Google SketchUp 3D Challenge #126 – A Waterpowered Space Grinder-Kennel combination

Before you get any ideas, this was not my idea for the challenge. A water-powered space aged grinder/kennel sounds like something only a madman would come up with but I assure you’, it wasn’t me! There were several ideas suggested to the challenge administrator so he took three random suggestions and combined them into a single challenge. I thought the whole idea was stupid but then I thought it was actually brilliant because it would actually be a real challenge.

What I came up with was mostly inspired by the architecture from The Jetsons, Space Mountain, the planet Kamino, some cable stayed bridges and inadvertently, the Space Needle. I want even trying to mimic the Space Needle but if you flipped the bottom halves of the saucer s and flipped them over they would look almost exactly like the top of it. The whole idea is that these grinder/kennels would be built just off shore in the ocean so they can be powered by the tidal current.

The grinder portion of the design would be used to grind meat for human consumption. Large chunks of meat would be deposited by some sort of hovering delivery vehicle into the top of the grinding tower where they would then be ground into intermediately sized chunks of meat by the oversized burr grinder. The meat would then pass through a junction leading to 6 traditional styled meat grinders that would extrude the final product into the storage compartments in the roof. The ground meat would then be sucked out of the compartments by the ground meat collection vehicles.

The kennel is located under the meat grinder and is designed to handle 24 dogs. Each dog has its own pod built into the main floor. They are arranged in a circular layout and are accessed through round port hole style doors in the lower center floor. A large ramp leads to the main floor surface. The pods features automatically filled water bowls that a plumbed into the water supply. The bowl would be periodically drained and be refilled with cool water to stay fresh. The built in food bowl is filled the old fashioned way by the caretaker of the facility. The pods also feature a very generously sized bed for sleeping. Additionally the pods have skylights for monitoring the dogs.

The inside of the kennel is quite large to accommodate playtime for even the largest breeds of dog. There are also two cantilever outdoor play yards that feature real grass for outside play and potty needs. And don’t you worry Denver, there is no reason to feel guilty, there are no cat treats to steal…

All of this is powered by water using the tidal stream generator attached to the secondary platform’s tower base below the surface of the water. These are basically small wind turbines under water that rotate with the water current going back and forth from sea to shore. The power cable is connected to the tower and leads to a rack of dozen large storage batteries in the utility closet in the secondary platform. The utility closet also contains the water desalination filtering equipment that provides the water for the whole facility.

The secondary platform also serves as the caretaker apartment and would include all modern conveniences. The apartment comes sparsely furnished and ready to be personalized for the caretaker. There is also a communications antenna located on the top of the cupola of this platform.

This challenge had a longer time period to work on it than usual which allowed me to make the facility pretty detailed. Had there had been even more time I would have added some worker robots, a dock for flying vehicles to perch on and the vehicles themselves, a boat dock and some kind of elevator to get people and their dogs to the kennel. The caretaker would have their own flight dock and have access to a private cantilever patio.

See the model in the Google 3D Warehouse here and the gallery below:

Google SketchUp 3D Challenge #125 – Barbecues and Grills

Now that I finished the Star Wars blasters I was able to do a challenge and as a bonus I actually finished it in time! For my entry I chose to design a modern style outdoor gas grill that is similar to one featured on a Discovery Channel show I watched several years ago. What sets my design apart from the inspiration are the digital touch screen controls, dual slide out burners for pots and pans, and a unique wave pattern for the cooking grids. I thought about adding even more features but then I thought it would complicate things and possibly take too long.

The grill has a lid that recesses into the flat surface just like the one I saw on TV except mine has a wavy shaped handle to match the cooking grids. All of the drawers have a shorter version of that handle. I was thinking about adding a pop out rotisserie on the opposite side from the lid which would have been cool to do but by the time I figured out exactly how to design that I would have been way too late to enter the challenge.

