Mechanical creation methods in blender

Warning! This post is filled with very me-typical rambling, and even more so than usual. If you want to avoid all that, you can skip to the meat of the question, bolded at the end of this post.

Hey guys. I was just talking to my little brother, Stephen, on the phone. I’ve gotten him into Blender, though the guy doesn’t directly have net access, so can’t participate in here as much. He’s a brilliant kid, and has an amazing creativity for technical design.

I know we’ve had the CAD conversation before, and this isn’t about blender being a CAD program, or becoming one. However, I recently showed him slikdigit’s “Chicken Chair” animation, which he was greatly impressed with. “Now that’s the kind of thing I want to do in Blender.” Being the perfectionist he is, he seems to like everything exact, which is something I discouraged him from being in Blender (of course, everything I do is organic, so the subsurf button goes on). But, it is true, he’s had a little experience with a CAD program they have at his high school, and he might have gotten stubborn. What he wants to do most is create mechanical creatures. Hence, as said previously, he was greatly fascinated with the “chicken chair” animation, and with S86’s gear script preview vids, and even @ndy’s messenger-flying-thing.

He had a lot of trouble trying to do things like creating mechanical joints and sockets in blender. I’ve given him a few suggestions, but I’m not much experienced with mechanical design.

He called me up today with a few blender-related questions, and mentioned he was working on a human now, and said that life got much easier once he went organic. And I’ve felt a bit guilty… am I pushing him unnecessarily away from the type of creative mechanical robotic creature designs he likes to bring to life, just because I don’t know the answers to his questions?

So… what are some good methods for creating mechanical objects and robotic creatures in blender? Joints, wires, cords, sockets, getting things to fit, and even material suggestions are welcome.

Blender can be used for mechanical modelling for sure. As you even stated with the examples of slikdigit, S68 and @ndy.

If your brother is currently using a CAD program, (I am assuming he is using ACAD due to school), then he can model everything in ACAD and save it as a DXF file. He can then open it directly in Blender from the DXF file. He will need to spend some time cleaning the mesh up, as Blender does not import DXF files very well.

If not, then he will just need to learn how to use Blender more and then the mechanical stuff will be easier to do.

I used to do more mechanical stuff, (I’m actually a mechanical engineering graduate), but got away from it, as I find organic stuff, and character modelling more fun to do.

Hope that helps you some.


hmmm… im digging up a tutorial i found a while back…

i never got the hang of it…


TWO of them

one (from malefico) here
and another from the docs here

both of them are a bit constraint-heavy… but they’re pretty easy to follow

i hope this helps

Blender is quite good at mechanics, and precision movements too. It is not intuitive at them though.

I’ve developed piston approach, and I’m developing gears as you have noticed. But blendeing mech still need heavvy planning before modelling.

The bone system is very good for robot thing. Chicken Cair is an example. I have a couple more which are offline due to lack of space, but parenting meshes to bones (not armatures) work very well.

If your problem is precision, then you must plan things more carefully. Use empties a lot in pivot points, so you will be able to snap things there easil. You can smap bone joints too!

Cords you can do with curves and VK, but I bet new object hooks are better… I just haven’t tested yet :slight_smile:

If you post a list of your brother’s question we can answer more easily.


umm… pardon my ignorance…

what is VK…?


VK stands for Vertex Keys.


don’t forget numeric input and snap to grid function.

VK stands for Vertex Keys.

oh (duh)

i guess thats why its RVK…

heh, i thought it was some sort of kinematics mode (IK, FK… VK?)

well, learned a new acronym today, then


In the online blender manual there is a section on mechanical modeling and animation. I think mechanical models made out of disjoined pieces are easier to deal with than organic models. You don’t need an exact measurements just relative scale for modelling. I don’t think you need to be too detailed in designing a mechanical model, just eyeball it. You know that mechanical spider in will smith’s western movie? I don’t think they modelled all the parts, it still looked good. CAD tools are designed to mirror real world and are input to mill/lathe machines so the drawings need to be precise since the output is an actual mechanical part in real world.

In the online blender manual there is a section on mechanical modeling and animation.

i already linked to it


Wild Wild West by Warner Brothers … in case you wanted to know :slight_smile:

Well I just put up this mechanic. It’s very simple, undecorated and so-on but it does show a fair amount of animated movement in an antique machine:

I’m currently doing a very large museum project which consists of substantial mechanical-artifact animation.

Sorry Delta I didn’t see the link.

DYeater, yeah that’s it :slight_smile: I watched a cgi serial about super heros, all glossy and animated on tv yesterday, not sure what the show was called or what channel it was on but lots of fighting, cool spiderman jump moves(is this a trend?) and facial animation. I was impressed and they had to had an army of animators to cram this into one hour I think the length of the movie was. Anyone else watched it? (it was around 9-10pm mountain time in usa). It was at the same time that Men in Black 1 was showing.

Alot of motion capture and camera matching, that’s for sure. I like the trend that CGI fx are taking. The Polar Express, although many thought it kinda creepy, has some of the best motion capture and emotion capture yet undertaken.

And to stay on topic a bit, the train is a perfect example of mechanical animation. 8)

Yeah, I just found out about that! It’s properties under the Transform section in the tool menu, or press the hotkey, N. Very cool! you can enter the specific number you want for any of the selectable stuff and it’s modes, like the object as a whole, or like in edit mode, the vertices, faces, edges, etc. EDIT: Or even while transforming, like scaling, grabbing, etc. How’s that for precise mechanical modeling? :smiley: Snap to grid is also very cool Sorry for bumping an old topic, I just HAD to say that, is so cool of a feature :smiley: