HELP: first large scale low poly sculpture

Hello awesome blenderfam!

This is gonna be my first post in a forum I have been following for a while, I’m pretty stoked about this. This might not be the right place to post this but I hope I can at least find some direction from here. Your help is greatly appreciated.

So, just a little background:

I have been using blender for simple 3D rendering and modeling for quite some time now:

, honestly it’s the best program out there IMO. And it’s because of you guys! The community aspect of it beats all other competitors. Earlier this year, I started collaborating with a friend of mine who needed renders made for his sculptures. He’s made things for burning man, Chicago parks district, etc.

We started working on some renders for proposals and after sometime I found myself at his studio constantly, now helping him design the fabrication and engineering aspect of his sculptures (I will attach some pics for reference). I have been mainly using blender to sculpt polygon based topographies, and haphazardly understand them in terms of geometry and fabrication. So far it’s been good as it fits his aesthetic. But now I have reached a MAJOR roadblock: going from design/render to actual sculputure.

I have had good luck figuring this out by myself, but I really need your help now, with any ideas that you may have of where to go, who to ask, and what are the right questions to ask, or programs that I could fit into my workflow, tips, a thing helps.

This is what we’re trying to make a reality:

What you see here are three concentric rings where each one has a higher level of complexity than the one before, the first object having 75 tri’s, the second 150, and the third 357. Were using dichroic acrylic as it’s the material of choice for my friends work. He’s had a lot of experience with building low poly structures (but never ones that are as irregular as this). The planes are attached to each other by brackets, or a frame, or (suggestions?) and then are hung with aircraft cable to the ceiling.

I started by thinking about how to unpack the mesh into a pattern that could be laser cut out of acrylic. That process was pretty straightforward, as this is pretty standard for low poly paper modeling, which I have no experience with but has been my northern star for all of this. Blender had some options, but pepakura really gave me what I have needed (so far). for those of you that dont know it, its a great piece of software that turns 3d objects into foldable paper models.

I took the topmost piece in the sculpture and brought it into pepakura to make this cardboard model:

This was somewhat of a complicated process as there are material dimensions that need to be taken into consideration when two faces meet at a certain angle (particularly really Acute ones), but this was a pretty good way to understand the shape in space. The hardest part was going from an unfolded shape to a folded one, as it was really confusing and hard to keep all of the faces together with the tape. We thought a frame would help best in attaching the faces, and it gives us flexibility if we were to Tessa late or break faces. But I’m resching a real mental block when thinking about how we would get to building a frame, how to manufacture that, how to figure out all of the angles between faces, automating that process etc. Seems like blender might not be the right choice, but I must be missing something. I will update and edit this thread as the project develops but welcome to my personal little heaven and hell! Hope you enjoy it and thank you for your contributions.

I assume that by “frame” you mean making a representative cage that you use as the basis for the gluing process. If so making a custom skeleton frame of your initial models is not that hard, you can enable vertex snapping and start drawing edges (e to extrude a vertex) in a new mesh. You could try various frame shapes, once you feel like you hit the spot, you can maybe get it printed.

To get an idea, just take your model and apply “wireframe” modifier. That can be printed as well, if you have access to a 3d printing house. However tracing your initial model (like I explained above) with edges will give you an optimum shape.

I’m gonna try to explain here a process tu build huge polygon structure based on 3d file.
An example i’ve done (not alone of course)

Sorry! There is a palm tree just in front the elephant. Trying to hide it.

-for that we need:

  • a wooden plank really flat droped on a flat floor ( matching the size of your model)

  • Laser CAD Pro ( to point precisely vertices from top view) (you can rent it)

  • A truskin (big one) Marking Gauge to place precisely the z position

  • Some meters of metallic tubes determined by the numbers of edges you v’ got in your models and there length. (the thickness is determined by the solidity you need) can be empty inside or plain.

  • Some Metal Balls determined by the number of vertices you’ve got in your meshes. They can be also plain or empty inside (depending of the size you need for welding on it. Example
    Up to you to find the best prices for your needs.

  • a welding machine (better use a good one)

  • Blender / a vertex utility addon to reorder the index after modeling / a good dxf exporter or SVG

  • a spreadsheet software libreoffice or any hegemonic f****ing software you have with shame on you.

  • A big place sized for hanging the laser on a sufficient distance. and with a door sized to get out the stuffs.

  • A brain

I could be more precise on the walk through, but for the moment, let see if it’s what you need.

Dont forget to subscribe to my non existing channel to make the earth water level raising up.

@looneystein . No more interest in that?

A CAD application will help when it comes to figuring out angles between faces and/or creating miters. Working with the material thickness, booleans, and trimming surfaces will improved in a CAD application.

Some CAD apps can work with meshes to an extent, so it may be possible to use work you have already done in Blender.

You could get trials of Rhino and Moi3d.
Moi3d does not have built in mesh import but does have some scripts to allow importing of meshes as wireframes. It’s not as convenient as having the mesh options that Rhino has, but its also less costly and the interface is much simpler. It also does not produce 2D dimensioned drawings. But you could get a low cost or free app for that.

EDIT: Fusion360 might be another CAD application to consider.