Creating complicated machine models

I am starting a new model and have a question even before I begin. If you are working on something like a machine (complicated, lots of parts) how do you go about creating the mesh.

Do you try to create it all out of a single plane, or do you create many parts. And If you create many parts how does that affect the animation of the model? (Or does it not mean too much because the machine is rigid and moves as a unit, not flowing like an organic form?)


Really depends what the model is, if you are creating, for example, an engine turbine, you could use spin dup, you create 1 blade and spin 360 degrees with the number of objects you require. Quite a number of tutorials on this. Also look into the new array modifier.

Some machinery does require some special care, but i think in general you add primitives and them shape it to resemble the model.

for example if it was a tank, i would start with boxes and circles and get the basic shape with lots of extrude and move. the main gun would be a tube extruded (with some resize to create the bulge), you get the idea.

I think if I were doing a machine model I intended to animate, I’d make separate moving parts out of separate objects. You can always make objects move together using parenting, which is easier to control that weight painting a continuous mesh. Even if I intended to make everything a single mesh, I’d probably start with separate objects, and join them later, when they were shaped properly. Unless you have parts that flex or flow, there’s no point in putting up with the complexities of organic modeling and animating.

It obviously depends but in general I do it like in reality - have a lot of seperated parts to gain a lot of flexibility. Animating and texturing is harder (that means, it consumes more time in general) that way (trust me, it really sucks to apply materials to hundreds of objects…) as you need to keep control over a lot of meshes and parts but usually it works out well. At least for modelling it, I’d advise to keep parts small. Needless to mention that you can often reuse these parts since machinery often makes use of a lot of identical parts, too.

Just keep in mind that TOO much isn’t very wise either. I ran into that problem quite often already…you need to develop a certain understanding of which kind of parts need to be seperated to keep it flexible, and which ones you can join to get at least a minimal amount of organisation into the model’s structure (again, trust me, parenting is extremely useful for that, as is instancing, but in some cases it is better to have actually only one object to work with, rather than to keep an eye on all of the child objects as well. Also, that way it is less likely to make mistakes - sometimes I simply forget about the parentship and then weird things start to happen, when I override the relationship and stuff…).

Obviously I’d also spend some time on planning the mesh…mechanical things can be a pain if you don’t look at how the details work first…

Last thing - that is how I go about mechanical stuff. However, I’m sure there’s a better way out there :wink: