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In Rhino 4.0 Essential Training, author Dave Schultze shows how the 3D NURBS-based modeling tools in Rhino 4.0 are used to engineer products from toy robots to full-sized aircraft. This course concentrates on using Rhino 4.0 for industrial design and rapid prototyping, with a review of common 3D terminology using specific examples. Along with a comprehensive exploration of the Rhino interface, the course includes an introduction to building 3D objects with Rhino's three primary entities: the curve, the surface, and the solid. Exercise files are included with the course.
In this video, we'll build a robot leg and a few other things with the Loft command. Along the way, we'll also explore some of my excellent tips to get better results. Fortunately, the Loft may just be one of the most forgiving and easiest-to-use surfacing command in Rhino. But before we address that leg, which is very mechanical, let's take a look at some organic lofting examples. Go ahead and turn on our organic lofting layer, and so here is tip number one. You can loft between any two or more curves, but they must be either closed or opened, but not both.
So, here is an example of a series of open curves that we'll loft. You could actually loft 50 or even 100, but that would probably be counter- productive and too much trouble. So, always try to keep the fewest number of curves to describe the form you're after. I'm going to start off by selecting all of these curves except for one. You will see why in just a minute. So, we're going to Surface > Loft. Not too many options, so I'm just going to go OK to accept the defaults, and note the result.
It is extremely clean. We can tell that by the number of isocurves here. We just got pretty much one, going down the middle, and several others right where the curves were. So, what that gives us, when we turn on the Control Points, is a shape that is very smooth, clean, and very easy to continue editing, if we choose to do so. So, I'm going to nudge a few of these control points for the surface around. Okay, turn those off. I'm going to throw this surface away, select and just hit the Delete key.
And now I'm going to use all of the curves. So, I'm going to select the whole batch, Surface > Loft and Accept. Now you'll notice right off the bat that there is more isocurves, and therefore more complexity on this resulting shape. So, here is the culprit. All these curves that are used for the first one, if you turn the Control Points on with F10, had three points on the entire curve, basically the minimum amount possible, except for this one curve here in the middle.
Now select it and hit F10, and you'll see that it has 16 Control Points. So, as easy as the Loft is to use, it will only be as simple or complicated as the most complicated curve in it. So, here you can see every one of these control points pretty much radiate complexity throughout the entire surface generated. And if I select the surface and turn its Control Points on with F10, that's a lot more control points to edit and move.
And the result is not quite as pleasing as the first one; we have some sharp edges there. Still smooth, but probably not as smooth as it could have been. I'm going to turn all the control points off. The shortcut key is F11, and delete the surface, and talk about the work around when you have different curves. So, I'll call this tip number two. So, instead of using a complicated curve, like this one, what I'll do is I just draw a one with the bare minimum of control points, then copy it and paste it, and move it to wherever it's needed.
Adjust it many times, but try to have each curve as simple as possible, and with the same number of control points. And that's very easy to do when you just make a copy of it. Those were open. Let's take a look at lofting with some closed curves. You'll notice that all the Control Points in these set are the same, at least per those numbers I had left. You can turn on the Control Points, and I did that exactly the way I just described. I made one of these shapes, adjusted the Control Points, and then copied and move them over, adjusting each one as I went.
So, not only do they have the same number of Control Points, they are actually in a nice, organized pattern. You can see them kind of lining up. Okay. I'm going to turn off the Control Points. Select the curves, and repeat Surface > Loft. Here is one of the differences in options here is we have seams now. Because these are closed. I don't need to know where the beginning and end point are occurring on each of these, because they may not always be this similar. So, before I accept that, it actually guessed exactly right. Let's kind of mess this up a little bit.
Move one of those around just to see what happens. I'm going to click OK, and let's take a look. So, it went ahead to made the surface, but you can see some serious twisting there towards the end, definitely not what you wanted. Let me go ahead and delete that, and let's rebuild it one more time. Surface > Loft. Seams look okay. So, since this was built from a series of curves and is one simple surface, again, we can turn the Control Points on and continue to edit, if you so choose.
I guess I'll turn off those pieces and get the robot a leg. I'm going to switch to Wireframe mode here. And we can see all these shapes that I have previously built. I've got actually four profiles here. Notice they are a little bit mechanical. That's fine. He is a robot. Go ahead and select these, do the Surface > Loft. In this case, the seams are a little bit out of the alignment.
So, I'm just going to move them to a similar position on each of those curves. You can also move them away, if you're not sure, and then come back. Make sure that it snaps. So, those are the quadrant points of each of the Filleted Edges. Go ahead and accept. Now I'll probably just switch over to Shaded View, so you could see it a little bit better, what's going on. And notice my mechanical shapes have been smoothly blended together.
So, that gives me the opportunity to show you the next option here. There is a default called Normal. But I am going to take a peek at what's inside here. We also have Straight sections. Let's take a look at that and do the Preview button. Notice we get nice, sharp interpolation between each of these curves. So, it's more of a mechanical fit. Even if they are very smooth curves, you get sharp joints between them. Another option that's pretty handy sometimes is the Loose option. So, if we do Preview, it smooths things out, but it only takes like an average.
You'll notice here it kind of misses the middle too, but definitely hits the ends. So, that's one way you can speed up your workflow. If you don't need these to be exact, you can get stuff in the rough position and just choose the Loose command. Let me go back to Straight sections. Hit OK. Another thing to note: I'm building as much as possible on the center at the origin, so that I can keep things organized and stacked up vertically. The plan being to then copy, then move them apart and maybe do a mirror later.
So, if I'm not sure how I want to model a surface, Lofting is usually the first surface command I'll try. Just remember, you need to have all opened or all closed curves, and then try keeping the number of Control Points the same, or similar from curve-to-curve. Finally, if your design is not fixed, be sure to explore all of the Lofting options, and don't settle for the defaults. There is a lot of cool stuff in there that might surprise you.
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