Cutting [simplified] photos on a cnc

A colleague gave me an idea late last year of cutting simplified/cartoon-ized photos. The gist was to stain, burn, or paint a light wood, then machine out the light parts. I liked the idea and gave it a whirl. Fast forward some months and I’ve now made 8 of these so far and really like them!

I thought I’d share the ones I’ve made to-date. The most recent was my first attempt in aluminum, and made a nice birthday present for my wife. I’m torn on whether or not the machining marks are too distracting… but at the end of the day, I felt it is super unique and nicely conveys that it was made by me.



@jwhendy How do you determine what gets into tool paths for the “light cut” part? Do you convert to black and white and use that threshold?

Good question. Indeed. For all the pictures, I muck around with them in gimp (open source Photoshop) to get them into pure black and white. Sometimes this works globally (one threshold for the whole image), other times I end up processing sections separately to get the look I want.

Ultimately, I take my pure black and white image, convert to svg with Inkscape, and insert into a sketch in Fusion360. I use an extruded cut (selecting all white areas) to make my model and generate the tool path (in all these cases, two subsequent 3d pocket operations: 0.125in followed by 1mm).

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