Monday, July 21, 2014

SketchUp and String Art

A few weeks ago I was contacted by artist Henning Tauscher from Germany:
Hello there! I am Henning from Germany and I do a little string art in my spare time. I've been doing this for quite a while now and my projects became bigger and bigger. Now when you do a string art project that's 5 meters in diameter, filling a whole room, it becomes complicated imagining it, sketching it, or playing around with colours and patterns. (This is for the ceiling of a Psy Trance party, that I host with my crew.) I was looking for a way to visualize it on my PC to be able to play around and easily erase/change patterns. So when I was looking at SketchUp, which I was unfamiliar with at the time, I stumbled upon your "Project of the Month" from March 2011. It helped me a great deal with getting started in SketchUp, especially with the tools I need to produce string art. Now I would like to share my project with you, if you like. It came out really nice! Again a big THANK YOU and a hug from across the big pond!

Here's a shot of his finished project:


I don't hit a lot of trance parties these days, but I'd go to this one if it were a little closer to home :)

I asked to see Henning's SketchUp model and it's great! Here's the initial view, with a hip, black background and SketchUp 2014's defauilt person (Sophie) on the ground. She's good for providing a sense of scale.


Here's the front view, where you can see that the middle part slopes toward a lower center point, and the rest is flat.


I separated the three levels of objects to give a better sense of how the model is set up:


Henning made perfect use of components. In each of the three layers, there are components that are mirrored and rotate-copied about the center, to fill in the rest. Here's one of these components, where you can see the lines that stretch between the dividing points along each straight edge.


If you're wondering about the edge and background colors, these are set in the Styles window (menu: Window / Styles). On the Edge page of the Edit tab, you can set the edge color to "By Material." And on the "Background" page you can set background color, which then turns otherwise black edges to white (check out Sophie).

Here's one more shot of the finished product, which includes one of the surrounding mirror. Don't you want to go and hear some wild music now?


Thanks Henning - our "cool" factor has just gone up :)

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Great Rendering Tutorial

I've been corresponding for a few years with Jorge Lopez, an architect who also teaches at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Last week, Jorge sent me a link to an easy-to-follow rending tutorial that he created for his CAD SketchUp class. The rendering application he used is IRender nXt, which has a 30-day, fully functional trial version.

Even if you're not planning to purchase an application like this, it's a great opportunity to learn step-by-step the basic mechanics of how to render a SketchUp model. Once you get the techniques, they can usually be applied to other applications. Give it a try!

The SketchUp model Jorge starts with is an interior pool (nice!) with SketchUp's usual cartoony look.



He starts with a one-click render, without adjusting settings or adding lights, which only takes a couple of minutes and looks pretty good:


The tutorial proceeds to show how to add lights (a table lamp, a floor light, a spotlight above the fireplace, some wall sconces) and how to apply light properties to SketchUp objects (the dome light of a ceiling fan, fire in the fireplace). Pretty stunning so far:


Then you learn about the finishing touches: playing with the reflective properties of the water, making the pool tiles a bit bumpy, making plastic and metal and glass look realistic, making mirrors reflect.




Here's the final rendering, before and after the final adjustments:


The tutorial ends with info on how to adjust the camera view,change the field of view, and create an animation.

If you've ever wanted to try your hand at rendering, Jorge's tutorial is a great way to start!




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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

MasterSketchUp's "SketchUp to LayOut," Updated for 2014

I first wrote about my friend Matt Donley (aka "MasterSketchUp") several months ago, when he first published his SketchUp to LayOut e-book.

Matt's MasterSketchUp site is mainly a blog with a wealth of modeling tips and tricks. (His latest offering, for example, focuses on how you can approximate an AutoCAD XREF in SketchUp. No, you can't link an external object that will update automatically, but SketchUp has a "Reload" feature - the next best thing.) He also provides links to some nice (and free!) videos and tutorials.

Matt's commercial site is SketchUp to LayOut, where he sells his "SketchUp to LayOut" packages.  And these materials are all fully updated for SketchUp 2014!

 There are three packages on offer, which you can view at the very bottom of the SketchUp to LayOut page:
  • The Basic Package contains the 288 page e-book.
  • The Professional Package includes the book, plus an assortment of materials, hatch patterns, templates, styles, and LayOut scrapbooks. This package also includes discounts for other plugins and tutorials.
  • The Video Course includes all of the above, plus over three hours of instructional video you can stream or download.
If you're wondering why I'm plugging Matt's materials when I have a soon-to-be-updated LayOut book of my own, there are two reasons. Matt's book and videos focus on tips and tricks and best practices, whereas my book contains start-to-finish, hands-on exercises. The second reason - I'm an affiliate reseller of Matt's materials!

