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Expanding our digital manufacturing capability with CNC

CNC Machining

Lost Capability

Since Make Aberdeen closed in March,  we have been working on ways to close the gap caused by the loss of direct access to laser cutting facilities.   We frequently incorporate different materials and manufacturing techniques in our models,  especially for engineering and architectural models.  

it was important to find a way to continue to be able to do this going forward, especially the ability to accurately cut sheet materials like acrylic/Perspex.

CNC Machining

We looked at several options including laser cutting machines but settled on a CNC machine from Ooznest as the option that would give us maximum flexibility.  A CNC machine could not only cut flat sheet, but carve shapes, opening up some interesting new possibilities.  Combined with 3d printing, we would have the option of using both additive and subtractive techniques, whichever best suited the job.

The Ooznest machine,  the “WorkBee”, is based on an Open Builds design which fits well with our preference for open source solutions.  The WorkBee comes as two large boxes of components which you have to assemble yourself.  We went for the 750mm x 1,000mm screw driven version with a Makita router to do the cutting.  The quality of the kit and the clarity of the assembly guides from Ooznest was excellent.   Support is also excellent, we needed to phone for one missing part which duly arrived the next day.

In principle, the operation of a CNC and the steps needed to prepare a file is very similar to that used for a desktop 3d printer. Instead of a nozzle laying down melted plastic layer-by-layer,  a very similar setup guides the tool mounted in the router to cut material away layer by layer.  

Initial Testing

For initial testing of the machine,  and until we got to grips with basic operation, we took the safe option by mounting a Sharpie pen to the machine and had it drawing out our logo on paper.  

Ooznest Worker Bee CNC

However,  the first order of business for the new machine was to make myself some hardwood hold-downs to securely hold material on the machine bed.


The main software tools we use for creating designs for 3d printing are Blender for mesh modelling and Autodesk Fusion 360 for CAD models.  The 3d model files output by both can be used for CNC machining.  

Fusion 360 includes functionality for CAM (computer assisted manufacturing).  Once you have the design (created in Fusion 360 or an imported mesh created in Blender) Fusion 306 can generate the toolpath files to send to the CNC machine.   There is a bit of set-up to ensure Fusion 360 has accurate information about the tools you have but there is a lot of information available online on how to set this up.    We found this straightforward although there is a bit of a learning curve, and Fusion 360 includes a simulation mode where you can preview how the tool will cut out your part before you commit the job. 

The CNC machine needs a PC to stream the toolpath commands to it during operation.  The toolpath commands are in a language, G-Code, which is the same language our 3d printer uses.  

To avoid having to take a laptop into the workshop every time, for convenience, we added a Raspberry Pi running bCNC which is permanently mounted next to the CNC.  bCNC is a lightweight G-Code sender that works well on a Raspberry Pi.  We tried getting the Java based “Universal G-Code Sender” to work,  but for the Raspberry Pi we would have had to compile our own build from source code and, frankly, life is too short for that hassle.

Future Possibilities

It will be interesting to see how we can use our existing digital designs (created for 3d printing) with the CNC and how we can incorporate different combinations of materials made possible with this new capability.

We are already getting some excellent results with engraving that are sharper and better defined than we managed in the past with laser engraving,  we have also experimented with machining some of our Clan Crest designs from wood with impressive results.  

CNC engraving
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Digital manufacturing – Architectural Mould

Architectural Reconstruction from Photographs

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working on bespoke designs is the variety of projects across a wide range of industries.   In February, a particularly interesting enquiry hit our inbox.  D&D Gowans, Property Developers, asked if we could re-create an architectural detail (an anthemion mould) from photographs.

The Challenge

The development is in Union Street, once Aberdeen’s glittering mile but today needs a clean and sorely needs the sort of investment this development is providing,  however, as a conservation area, any changes to the frontages along Union Street come under the close supervision of the Heritage Trust.   

We got a sneak preview of the work in-progress on the development. The quality  and finishing of the interior is exceptionally high-end.  The ground floor will be a hairdressing salon and the apartments above are already full of beautiful ornate plaster, high-tech ventilation, heating and appliances and finely crafted to the smallest detail.  Our solution would have to meet some very exacting standards. 

Could we create a  design from an old photo reference that would win the approval of the Heritage Trust and could we also get it made to a high standard in a suitable material?

Reference Material

Yorkshire Insurance Company, Aberdeen

The reference images show the frontage in the early 1900’s.   The front of the building has been altered over the years into quite an ugly shop-front.  The current development has already restored the original window and door proportions and the development is already a huge improvement.  

The missing piece was the wooden moulding above the door – an Anthemion Mould comprising of two roundels and a leaf design.

The granite blocks shown in the photo are a known size, so figuring out the size of the mould was straightforward.

The Heritage Trust provided a rough sketch of what was required.

Design Iterations

While we often use CAD software to process engineering files, this project called for more organic modelling techniques.  Our tool-of-choice for this sort of work is Blender, an open-source 3d creation suite. 

A significant advantage of a digital design process is the ease and speed that changes can be made.  This facilitates an iterative process where options can be developed and feedback incorporated. 

Draft design options

An iterative approach was especially useful for this project where we needed to incorporate feedback, reach agreement and obtain sign-off not only from our client, but also the Heritage Trust.

In the space of a week, we were able to iterate through 5-6 versions, incorporating feedback at each step.

Final Version


To manufacture the mould, we needed to find someone with a CNC machine that could mill the shape from a solid block of suitable material.   

Our friends at Marketec turned out to have the perfect solution,  a CNC machine that could handle the job, the capability to handle digital model files, and they also have stock of Scottish hardwoods.

Finished anthemion mould in the Marketec workshop

Marketec design and manufacture high quality demonstration and training products, we particularly like their design philosophy where they simplify and abstract their models to focus on key aspects for training or demonstration purposes.  Visit their website at:

The Result

Celtic3d provided the finalised design, Marketec then manufactured it by milling the shape out of a piece of Scottish hardwood.  The result is very tactile, and the wood is beautiful, almost a shame to paint it.

We are already thinking about repeating the process for some interior pieces that could be oiled to show off the wood to its full effect.  


The joiners added the intersecting runners and installed the finished Anthemion Mould above the doorway and painted it to match in with the rest of the woodwork.

Fitted mould after digital fabrication

If you are passing number 148 (between the Monkey House / Chaophraya and Eclectic Fizz / Ici’s) you can see the doorway with its original architectural detail restored. 

We are delighted to see at least one small part of Union Street is being returned to its proper state.

Digital manufacturing historical details
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Welcome to 2018

2018 Start Button

Happy New Year!

Wishing a happy and prosperous 2018 to all our customers, partners and friends!

The past year has been a rollercoaster and a huge (and fun) learning experience.   We have particularly enjoyed working on collaborative projects,  especially where we take an idea from a client and make it into a physical model.   It gives us huge pleasure and satisfaction seeing our client’s face light-up when their idea or innovation is made a little more tangible through a 3d printed model or prototype.

Looking forward

We start 2018 with some exciting projects lined-up already.  During January our systems are producing literally thousands of individually customised avatars for Vattenfall which will be 3d printed by Make Aberdeen for two exhibitions in February.   We have some scale exhibition models to produce showing off some pipeline equipment,  a new scale model of a subsea trenching system,  and a couple of other projects we need to keep under wraps for the time being.   We couldn’t ask for a better start to the year.

If 2018 is the year you decide it is about time you figured out how 3d printing can help your business,  please do get in touch.

We would love to hear from you.

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Create your mini-me

3d printed unique avatars

Celtic3d Teams-up with Make Aberdeen

Celtic3d have teamed up with Make Aberdeen for an exciting project for Vattenfall and the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre.  Members of the public in the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire area can personalise and create a complimentary avatar of themselves.  These will appear in two special exhibitions in February alongside a scale model of one of Vattenfall’s innovative offshore wind turbines.  The Wind turbine model (at the same scale as the avatars) stands at 3m tall!

The venues for the exhibitions are:

  1. Balmedie Library: 1st – 10th February
  2. Aberdeen Central Library: 13th – 22nd February

Provided you can visit one of the exhibitions to pick up your avatar,  members of the public are invited to create their own mini-me (link below).

How we did it

Celtic3d developed a web service that can automatically create 3d model files from user input.    Virtually any sort of customisation is possible,  we can add or subtract shapes, apply colours, adjust scale and so on.   We also provide the 3d modelling services to create the components that can be combined.  For this project, users needed to customise a cartoon-like version of themselves on a web-page,  behind the scenes our systems create a 3d model based on the user’s choices. 

Make Aberdeen. our local makerspace

For this project, we worked with Make Aberdeen, who using their 3d printing facilities, manufacture the avatars from the 3d model files. Because we plan to 3d print thousands of unique avatars.  Make needed to download the model files in batches so that they could maximise the efficiency of their 3d printing process, but we also needed a way for users to find their mini-me versions in the crowd.  Celtic3d developed a batch management system to give them total control over the process along with notifications to users to inform them which batch they were in.

If you would like to learn more about Celtic3d can help with your 3d project,  Please contact us here.

Click me to create your own avatar
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Make Aberdeen to close on 21st March

We are disappointed to learn of the decision to close Make Aberdeen from 21st March 2018.

Make is a public-access digital fabrication space in the centre of Aberdeen.  It supports a community of Makers, SMEs, students and artists giving them studio space and access to some high-end laser-cutters, 3d printers, digital sewing,  digital vinyl cutters, and a really impressive printer that can print on any surface.

While we don’t rely on Make for 3d printing (others are not so fortunate),  we make use of the facilities at Make whenever we can for laser-cutting sheet materials.  Laser cutting facilities have been especially useful for our architectural models.   Without the facilities at Make,  we will either have to buy our own laser cutting equipment or use out-of-region online services.  We are still evaluating our options.    Thankfully,  no current or committed work is directly impacted but, unless we can find alternatives, we may well need to adjust our services going forward.

For our own needs, we will find an alternative solution.  However, closing the doors on Make makes it harder for start-ups, individual Makers, local schools and companies to access digital fabrication and an important route to innovation.    Moreover,  Celtic3d have become involved in several interesting and innovative collaborative projects through people we have met at Make.  This source of creative inspiration will be sorely missed.

We would like to thank the staff at Make (Ben, Eilidh and Kerry) for their hard work and support.

With so many start-ups and SME in the city, and with the huge potential for innovation in digital manufacturing. If ever Aberdeen needed a facility like this, it is now.

We hope that an alternative can be found without delay.  We would be interested to hear from anyone with ideas on how that could be done.

Correction:  Date corrected to 21st March (previously posted as 18th)