One of project aspects I am in charge of is the SketchUp model of the exterior of our trailer. I began working on this in the beginning of December and did a bulk of the modeling over Winter Break.
At first, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about using SketchUp. I had worked in AutoCAD before, and the tools in SketchUp didn’t seem as advanced as AutoCAD. Actions like dimensioning, extruding, and flushing objects were difficult initially, but with the assistance of the SketchUp Help Center, trial and error, and lots of practice, I was able to get the hang of things.
While 95% of the modeling process is just plugging in dimensions, I did come across several bumps in the road. The first was the creation of the brake and reflective lights. The easiest lights were simple oblong shapes that were extruded. Then there were two brake lights on the back of the trailer that had a wide base and a thinner end. To do this I had to draw the base and create a triangle whose height was how far the light was extruded. I then used the “follow me” tool to drag the triangle around the circumference of the base, creating the light. There were also curved, oblong lights that I had to use this same process for, although it was more difficult because it wasn’t a perfect circle shape, so I had to be very careful with how I dragged it. The “follow me” tool is still the hardest tool for me to use since it’s so sensitive- be very cautious when using it!
Because some of the lights were different colors (red or orange), I thought after I copied and pasted each light I could just change each color separately. I was wrong. If you only copy and paste an object, any changes that are made to any of the models are made to all of them (that sounds kind of confusing- basically, what happens to one happens to all). Just before I resorted to creating an entirely new light, I discovered that by right clicking on a copied object, I could press “make unique” and prevent changes that I made on this model from happening to any of the other models!
The perhaps biggest challenge I had with the model was the windows. Ms. Jo wants to keep the vintage jalousie windows, and rather than spend a painstaking number of hours measuring and modeling each individual window, she okayed us to import the windows from the SketchUp 3D Warehouse. The Warehouse is a place where people can upload models they have designed in SketchUp and let others download them into their projects for free. After diligently searching and finding no adequate results for two pane jalousie windows, I discovered that louvre windows were very similar to jalousie windows. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed again when I did not find any acceptable windows. However, I did some more searching and came across a collection of windows (in the 3D Warehouse you can upload a single model or a collection of models). One of the windows had two panes and while it was not labeled as a jalousie window, it looked very similar. I did some editing to cut away the other window models, and then used the “paint bucket” tool to recolor the metal and glass. I then used the “scale” tool to mold each window into its correct dimensions. This tool is very helpful, since I was able to just copy and paste the same model and then scale it to the appropriate size for each window. It took some getting used to (there are so many different directions in which you can scale!) but this is tool has saved me tons of time.
Aside from the frustrating moments when designing complex shapes like windows and lights, SketchUp is enjoyable. Being a perfectionist, it’s fun for me to constantly tweak my model, doing things like finding the exact shade of yellow for the stripes or erasing unnecessary lines. I’m not done with the trailer yet: I still have to add in the hitch, the fill valve hole, the tires, and some other minor details. I’m confident that the model will be complete by the deadline (February 15th) and that the judges will approve of it. But regardless, this project has taught me so many useful skills in SketchUp that I will be able to use on many engineering projects to come!
*all the pictures in this blog post are from my own model