Saturday, February 5, 2011

Creating/Manipulating/Working with 3D models, the easy way (IMO)

There are a lot of great applications out there for individuals looking to work with 3D models. From thousands of dollars worth to the open source and free. I have personally chose to go with Google Sketchup for the time being.

My reasoning for doing so, mainly, its free. Second, it's pretty user intuitive. The learning curve for Sketchup was the least steep at least when compared to the other applications I was looking at (OpenSCAD, Inventor, Pro-E, Solidworks, etc. to name a few). It was the only program where I could jump into right away and create objects rather instantly. With the combination of the 2 previously mentioned reasons, it allows me to show people how to use it relatively easy as well. I could go on and on with reasons, but those are my main reasons.

RepRap Mendel created in Sketchup
So if you're up for using Sketchup, the stock setup won't get you doing anything insane. So you need some little things called plug-ins. Some of the plug-ins I have loaded into my Sketchup are the following:
  • skp_to_dxf.rb: this allows you to export your .skp file into a .stl or .dxf file.
  • drawhelix13.rb: this allows you to draw a helix, pretty useful for making threaded holes or even screws.
  • JimsSTLimporter.rb: this allows you to import .stl files to work with in the Sketchup enviroment.
  • wafer.rb: this allows you to create object which you can then generate g-code for your CNC machine. Will def come in handy when I get my CNC router up and running (keep telling myself it'll be soon)
Gear Assembly
These are the basic plug-ins you'll need to work with 3D files you download or create yourself.

If you are unsure how to load plug-ins for Sketchup, here is a quick how to:

Download the said files,

for Windows extract if you have to and copy and paste them into:

C:\Program Files\Google\Google SketchUp 8\Plugins

for Mac OS X:

User/Library/Application Support/Google Sketchup/

When you reach the Sketchup folder, you will have to create you own folder, name it "Plugins". No drag/drop/copy your downloaded files into you newly created file.

If you have any issues with the plug-in, it might because you are using the later version of Sketchup, which might not be compatible with the plug-in. I personally keep the most recent and the previous version around to be safe.

Although doing some more complex/ornate object in sketchup might take other applications, its great for most things. OpenSCAD is probably the next 3D modeling application I'll choose to tackle.

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