Spacecraft – Adding Details

In this article by Christopher Kuhn, the author of the book Blender 3D Incredible Machines, we'll model our Spacecraft. As we do so, we'll cover a few new tools and techniques and apply things in different ways to create a final, complex model:

  • Do it yourself—completing the body
  • Building the landing gear

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

We'll work though the spacecraft one section at a time by adding the details.

Do it yourself – completing the body

Next, let's take a look at the key areas that we have left to model:

The bottom of the ship and the sensor suite (on the nose) are good opportunities to practice on your own. They use identical techniques to the areas of the ship that we've already done. Go ahead and see what you can do!

For the record, here's what I ended up doing with the sensor suite:

Here's what I did with the bottom. You can see that I copied the circular piece that was at the top of the engine area:

One of the nice things about a project as this is that you can start to copy parts from one area to another. It's unlikely that both the top and bottom of the ship would be shown in the same render (or shot), so you can probably get away with borrowing quite a bit. Even if you did see them simultaneously, it's not unreasonable to think that a ship would have more than one of certain components.

Of course, this is just a way to make things quicker (and easier). If you'd like everything to be 100% original, you're certainly free to do so.

Building the landing gear

We'll do the landing struts together, but you can feel free to finish off the actual skids yourself:

I kept mine pretty simple compared to the other parts of the ship:

Once you've got the skid plate done, make sure to make it a separate object (if it's not already). We're going to use a neat trick to finish this up.

Make a copy of the landing gear part and move it to the rear section (or front if you have modeled the rear). Then, under your mesh tab, you can assign both of these objects the same mesh data:

Now, whenever you make a change to one of them, the change will carry over to the other as well.

Of course, you could just model one and then duplicate it, but sometimes, it's nice to see how the part will look in multiple locations. For instance, the cutouts are slightly different between the front and back of the ship. As you model it, you'll want to make sure that it will fit both areas.

The first detail that we'll add is a mounting bracket for our struts to go on:

Then, we'll add a small cylinder (at this point, the large one is just a placeholder):

We'll rotate it just a bit:

From this, it's pretty easy to create a rear mounting piece. Once you've done this, go ahead and add a shock absorber for the front (leave room for the springs, which we'll add next):

To create the spring, we'll start with a small (12-sided) circle. We'll make it so small because just like the cable reel on the grabbling gun there will naturally be a lot of geometry, and we want to keep the polygon count as low as possible.

Then, in edit mode, move the whole circle away from its original center point:

Having done this, you can now add a screw modifier. Right away, you'll see the effect:

There are a couple of settings you'll want to make note of here. The Screw value controls the vertical gap or distance of your spring:

The Angle and Steps values control the number of turns and smoothness respectively:

Go ahead and play with these until you're happy. Then, move and scale your spring into a position. Once it's the way you like it, go ahead and apply the screw modifier (but don't join it to the shock absorber just yet):

None of my existing materials seemed right for the spring. So, I went ahead and added one that I called Blue Plastic.

At this point, we have a bit of a problem. We want to join the spring to the landing gear but we can't. The landing gear has an edge split modifier with a split angle value of 30, and the spring has a value of 46. If we join them right now, the smooth edges on the spring will become sharp. We don't want this.

Instead, we'll go to our shock absorber. Using the Select menu, we'll pick the Sharp Edges option:

By default, it will select all edges with an angle of 30 degrees or higher. Once you do this, go ahead and mark these edges as sharp:

Because all the thirty degree angles are marked sharp, we no longer need the Edge Angle option on our edge split modifier. You can disable it by unchecking it, and the landing gear remains exactly the same:

Now, you can join the spring to it without a problem:

Of course, this does mean that when you create new edges in your landing gear, you'll now have to mark them as sharp. Alternatively, you can keep the Edge Angle option selected and just turn it up to 46 degrees—your choice.

Next, we'll just pull in the ends of our spring a little, so they don't stick out:

Maybe we'll duplicate it. After all, this is a big, heavy vehicle, so maybe, it needs multiple shock absorbers:

This is a good place to leave our landing gear for now.

Summary

In this article, we finished modeling our Spaceship's landing gear. We used a few new tools within Blender, but mostly, we focused on workflow and technique.

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