CNC Routing a Gingerbread House!

This blog post was written by MakerSpace TA Ariane Schoenwiesner

Ariane Schoenwiesner is a senior in Computer Engineering, MakerSpace TA for three years, lover of CNC and all types of Computer Aided Manufacturing (and cookies)

**This should not be attempted by non-employees—but feel free to reach out about other possible materials! **

For this MakerSpace TA holiday project, pieces of gingerbread were routed on the ShopBot Desktop, using Fusion360 to design the final product and generate the toolpaths for the machine.

Materials and Tools

  • 3D Printed TPU Stock Clamps
  • Gingerbread
  • ShopBot Desktop
  • Drill Press
  • LEDs, Wire, Resistor
  • ⅛” Flat End Mill
  • Butterscotch Candies
  • Royal Icing
  • Sugar Glass
  • Pirouline Wafers
  • Decorations

CNC Design Process

For CNC routing projects, the key is to make sure the operations you set up on your computer match exactly what you want the machine to perform. In order to do this with gingerbread, I needed pieces of a consistent size and thickness, which is pretty hard for a cookie that doesn’t always bake evenly. Using Fusion360, I set up each stock, or piece of material, to be a slab of gingerbread measuring 9”x13”x0.25”, just enough for a stable piece of gingerbread for routing, without being too thick to hold together with icing during the assembly later.

The house was originally going to be two stories, but a friend convinced me that might be a little ambitious (and I didn’t have enough gingerbread ingredients) so I shrunk it down a little. Each piece of the house had to be separated from the CAD file and laid out on a virtual representation of the gingerbread, and the toolpaths for cutting it out were generated in the Fusion Manufacturing workspace.

Assembly & Decoration

Mostly, the ShopBot is used for routing sturdier materials like wood or MDF, which can be screwed into the spoilboard and won’t move while cutting. With something as brittle as gingerbread, you can’t put screws in the material, so I decided to 3D print small clamps for each corner out of flexible TPU filament. The TPU both held it in place and acted as shock absorbers for the vibrations from the machine. Check out this video that shows the milling process!

The toolpaths were designed to keep small amounts of material connecting the piece to the outside, called tabs. These kept most of the pieces in place, but were extremely difficult to file off of the finished products because of the delicacy of the material. Tabs are great for wood, not so much gingerbread.

The windows were filled in with sugar glass and all the pieces were assembled with royal icing. I made tiny garden lamps by drilling holes in butterscotch candies and using a reusable straw to thread electrical wire through Pirouline wafers—what gingerbread house doesn’t need functional lighting?

To begin designing and prototyping your own project, please visit the MakerSpace Training and Reservations page to learn more about how you can utilize the MakerSpace. If you need advice or guidance for your project, visit the Mentoring page to reserve time with an expert!