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A 3D Modeling Game Plan

February 22, 2010

Coil Spring Toy

I need a plan, but maybe that’s just me. Because without a plan, I just spin my wheels and accomplish little. While you may think that a game plan is too much fuss and bother, I think you’ll find that taking a minute or two to formulate some cohesive thoughts about your 3D project before hand may indeed benefit you in the long run. For my own game plan, sometimes there’s a sketch, but most of the time not. Usually it’s a 60 second strategy preplanned in my head. Does the plan always work? No. Are there detours? Almost always!

I was rooting around my hard drive and found this old image of a kid’s coil spring toy. The concept is commonly known as the Slinky, but this is a Slinky knockoff. I bought it because I liked the colors. And who can resist fooling around with such a silly thing? When I revisited this image, I thought of doing this in 3D and how long it would take.  So I challenged myself to get a simple, although maybe not exact, model and render done within 10 minutes or so.

So let’s look at what we have. Well, it’s a coil springy thing. Sounds like a job for the Helix Tool in Hexagon. I decided about 50 turns on the Helix would do it. Then how to get the Thickness? Well, using the Thickness function on the Helix curve in Hex would have given me roundness on the coil profile, and I needed a hard edge. So, sounds like drawing a very, very tiny rectangle and sweeping it on the Helix with the Sweep Line tool would work.  Next, how do I get the coil to curve? Well two choices there. In Hexagon, the Taper/Bend Tool while bending the Y axis might work. If that fails, I’ll just bend it on an interpolated curve.

And there you go, my game plan is done. And it’s been formulated in less than a minute.

Coil Spring Toy in 3D

And here’s the result. It’s not too shabby. Modeled quickly in Hexagon, it was taken into Carrara for the lighting and rendering.

So how did my game plan work out? Well, not too bad. The work time on the little model was about 5 minutes. Sweeping the tiny rectangle on the Helix worked great. The original idea of bending this with the Taper/Bend tool on the Y axis did not work out, so I did resort to the Bend on a Curve method. To get the perfect semi-circular bend, I did a simple circle, then chopped half of it off. I did have to try the curve bending twice. To get a nice flow of the geometry, you need as many points on the semi-circle guide curve as you have bends on the Helix. If you have a low number of points on the curve, the coil result will come out kind of choppy with some weird bunching and separations.

Hexagon can save a Carrara object, so I went that route for export. The spring was then opened up in Carrara, a spotlight was put on it, and a simple shader was applied.

I think I’ll revisit this tiny project sometime in the future and refine it. I think the tiny rectangle I used to build the profile could have been thinner, and I’d like to build a better shader for this. I need more experience with the Carrara shaders, so it will be good practice for me.

But all in all, we’re pretty good here. I did what I set out to do in my self prescribed timeframe. And all because of a good game plan.


One Comment


  1. Lighting A Simple Model « Firelight3d's Blog

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