3D Design & Animation
Background

I was introduced to 3D modeling software in my sophomore year of High School. It had always seemed interesting but out of reach, as I had never been introduced to any powerful consumer software that could replicate what is seen in entertainment media. We were taught to use the basic functions of Autodesk 3DS Max through a series of projects and exercises throughout the semester. The most memorable of these projects were one in which students were expected to model a monster of their creation, and one requiring the student to model a scene with moving bipeds as an advertisement for a school event. I created a 9-armed monster with a water texture as its skin surface and was excited to acquire the student version of 3DS Max on my laptop to work on it at home, staying up all night upon finishing my model to watch my first image rendering process. At another point in the class we had to design the pieces of a chess set which was a fun challenge and introduced us to many more useful tools in the software. Using 3DS Max helped to prepare me for my later usage of the engineering software Creo Parametric, which I use almost daily to model mechanisms.

Detailed Description

When I began modeling the Treasure Cube, I wished to improve as many of the official Treasure Cube’s shortcomings as possible to decrease the chance that my cube could be beaten by any method of opening it, through brute force or otherwise, besides solving it. Normal cubes are weak enough, with high stress concentrations occurring at internal corners that appear everywhere within the structure, but the design for the Treasure Cube does have a bit more structure to it than the conventional cube model. It supports each piece with a track rather than through the center faces being attached to a six-axis core, which leaves the entire center cavity completely open and available as a container in which to store items.

However, in the “entertainment animation” programs, for lack of a better word, or at least 3DS Max at the time that I used it, the program instead seemed to keep track of only the locations of vertices defining the object and their connections to surrounding vertices, which formed planes and solids through enclosed 3D shapes defined by those planes. I believe also that the actions applied to the selected vertices were recorded in order so that a certain number of them could be undone, but unlike with a model tree, one is usually limited to moving back to an earlier model state and abandoning any work done past that point if they wish to retroactively adjust old features. I dislike this, personally, because it takes away so much control and requires such a high level of skill with the program’s tools and the foresight necessary to get everything right the first time. I wouldn’t be able to go back and repair mistakes that I made years ago in my models, and I would essentially have to start from scratch and try to replicate by eye the features that I made then.

In engineering CAD, I can use the internally stored values that define all model features to recreate a perfect replica. Each version has its merit. For engineering purposes, vertex-based modeling software would fall short unless used strictly in 3D printing, as STL files generally are. STL is a model format often accepted by 3D printing slicers that most software can convert to, which uses vertices, lines and the faces they create to define a part. In modeling body parts as is often done in 3D entertainment animation, direct control over vertex locations and densities allows for much easier modeling of the imperfect features found on the surfaces of real-world objects. I appreciate both approaches to 3D modeling, but much prefer the more perfect and precise methods of engineering CAD.

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