REDMOND, WA - Woodworking enthusiast Youssef Benzaoui left his woodworking shop to program CNC machines for a living at a wood products firm. But he still loves working with wood in his spare time. He recently won a design competition for a bamboo project made using his personal CNC router. 

Beginning as an enthusiast, his hobby lead to a career in woodworking, says Benzaoui.

"One day I was browsing the back of a CAD magazine and there it was: 'Turn CAD drawings into carvings on wood and other soft materials with a CNC router.' I took the plunge and bought a CNC router and a CADCAM package."

Benzaoui used the technology to start a small business in Redmond, WA making signs, engraved wood panels and other items.

Two years later, opportunity beckoned, and he closed his business to join a high-end woodworking company in Seattle as a CNC programmer.

Benzaoui has now been programming and operating CNC machining centers for 14 years. But he continues as a woodcrafting enthusiast, creating pieces at home with his 4 x 4-foot gantry router made by Digital Tools.

"I already had old versions of Enroute and BobCAD as they came as part of a machine package," says Benzaoui. He then ran across Delcam software at a woodworking show; he uses Delcam’s entry-level ArtCAM Express to carve and engrave wood. One of his first projects was a bamboo magazine holder shown here, inspired by old circular word patterns used in stone mosaic floors.

"The design geometry was created in AutoCAD," Benzaoui says. Then he got the idea  to adapt it to the magazine holder on all faces, and carve it with a 90 deg V-bit, using ArtCam Express for the transformation.

"I then imported the AutoCAD file into ArtCAM Express and used the Vector Doctor tool to pinpoint any failed geometry, where arcs and segments didn't fillet properly in the original drawing," Benzaoui says.

To make sure that he was happy with the design before machining, Benzaoui used a 3D graphics options  to render the design in a range of materials. He then simulated the selected toolpaths to make sure that there were no loops or broken toolpaths, which would cause machining issues.

"I used ArtCAM for things I couldn't do in AutoCAD: the CAM part, the rendering and the simulation," says Benzaoui. Once satisfied, he selected the CNC Shark Pro (Inch) (*.tap) post-processor compatible with his router from the database of approximately 350 processors already included in the software.

Benzaoui entered the project into Delcam’s ArtCAM Express design competition, and won an Express Texture Toolpath module that can create a background for a design (e.g. a sign) as well as patterns for large panels.

"I want to work on 4 x 8-foot MDF panels and try some patterns and designs I have in mind," Benzaoui says.

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