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Case study: Delcam software used for sculpting by robot

Supplier: Headland By: Samantha McWade
07 April, 2010

Special effects and show action equipment for theme parks and restaurants used to take Garner Holt Productions months to produce. This is no longer the case with a Kuka Robot and Delcam Software.

Garner Holt Productions of San Bernardino, California, is the world's largest manufacturer of animatronics, special effects and show action equipment for theme parks, restaurants and other public places all over the globe.

In the past, it took an army of designers and sculptors months to produce some of the incredible dinosaurs, cartoon characters and other animated figures that the company makes. Now, with a robot powered by Delcam software, those jobs are accomplished in a fraction of the cost and time.

The Robotic Milling Cell (RMC) was put together by Delcam reseller Robotic Solutions, Inc. "The RMC is a phenomenal machine," says company president, Garner Holt. To operate it, Garner Holt uses a combination of Delcam programs; CopyCAD for reverse engineering, PowerSHAPE for detail design and PowerMILL for toolpath generation; plus custom-designed software from Robotic Solutions.

"We can either take data from a computer-generated file or we can take an actual model," explained Mr. Holt. "For example, if we do a sculpture of a dinosaur that's maybe six inches long and laser scan it, we're able to tell the robot that the dinosaur is now forty feet long. The RMC will actually create the forty-foot dinosaur." Once the design gets to the RMC, it only takes a few hours to sculpt the figure out of foam.

"We can scan a human head, clean the data up in an hour, and then run the toolpath software and cut the head in forty minutes," he claimed. "You can have an image of a person’s head, so that you could recognise that person within millimetres, in a couple of hours. It would normally take a sculptor up to three weeks to do that."

Mr. Holt continued, "Prior to this technology and even when we had our original five-axis gantry mill, everything was basically sculpted by hand. We would sculpt things as large as parade floats, dragons and dinosaurs. You would have five, six or even eight sculptors working for months to do something like that." At the same time as he's cutting costs for his usual work, Mr. Holt is also paying for the RMC by attracting new business and turning it out fast.

It wasn't difficult for his artistic staff to make the adjustment to working with the robot, thanks to Robotic Solutions' expert and experienced training staff. The instructors were incredible in the enthusiastic opinion of robot operator Robert Brena. "They were very informative," he said. "They went at whatever pace we needed to. I could run the robot and generate toolpaths very quickly."

Since reshaping their business using the RMC and Delcam software, Garner Holt has found their continuing relationship with Robotic Solutions to be helpful and valuable. "Any questions we've had since then, we've called and they've answered them right away," according to Mr. Brena. "They've been right on top of everything we have asked."

For more information on KUKA Robotics call 03 9244 3524 or visit http://www.headland.com.au/kuka/, or email sales@headland.com.au.

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Delcam and KUKA Robotics.