freeform we have really taken a step up into robot world.”
A unique touch-enabled solution with robust voxel-based data, Freeform integrates with haptic 3D input devices to emulate the physical experience of working with a material such as the sculpting of clay. Haptic devices use motors to create forces that push back on the user’s hand, providing sensory feedback and creating realistic interaction with a virtual object or environment.
Freeform includes a comprehensive set of modeling and detailing tools with full dimensional control and the option to import polygon data for reference and modeling. Geomagic haptic devices can accurately measure 3D spatial position and orientation and enable accurate user actions such as drilling and cutting and the specification of partition lines and mould splits.
Freeform gives the user full feedback and is endlessly adaptable, with the ability to create something from nothing or to import all types of media and data files.
“I can for example combine a photo with a scanned shape in order to make a model of a well-known character,” says Freeman. “On a recent project in which we were asked to produce a giant model of a human swimmer, we were given a basic data file and I was able to enhance the final model by emphasising relevant muscles and adjusting the arrangement of the ears and face.”
Just as many different systems can feed into Freeform, it can export in a number of ways. Small parts can be sent to a 3D printer so that a model can be pieced together. Data can also be exported to an engineering CAD system. Information can be passed through to mould design software and Freeform integrates with the machining code used to generate cutting paths for a CNC machine.