Usually in these challenges I don’t bother with modeling an entire scene for but in this case I also modeled a simple deck and pergola to display the grill on. What is great about modern design is that things are not overly ornate so because of that it was no sweat to create the deck, pergola and outdoor table. I could have gone a lot further by adding place settings to the table, outdoor lights and even a fire pit but doing all that would distract from the whole idea of the challenge which was modeling a barbeque or grill.

See the model in the Google 3D Warehouse here and the gallery below:

Blastech E-11 Blaster Rifle

After finishing Boba Fett’s EE-3 Blaster I decided to revisit the Stormtrooper blaster model that I had never finished from a previous challenge. I hadn’t touched the model for almost 2 years. Oh boy, what did I get myself into… This is a long blog post so if you don’t feel like reading it, just go ahead and skip down to the pictures at the end.

This one takes the cake for the most detailed prop model I have ever made. I wouldn’t say it was overly difficult but it was very time consuming. No longer in the time constraints of challenge I did a lot more research on the E-11 Blaster and was able to find countless photos of the blaster and the British-made Sterling Mk.4 L2A3 submachine gun it was based on. It turns out that the pictures I had gathered back in July, 2009 were highly inaccurate and represented an inferior attempt at a replica of the prop. So after consulting The Parts of Star Wars website I found out there were at least 8 known versions of the E-11 used in Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope. I decided to go with version B because it used a functional Sterling instead of one that was had been deactivated with cast resin replacement parts. My model differs slightly from version B by using the scope used in version A because I like the look better. Luckily for me I found a blog that detailed the build-up a realistic replica that the author had built. The blog had every possible photo I needed to work from which made the modeling a lot easier.

When I opened the SketchUp file of the unfinished version, and examined what I had yet to do’, I found out that the dimensions were way off and some things were just plain wrong. I start correcting the problems with the model when I made a laughable mistake. Some of source photos had a ruler in them for size reference. I used one photo to determine the correct dimensions of the Sterling SMG that showed the right side of the gun. According to the ruler in the photo, the gun was 22 inches long. This showed that the gun’s receiver tube was about 3 1/2 inches too short and about an quarter inch too narrow. Because of that I felt I had to start over and make it the right size. I modeled the new receiver tube next to the old one so I could copy parts to the new tube. I then worked on the magazine well and then the magazine itself. Right when I finished doing all of that I read on Wikipedia that the gun was actually 19 inches long. So, I looked at the photo of the left side of the gun and it measured 19 inches and not 22! It finally occurred to me that I forgot to account for perspective! The photo of the right side had the gun resting on the magazine well which made the ruler further in the background and the receiver tube in the foreground. So all that work I did on the model was a complete waste of time because what I had before was already correct for the most part.

After the mishap I made I added the magazine well to the original model which not till much later did I realize that its dimensions were way off. I then worked to correct some other shortfalls that I had fixed when working on the wrong sized receiver tube. The next part I worked on after finally getting back on track was the trigger group. That was no big deal.

After the trigger group I worked on the folding stock. This was part of the model that was more difficult to figure out exactly how it worked than actually modeling it. I managed to find the operators manual for the Sterling SMG in PDF on a gun website which turned out to be invaluable help. I also found photos of a disassembled folding stock on another website. If it wasn’t for the manual I would never have been able to figure it out without have a physical Sterling in front of me. The design is a very clever one. In fact, everything about this firearm seems clever to me and I don’t even like guns. The final result of the model was to be a virtual recreation of a movie prop so how I feel about guns is beside the point. Back to the folding stock… After learning about the function of the stock I got to work on it. I decided that if II was going to do it right that I have to show it not only to show it folded but also fully unfolded. To make sure that everything would line up I modeled the stock in its unfolded position while folding it up along the way to make sure it looked right. The stock on this blaster had to look right or the whole blaster would look wrong because it is a very prominent element of its design.

At this point the Sterling SMG in the model was now complete except for the magazine and magazine well being dimensioned wrong and the bolt of the SMG. The next part of the modeling process was to “convert” it into the Blastech E-11 Blaster Rifle. This involved adding the M38 1942 gun scope, the fins that fit in the cooling holes in the barrel, the Hengstler industrial counter, and the somewhat illusive cylinders that go on top of the magazine well.

