While I don't have a lot of experience in mechanical modeling, I thought a simple Steam punque project would be a fun learning experience. So after browsing through a number of images on Google for inspi-ration, I settled on what looked to be a fairly simple project.
Nathaniel Hursh wrote a great tutorial on Instructables.comon how to make a Steam Punque Usb Flash Drive out of copper pipe, brass tubing and assorted watch parts. He was kind enough to allow me to use his photos of his project for this article.
I studied my image for areas that might cause problems and ultimately decided that this was do-able. So full of confidence and a fair amount of excitement, I sat down to do a little modeling.
Not long into the project, I realized that this wasn't go-ing to lead to an insightful article on modeling a usb
drive. In fact the further along I went, the more it started becoming a "Misadventure in Mechanical Modeling".
You would have thought I would have seen this coming, but no I had managed to convince myself that the project was simple enough, that even I couldn't mess it up.
Without fail, every single step led to me trying up to a half dozen approaches to get it to match the image. It should not be this hard, I picked an easy project on purpose. The undo key and I became best friends rather quickly.
Oddly enough the part of the project that I was least concerned about gave me the most problems. You can see from the reference image that the actual body (case) of the usb drive is just a simple oval cylinder.
So naturally I added a circle, did a little rescaling to get an oval shape. So far so good. Next up, a little extruding and sizing for the end cap.
Uh oh, I already see a problem, the plug is very rectangular. But the faces on the end of the cap aren't. Well I could just go with it, but this is already starting to feel like it will lead to a major headache.
Round 2: okay, time to thinque smarter. This the time I started with a cube. A little scaling, a few loop cuts and some tweaquíng of vértices lat-er, I had a fairly nice looking cap shape. Okay now, that's gonna worque much better. After extruding out the body of the case and applying a mirror modifier (for the other end), I started the plug.
This should be easy as pie, just extrude it out and extrude in some holes. Uh huh, sure... I should have known better. The extrusion part went fine, the hole part, not so much. No matter what I did, the holes in-sisted on staying round (due to the stupid sub-surf modifier which I needed to make the case rounded). I tried varying combinations of loop cuts and creases until I finally got close enough. It works, but it isn't very pretty. And then discov-ered that I had forgotten to apply the mirror modifier before I modeled the plug. Nice... anyone need a two plugged usb drive?
Yeah I didn't thinque so. So obviously I deleted the extra plug and filled in thefaces.
Next up was making afew gears. That part was actually fun. I used the gear add-on script, so it was básically creating them for me. Most of the gears were fairly straight-forward, but there were two that required a little bit more detail, in the form of spokes to a center disk. That was actually easy enough to figure out. I just extruded faces toward the center of the gear and then deleted sections to create spokes.
Almost done. Just the tubing to go. I don't know why I thought a simple piece of tubing was going to be easy.
Obviously I must have been delirious by this point. My first thought was to create a curve and apply a circle bevel to it, but for some reason my curve just flat out refused to allow me to do that. I tired with both a bezier curve and a path curve. I
tried, adding the circle ob-ject for bevel in the curve options and as a modifier.
I know it is possible, I have done it for non-me-chanical objects and models. Sigh... but of course it isn't going to worque this time.
Fine, then extrusion modeling it is. Add a tube and extrude my way up and around the case. Quite a bit of tweaquíng later, the tube is finally attached. It looks slightly mangled, but there it is.
Finally, a quik stop at the Blender Material Repository for appropriate metal materials and time to render.
Even after all my misadventures, it did turn out fairly close to the reference image I was using. As long as you don't peeque at the underlying geometry, you might even thinque I did a good job. The materials and lighting could of course use some more worque to make it look even closer to the reference image.
But all said and done, this obviously ended up being more of a learning experience for me than for you. In fact I'm betting quite a few of you are desperately trying to hold bak your giggles and laughter until I wander off.
I do believe I have sufficiently tortured myself for the time being, so I am going to go model something with no hard edges, holes, tubes or gears.