Bella Design, a Macedon, NY, commercial furniture design and woodworking venture, serves architects, interior designers, furniture makers, custom vehicle makers, and homeowners. Owner Lucien Casartelli studied woodworking at the School for American Crafts at RIT before joining Wendell Castle, a leader of the art furniture movement. After he established Bella Design, Casartelli decided to become proficient in Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) technology, aiming for, “If I can think it, I can make it,” he says.
In 2004 Casartelli began classes in CAM at Optipro Inc., his local CAM software reseller. Soon he was producing some “pretty fun stuff” on a Komo 4-axis CNC router he had purchased. Eventually he added a Thermwood 5-axis CNC router, CNC plasma cutter, laser scanner, and two computer-controlled spray booths to the arsenal of digitally-controlled tools at his 10,000-square-foot workshop.
Having no previous computer or CNC manufacturing experience, learning to use the software and the equipment did not come to Casartelli overnight. He received a great deal of assistance from his Optipro, which trained him on Mastercam CAM software. He persevered to learn a great deal more by trial and error. As he got into using Mastercam, Casartelli quickly realized that there were many things he could now do that he could not have done previously and that there were features in the software to make CAM programming go faster:
• Compound curves and surfaces: Programming allows his 5-axis CNC to produce sweeping curves and flowing surfaces, a hallmark of some of his commissioned furniture designs and sculptures.
• Difficult joinery: Working with 3D models in SolidWorks and translating them into CAM toolpaths gives Casartelli the ability to execute complex joineries he would not have imagined as a manual woodworker.
• Reverse engineering: Laser scans of damaged woodwork and furniture are used to reproduce replacement parts on CNCs.
• Precision drilling: Speed makes him competitive in furniture production work.
• Dynamic orientation: Projects sometimes arrive as CAD models, which are not always in the correct orientation for cutting on his CNC equipment. Mastercam’s Dynamic X Form feature reorients the model’s planes for programming and cutting.
• Multiple 3D cutting orientations: Even in custom woodwork there are many repetitive 2D and 3D cutting operations. His 5-axis router can be programmed to change to multiple spacial orientations with just one setup of the workpiece.
• Simulating tool motions: On-screen, the software simulates tool movement verifying there are no interferences that will cause cutting tools to clash.
The technology has led Casartelli to another customer base: artists. Bella Design’s shop provides a clean, safe OSHA-approved environment where these craftsmen can learn and work.
“I like using technology to expand our skills and capabilities” Casartelli says. “Most artists can’t afford to bring this kind of production-caliber equipment into their own studios. We can help them take advantage of it here.