The version B of the blaster that I decided to make is supposed to have a M32/M19 scope on it but I did the M38 from the version A instead. The reason for the change is that I liked the look of it on the blaster better and I already had many good photos of the M38 to work from. First I had to add a rail to the receiver tube to mount the scope. The front of the rail is bent at a couple of 90 degree bends to fit in to the Last barrel vent hole. The back of the rail was likely riveted directly to the rear sight of the SMG and that is how I attached it. The scope was easy to do because it is mostly extruded circles. The most difficult part was the adjustable eyepiece which has ridges on its surface. I finished that and bonehead me failed to realize that piece was never even part of the finished blaster. And that really makes sense considering that the scope is intentionally mounted backwards making it useless anyways. The scope is mounted to the rail with its original hex Allen head bolts. The Allen bolts are two different sizes and have ridges like the adjustable eyepiece had.

I then worked on the fins that go along the barrel. These to hobbyist prop modelers’ best guess are made of plastic drawer guides. The Boba Fett EE-3 Blaster uses these on its barrel as well. The strips of the guides were then bent and shaped on their ends and Inserted into the barrel vent holes. The drawer guides are actually a bit wider than the holes causing me a headache. I tried several different bend angles and bend radiuses until the tapered ends finally fit in the vent hole without causing collision with the receiver tube. One thing I cannot stand in SketchUp models are components that overlap into the space of other components. It just seems sloppy to me and I like things to fit right.

Next I started work on Hengstler counter. These counters are used in manufacturing and other industrial purposes. Version B of blaster uses one that has the name Hengstler on it with an eagle with the number 890 in the middle. The other versions used in alternate versions of the blaster have just the eagle. These counters are hard to find because the new version of that model counter no longer has the eagle on it at all because, after World War II, the company felt the eagle too closely resembled the Nazi eagle insignia. The difficult part of the counter to model was the rotary counter wheels. I tried to “engrave’” the numbers into the curved surfaces of the wheels but I couldn’t stop the faces of the shape from disappearing. That happens when the dimensions of what you are working are so small that SketchUp cannot record the vertex coordinates accurately causing vertices to jump and make the face disappear. At least that is the best way I can describe the problem. To get around this I typically size the component or group 10 times larger than it is supposed to be, then I do what I ‘m having trouble with and then shrink it down to the right size. But in this case it just wasn’t working. So, instead I made the wheels 10-sided so when I inset the numbers, they were on flat faces instead of curved ones. The counter body was difficult to measure leaving me to keep adjusting it until it looked right. It is very close but not perfect. The counter is mounted to the blaster using a short piece of metal strip bent at 90 degrees and screwed to the side at one end and bolted to the scope mounting rail using the Allen-head bolt from the scope.

On the prop there are 2 small cylinders and 2 smaller cylinders mounted to a bracket that go on top of magazine well. It is somewhat a mystery about what these came from but likely they are oscillator vacuum tubes from an old amplifier with smaller capacitors between them. The same parts appear on Luke Skywalker’s speeder and the mouse droids so in the least I have photos of the actual parts to examine. Easy modeling.

After I added the cylinder part I discovered that the magazine well was not looking right in comparison to the photos I had as I mentioned earlier. Somehow I made it 5/16” too wide and 5/16” too thin. I don’t know how that happened but it was so far off that I had to redo the magazine all together. The second time around I was much more accurate in my modeling and I included a few more details such as the scalloped edges and making the end cap so it actually appeared to be slid on instead of just a flat shape. I don’t have a problem redoing something if I make it better.

Some versions of the blaster have wires that go from the counter’s plug to the cylinders. I debated doing that but in the end I decided to omit the wires. It isn’t clear how the wires are attached and the version B of the blaster, according to the Parts of Star Wars website, doesn’t have wires. It I were to have built the original props I would have soldered metal wire terminal ends onto the wires to attach them to the bolt heads on the cylinders and soldered the other ends of the wires to the counter connectors and cover the connector with shrink wrap.

