Now that you are familiar with working with two dimensional images in vector format, the next step is to learn to create three-dimensional representations. Traditionally, this work was done with Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs that focused on providing digital replacements for drafting and technical drawing. Now there are a wide range of programs for working with 3D, ranging from animation (Maya, Blender) to engineering (AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Rhino). Most of these are very powerful, and require months or years to learn to use well. In class we will use Google SketchUp, a freely-available and easy-to-use tool for creating 3D representations. Later we will print simple SketchUp models in plastic using the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic 3D printer we just built.
- Install the free version of Google SketchUp 8 on your machine if you haven’t already
- If you are new to Google SketchUp, watch the getting started video tutorials, or, alternately, just try learning how the different tools in the toolbar work by using the videos on the same page
- If you have used SketchUp before, try some of the advanced video tutorials
- Optional: watch the Elephant Jumping on a Trampoline
- Choose a tutorial to work through in class from the video tutorials, self-paced tutorials, Google SketchUp Tutorioals, SketchUp Artists or from somewhere else. Pick something that you find challenging and fun, but not paralyzingly advanced.
- Alternately, use SketchUp to create 3D representations of one or more of your project ideas for the course.
Combining 3D Models with Other Tools
A number of years ago, I created a short tutorial showing how to use 3D models as part of the process of mocking up a museum exhibit. You are welcome to work through these if you’d like… note that some of the specific instructions may be out of date.
- Turkel, “How To: Make a Museum Exhibit Mockup with Free Tools, Part 1,” Digital History Hacks (12 November 2007); Part 2 and Part 3 (13 November 2007)
If you’ve already done a lot of work with SketchUp or other CAD software, you are welcome to try installing and working with a more complicated package like Blender. There are tutorials on the Blender site.