Any object that was made by three dimensional printing or machining was at some point a computer model. While different CNC machines may take different languages (usually stl file), these all began as three dimensional computer models in programs like SolidWorks, which allow a user to construct in a simulated three dimensional environment and organize parts and assemblies into more complex models. Since SolidWorks is an industry standard for 3D modeling, I thought that it would be of most use now and later on. Computer modeling programs are all based on similar concepts, but with no previous experience and a shaky relationship to computers in general, learning the program for me is a daunting task. UC Santa Cruz doesn’t offer classes in SolidWorks, so I would have to teach myself. I signed up for a professional retraining service called Lynda that has progressive video tutorials teaching the basics about the program, and then gradually more and more sophisticated maneuvers. For the last two weeks I have been progressing chapter by chapter, learning at times by leaps and bounds, and at other times bound by confusion and frustration. Sometimes I’ll think I’m doing everything just like the tutorial and go to render the model when a dialogue box will abruptly tell me something is wrong, but never tell me whats wrong. Other times the tutorial will skip steps that I just can’t fill in, or start with a partially completed example. What I wouldn’t give to be able to ask questions!
Each model starts with sketches which through various processes become solid objects such as extrude, sweep, loft and revolve. Below I have the sketch of the Oceanic Scales exhibition that I made last week, which is an assembly of two parts first shown as sketch, then as a solid model.
This week I have been working to learn a tool called loft, which is one of the most powerful SolidWorks tools. It has the ability to create a solid part from two closed shapes on separate planes. There are various options which is where things can get very complex, one of which is to build guides in a three dimensional sketch. Drawing these guides between the two closed shapes will guide the loft as it goes from one shape to the other. Below is an example that I made today. On the left is a sketch showing the two closed shapes (a circle and oval on bottom) and the blue lines inbetween are the loft guides. As can be seen in the final solid shape, the surface follows the guides. Nifty, huh?