The final part of the blaster model that I added was the gun bolt for the SMG. I had just a cylinder inside the receiver tube in place of the bolt up to this point. It was not difficult to make the bolt. I was worried about the diagonal grooves that the gun bolt has but it was not a problem. I just drew the lines for the grooves of each face of the bolt cylinder at the right angle and did the same a little farther down to make the width of the groove right. There is a large spring that goes behind the bolt. To make the spring I first created a ring in the right diameter and thickness using 24 segments. Each complete turn of the spring was a half inch in length. This meant I need to move each segment over by 1/48” of an inch to get the right pitch of the spring. I didn’t need to move every segment over because all I had to do was copy, paste and rotate a single segment of the spring until an entire turn of the spring was complete. Then I exploded the copied segments and duplicated the result enough times to make the spring long enough.

When all of the blaster was modeled it was time for me to finish coloring the model. I had been doing most of this during the modeling process and I made sure everything looked consistent. In reality the prop would probably been sprayed all the same shade of black but with mine I alternated a few shades of very dark gray to give the model more definition. I did this because models in SketchUp can look flat and hide the fine details. To further combat that issue the SketchUp style I created shows the lines of the model the same color as the components which basically highlights the edges to make them stand out. The only texture I used in the model was the texture of the grip. I actually tried to make the texture with actual geometry when I tried to do it; SketchUp kept crashing because there were way too many vertices. So in the alternative I made a small section of the textured geometry and screen captured a close up of it and turned it into a repeating pattern in Photoshop and applied it to the grip.

And finally I created some scenes to show off the model. Done. Wow, this blog entry is way too long.

See the model in the Google 3D Warehouse here and the gallery below:

Google SketchUp 3D Challenge #120 – Ray Gun

It has been a while since I participated in the Google SketchUp 3D Challenge as I have been spending much of my time modeling starships. But when the topic of Ray Gun came up I decided to “give it a shot.” So I decided to do a blaster from Star Wars… no surprise there. At first I was going to do Han Solo’s blaster from A. New Hope. After downloading some reference photos I decided it was much too complex for the time allotted. The Mouser handgun it is based on is highly detailed and just too complex for the amount of realism I try to put into my models in a short period of time. I finally settled on Boba Fett’s EE-3 Carbine Blaster Rifle from Return of the Jedi. It was much less complex overall. In the end it turns out I ran out of time to submit my entry because I had other priorities to work on. But I wanted to finish it so I kept working on it until it was done.

This blaster was made from a 1916 British Webley & Scott No. 1 Mark I Flare Gun. Starting with the flare gun the prop makers added a PVC pipe and various other parts to give it a futuristic look to it. On either side of the gun’s breach they glued a bomb rack part from a F4E Phantom scale model to cover up the writing engraved there. To the stock of the gun they added a gear case from Revel Visible V8 engine model on both side. In addition to the engine part they also added an undisclosed plate cover to both sides of the stock. It was then painted and then distressed to show a lot of use.

My virtual replica represents the blaster in “new” condition without any wear and tear. To give it the distressed appearance I would have to add textures to the model which would take much more time to do. Most of my models are without many textures because they take too much time, increase the file size and really don’t add much to the model.

I decided to model the Webley flare gun first then went on to make the changes to “convert” it into the blaster much like the original prop builders. Thankfully there were enough photos of the flare gun online to study. If it wasn’t for so many fans building blasters from these old guns there might have been nothing to go on besides screen captures from the movie. It was difficult getting the curves in the handle and the stock bracket to match the actual gun and I got fairly close but I could make it better if I had the time to do it during the challenge. Had I known I was going to run out of time to finish by the deadline I would have spent more time getting the curves right. I duplicated the finished uncolored flare gun and moved it over so I could later show a comparison of the Webley to the blaster.