So please click on over to SketchUp to LayOut and check out what Matt's got!





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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Geometry Greeting Cards

I never thought I'd write a post with THAT title. But I recently received a lovely package from mathematician and artist Cye Waldman (whom I blogged about before) who's a fan of our GeomeTricks books.

The package contained two sets of beautiful and sturdy cards with a variety of geometric patterns on them. The cards are really striking, printed on black cardstock (the insides are white), and come with matching black envelopes.

Here's one set of 7 cards, based mostly on patterns of triangles and hexagons. 


On the back of each card is a pattern name and explanation of how the tessellation was made.


This one is my favorite, called "Medusa." It's created from triskelion (three-legged figure, who knew?) logarithmic spirals.




 
The second set of cards features patterns made of hearts. Great for Valentines Day (if you're thinking about that holiday in June).


Cye exhibits his geometric work at the "Off Track Gallery" at the San Dieguito Art Guild in Encinitas, California. Here's his dedicated page.

If you want info on these cards, email Cye at algorithmicart@att.net. They'd make a nice end-of school gift for a math teacher.





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Friday, June 6, 2014

Visualizer for SketchUp

There are so many applications out there that create photorealistic renderings of SketchUp models; it's nearly impossible to know them all. And these apps can vary greatly in price as well as learning curve.

I was asked recently to review a very simple renderer for SketchUp called Visualizer, which is a neat little program. I used the free trial version, but the paid version is only $19.99, the least expensive renderer I've seen. And the photo area works right inside SketchUp, in real time.

Here's the first example I tried - a SketchUp model of a simple set of toy blocks I downloaded from the 3D Warehouse. As always, the model has a cartoon-like feel in SketchUp, even with edges turned off.

After you install Visualizer, you should see its icon right there in SketchUp:
Click the icon, and the photo area appears right on top of the SketchUp window. (The Visualizer actually appears above ALL windows, until you minimize it.) This simple model took only a few seconds to cycle through the levels of pixelation and the result is pretty sharp - the rendering does indeed have a rather  photo-like feel.
You can change the view in SketchUp and the rendering will update as well. Though for a complex or heavy model the rendering takes time, so there is an option to lock the image until you're ready to "take the photo." To save a rendering, you just click the large shutter icon at the bottom center.

Here's the next one I tried, a house with trees.

And here's the render, which took about two 2 minutes. It's hard to see in this image, but there is still some grainy pixelation, particularly in the shadowy areas, but for a presentation this makes a lovely image, complete with realistic-looking shadows.

The shadows are controlled by SketchUp's Shadow Settings window (Window / Shadows), where you can set the time of year and day. The image above is mid-day, full sun, and I wanted to try a darker time, like a winter afternoon.
Here's the image this time. The sky still looks light, but the shadows are time-appropriate. (I tried going later in the day and into the night but those results were a little strange - the sky turned yellow and then dark blue.)
Another nice feature is focus. At the lower right is a slider to control the background blur, and the "bulls-eye" icon on the picture itself sets the center of focus. So I was able to focus on the front door while leaving the farther parts of the house, including the trees, a bit blurry.
So if you're looking for an easy to use rendering application that won't set you back and cost hours of training, Visualizer is a good one to try!




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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sketchy Physics and SketchUp 8

I wrote a book a while back (which has been updated recently) on how to use Sketchy Physics, the hands-down coolest plugin for SketchUp. Sketchy Physics enables you to assign physical properties to SketchUp objects, so that they can move, crash, fall, roll, bounce, you name it.


Today I'm releasing the updated version of the book!

No, this doesn't mean the Sketchy Physics plugin has been updated. The most recent Sketchy Physics version (still from 2010) works only in SketchUp 8. We've been waiting and hoping for an update for SketchUp 2013, then 2014, and now it seems like there are a few snags affecting the update. So while we continue to wait...

You actually don't have to wait!

You can still get the free version of SketchUp 8, and you can have SketchUp 8 installed and running alongside either more recent version. So there's nothing stopping you from trying out Sketchy Physics. It's fun, educational, and quite addictive - be prepared for some late nights!

Here's a short (~8 minute) video showing you all of the projects in the book. Fun stuff!


Again, here's where to get the book. Enjoy! 

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Monday, April 28, 2014

At the USA Science and Engineering Festival

This past weekend I worked in the SketchUp book at the amazing USA Science and Engineering Festival, in my own town of Washington, DC. I heard that 250,000 were expected to attend, and that that number was actually exceeded. It's by far the biggest show I ever saw, with five enormous hangar-sized rooms full of rockets, chemisty experiments, math games, stage performances, you name it. And of course, lots and lots of 3D printing! You'd need three full days to see it all.