Once I was done modeling the Webley flare gun I then started modeling the new barrel. That was no big deal. I moved on to the scope. The scope was pretty straight forward except until I got to the adjustment knobs on top. They are supposed to have a cross-hatched texture for gripping on them which would be easy enough to do with a textured graphic but I did it with actual module geometry. It was more time consuming than difficult. Modeling fine details like that in SketchUp is nearly impossible unless you know a trick or two. When working in a micro scale the program has a bad habit of randomly omitting faces leaving holes in shapes. To get around this I take the shape I am working on and scale it up to 10 times the intended size and when I am done I resize it back down to the correct size. Doing that also prevents the need to deal in 1/128th of an inch increments when going that small.

The final modeling work was on the rest of the details the prop makers added to the blaster. After that I added color to the model. I colored the original flare gun to match one version of it in a photo. Apparently the flare guns were made in a variety of metal finishes and this one happened to have a brass handle with everything else the typical gun metal grey. For the blaster I chose a slightly reddish black and gave all the screws a rusty brown color. I created scenes to show off both finished guns.

Even though I didn’t finish in time for the challenge I enjoyed finishing the model. Maybe I‘ll go and finish the Stormtrooper blaster for the Rifle challenge I failed to finish. I will see about that.

See the model in the Google 3D Warehouse here and the gallery below:

Google SketchUp 3D Challenge #105 – Cars

1 My entry for this challenge (F1 Inspired 3-Wheeled Roadster) is a 3-wheeled lightweight roadster designed for high performance yet economical. It would be powered by an Inline 4 cylinder gasoline engine (likely a large motorcycle engine with a lot of torque). It would be constructed of all lightweight materials including fiberglass and carbon fiber to keep it below 900 pounds to maximize performance and fuel economy. It features independent double wishbone suspension on the front wheels and a paralever arm suspension/drive train combination on the rear wheel. Based on a similar design, you could expect upwards of 180 horsepower, a top speed exceeding 150MPH and experience 0-60MPH in less than 4 seconds. No fancy 3D rendering has been used for display, just pure SketchUp goodness.

See the model in the Google 3D Warehouse here and the gallery below:

Google SketchUp 3D Challenge #102 – Public Transportation

102 Public TransportationAfter taking a long break from competing in the Google SketchUp 3D Challenge I decided to give it a go with Challenge #102 – Public Transportation. I just looked to see how much time has gone by since the last entry into the challenge and I was stunned to see that my last entry (#88 Skyscraper – Mile High Tower) was submitted July 9, 2009. That was 362 days before I submitted this one on July 6, 2010; almost a year!

Usually I post something on my blog about the challenge right after I finish my model but this time I am posting after the winner was determined. I am happy to say that I am the winner of the challenge making it my 8th win.

For this challenge I decided on making an electric bus. My inspiration came from a few concept buses I found online but in the end I came up something unique. My entry is entitled “Solocraft Electric Bus”. Just in case you are wondering, “Solocraft” is the fictional brand name I use for any vehicle I create for the challenges. The name comes from Han Solo from Star Wars.

It is designed to be small and maneuverable for tight city streets. Instead of relying on overhead wires this one gets its power from the Lithium ion batteries contained in the front and back drive module units which would save on infrastructure costs. It would be very lightweight to provide for a decent amount of battery range.

The most unique feature of the bus is the way in which it steers. There is a 4 wheel drive module at both the front and back of the bus. Each module rotates on its own 360 degree axis. This allows the bus to not only make very tight turns and the ability to turn on a dime but it also enables it to rotate the drive modules 90 degrees and pull up to the curb laterally.

The floor is at the same level as a standard city curb height in the middle for easy no climb access to the lower level seats. The floor height also accommodates wheelchair users like me without trouble at the specifically designed bus stops the bus would use. When the bus parks at regular bus stops or on flat pavement a ramp concealed in the floor also provides for wheelchair access.

I had planned to push this model further by creating an attachment that would turn it into an airplane for short distance air travel but I had to abandon that idea as I ran towards the deadline. Sometimes my ideas are just too ambitious to complete within the allotted time. You can see what happens when I don’t have a deadline for a project if read about my Starship Project on this blog. I plan on implementing the airplane idea as well as a few other ideas that would extend it’s versatility after I finish the starship.

See the model in the Google 3D Warehouse here and the gallery below:

Google SketchUp 3D Challenge #088 – Skyscraper

I took a break from the challenges for a while to focus on my entry for the Design It: Shelter competition which is co-sponsored by the Guggenheim and Google.  It was coming along nicely so I decided to do the Skyscraper challenge in the meantime

Here’s my entry for Challenge #088 – Skyscraper. I have designed it to stand 5280 feet tall (1 mile). The skyscraper would be zoned for mixed use including office space, retail space, restaurants, apartments and condominiums. This would likely be the largest structure on Earth if it were built and would be the showpiece for the city it resides in. There are a total of 395 floors on the main tower with 132 floors on each of the 4 sibling towers for a total of 923 floors. There is an immense spire that extends from the top of the sibling towers to the top of the main tower then extends a quarter mile above that. The footprint of the pedestal base is more than 6 1/2 acres in area and the tower would sit on a 10 acre city block.  See the model here and see the image gallery below:

Google SketchUp 3D Challenge #085 – Submarine

For the submarine challenge I had the idea for one that had wings designed for underwater with the propulsion units built into them.  I had been thinking about designing a modern jet with the engines inline with the wings but when this challenge came up I decided I could do the same with the sub.  Below is the description I wrote for the 3D Warehouse:

This submarine is modeled to resemble a fish. Its propulsion system features large propellers contained in ducted cowlings that are designed to create a vortex enabling the sub to travel at high speeds through the water. Each propeller housing is attached to a wing that pivots up or down to ascend or descend in the water. When the wings move in opposite directions they allow the submarine to roll and turn much like an airplane does. Varying the speed of each propeller also assists in turning mobility.

Take a look at the gallery below or download the model.

Google SketchUp 3D Challenge #084 – Art Adaptation

This week’s challenge was difficult because we had to recreate a well-known work of art in SketchUp.  I chose to do Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks oil painting.  Big mistake as it turns out.  It’s looks great as a painting but if you go trying to recreate it in 3D and take care in dong so, it is practically impossible.  It’s just that the physical perspective of the painting does not translate to any form of reality.  If I was recreating a photo, then no sweat, but a painting isn’t a photo, it’s an impression of someone else’s perception of something real.  Had Edward Hopper traced a photograph onto canvas it would have made it easier but that’s not his style. I didn’t have enough time to add all of the details and definitely not the time of the capability to model the people.  To match the painting perfectly I would have had to put way too much work into it.  Did I do it justice?  You be the judge.



Google SketchUp 3D Challenge #083 – Concept Vehicle

For this challenge I designed a two-seater two-wheeled car. It balances on its two parallel wheels in the same fashion as a Segway scooter. The vehicle is driven by 2 large efficient electric motors (one for each wheel) allowing one wheel to move independently of the other allowing for greatly enhanced maneuverability. The car is powered by either the solar cells in the roof during the day or by the hydrogen fuel cell in the floor during the night or other low light conditions. The large wheels surround the entry doors which open by rotating backward on an offset axis allowing for a spacious opening.  It is designed to have a minimalist interior free of a cluttered dashboard.  In place of the dash is a large translucent view screen that rises out of the floor when the vehicle is on.  The view screen provides area to display it’s virtual gauges as well as controls for the navigation system and media player.  The vehicle is controlled by two joysticks on the armrests of both seats.  Both passengers have the option of driving the vehicle with either the left or right palm joystick and controlling the rest of the car’s functions with the opposite joystick.  There is also a generously sized cargo area in the back that expands for additional space when needed.  Take a look at the gallery below or download the model for a closer look.