I was there with my Afinia printer, showing how easy it is to take a SketchUp model into a printer. The second most popular model was the Lego bunk beds, but in the shuffle of the crowds, each one I printed out managed to get stolen (the nerve!) before I could take pictures. But I did have a couple left of the MOST popular model - an elephant whose legs actually move. (You can find this model on Thingiverse.) People didn't believe it was a single print, and I myself hadn't seen something like this before!

With the Afinia I was able to create the striped version easily.



If you print this yourself, watch out - the trunk breaks off easily. I'm spending today printing out a few of these for my family.

The printer worked like a champ all weekend.  It was running pretty much without a break all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and other than a couple of recalibration, needed no maintenance. All I did today was clean the nozzle and clear out the gears. It even traveled well in my rolling suitcase.

It was a great show, and I hope to do it again next year! I also hope to join SketchUp at some upcoming Maker Faires.







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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Specialty Book: Modeling with SketchUp for Interior Design

The second book in the SketchUp Specialities Series is now officially released! (The first book is Modeling with SketchUp for 3D Printing.)

Drum roll....

Modeling with SketchUp for Interior Design



This book is an updated version of the book I wrote for Pearson Press back in 2011, when SketchUp 8 was current. This book is changed a bit and updated for SketchUp 2014. (If you're working with an earlier version of SketchUp, the projects in the book still work the same way; only a few icons have changed.)

If you're an instructor, the book works perfectly as a textbook. Each section contains a step-by-step project, followed by a "Model It Yourself" project that reinforces concepts, and can be used as class or home assignments. There are 40 of these projects. And each chapter comes with a set of review questions.

What's covered in this book? You can see the entire book's contents here, and here is a list of topics:
  • Modeling an empty room
  • Furnishing a room with 3D Warehouse models, correcting common model errors
  • Modeling furniture from scratch (straight and curved pieces including tables, sofas, cabinets)
  • Working with colors and materials (changing base colors, resizing, texture positioning)
  • Working with digital images ("free pin" positioning, tracing, modeling based on a photo)
  • Kitchen design (dynamic components, cabinet plans, counters and sinks)
  • Model presentation (layers and scenes, presenting multiple design or material options, walk-throughs)
  • Working drawings (labels, dimensions, plans)
  • Additional resources (tutorials, models, rendering applications)
If you're an instructor and you're interested in viewing an evaluation PDF of this book, please email us to receive a copy. Be sure to let us know where and what you teach.

Here's the link again for this great new book. Enjoy!

 





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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Math is Beautiful

Like pretty pictures? I got these from Cye Waldman, a retired engineer who's been doing mathematical modeling for over 40 years. The images below weren't created in SketchUp (he uses Matlab), but he just got one of my books to learn how to make them in SketchUp.

Here are some of his Voderberg patterns:




And here's the book that shows how to make these, and others:

If you're a math geek (and maybe even if not), you'll love what Cye has to say:
By way of introduction, I’m a retired engineer/physicist/mathematician with 40-odd years of experience in mathematical modeling. Upon retiring, I took up recreational math and have had a number of papers accepted at the National Curve Bank (specific links below). A few months ago I turned my attention to tiling. I do all my work in the complex plane, it really simplifies things. This morning I undertook to model Voderberg tiling. I parameterized it in terms of two angles and calculated all nine arm lengths. (Actually, I start out by taking one of them to be unity.) Well, one of the angles must be 12 degrees and the other is limited to ~111-153 degrees without lines crossing. Thus, with 20 lines of code I have a generalized Voderberg tile. The material in your book helped me proceed further very quickly. Especially the tile sets required for the outer rings. I also found that I could use the conjugate tiles to good advantage and that I could construct an ordinary rectangular tiling as well. This tiling gives me access to any of the wild transformations you see at the Web site. The computation of tiling takes about 0.02 seconds and then another 0.2 seconds to render.

Cye also can tile those Voderbergs linearly:


And like this:


Lastly, here's his Hirschhorn 72-degree tile.


Cye's five interior angles, which would be a bit cumbersome to enter in SketchUp are:

A=72
B=149.7625334152863
C=82.2920272638380
D=108
E=127.9454393208759

If you like this stuff, here are some links to some of Cye's animations on the Curve Bank pages. Warning - hypnotic!

Sinusoidal Curves

Fibonacci Spiral and more Fibonacci Spiral

Polynomial Spiral

Gamma Pulse

 and my favorite, Valentine Heart Tesselations





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