In an Instant

Much like Katy Perry, who kissed a girl and liked it, I too have a confession to make. I used Instant 3D… and I liked it. If you’re too much of an engineer to get pop culture references, Katy Perry is a singer who claims via the magic of song to have kissed a girl and, as the story goes, liked it. It’s on the internet.

It’s not that Instant 3D is a bad tool, but I always felt like it was an inaccurate tool for the job. It feels like loosening a nut with pliers, when you should be using a wrench. Did it turn? Or did I just slip?

Full disclosure here, I have used Instant 3D in the past. In fact, if you came to the 2015 Roll Out event, you actually saw me use it in a demo to quickly illustrate the updating capabilities of “Up to Reference” in the Linear Pattern. However, it is a tool that I recommend leaving off by default and turning on when it’s services could be of use.

Such a time came over the weekend. My wife and I recently had hardwoods installed in our first floor. Sounds glamorous doesn’t it? It might have been if the new floor hadn’t been a result of an overabundance of water bursting forth onto our previous floor (may it rest in pieces). I prefer my water living in the pipes where it belongs. Seriously, it was like a scene straight out of Free Willy. But I digress.

I can’t let a good piece of wood go to waste so I thought I might make a little coat rack for the wall using the off-cuts from the floor. I thought it might make a nice little accent to pull things together and make things feel a little more cohesive. And of course by that I mean, “we’ve been watching too much HGTV and now I think I’m an interior designer.”

At this point, my engineering instincts kicked in, as I felt instant project-paralysis, without first consulting SOLIDWORKS. I also have a limited quantity of scraps to work with so as the saying goes, “model in SOLIDWORKS once, cut once.” I’m pretty sure that’s the phrase.

I had a rough idea of what I wanted. Thin strips at various lengths, with a zag in the middle. So I wanted to throw the idea into SOLIDWORKS as quickly as possible and see if I liked it. I really had no criteria for what the lengths needed to be, I just wanted to move them around until it looked wacky and I liked it.

I first extruded a rectangle with the width I wanted and patterned the bodies you see on the left. Then I shifted them around using Move/Copy Body and shaved them off to accommodate the zag using a Cut Extrude with Feature Scope. I did the same procedure again but this time I needed to shave the bottom side at a strange stagger. Again at this point, I really had no plan for what these are going to look like. I just snipped them off jagged using the sketch you see here.


Once I accepted the Extrude Cut, I realized that it wasn’t quite the shape I was looking for. Rather than move back to edit the sketch, I decided to let Instant 3D work its magic. By selecting the end faces I was able to drag and drop the end face of each segment and adjust its length.

instant segment length

This allowed me to very quickly move things into a position that I was happy with and get approximate lengths.

Next I wanted to add the hooks I planned to use but I didn’t have the patience to get out my calipers. Not to mention, since the flooding, my tools are scattered and I don’t know where they are! All I was looking for was a model to run into Visualize to get a quick rendering and get the A-OK from the boss. I really underestimated how handy Instant 3D would be. I sketched up the hook and thought I got the approximate size dialed in but it just didn’t look right. With Instant 3D however, I was able to tweak it in pretty close in a matter of seconds. It was only a few sketches to deal with, but being able to stay in my ortho view of the model and adjust made things much quicker.

hook edit

Here’s how it turned out in Visualize.


After this project, I’ll admit that I’m going to think of Instant 3D more often. I see it being very useful in situations where you’re not sure exactly what you want yet or are in beginning phases of design. It allows you to “eyeball” the result much quicker than working with sketches and features directly. I also think it’s great for cases like this, where you want extra modeling bits to pull into a rendering that you don’t need to be dimensionally accurate. I should also add that you CAN get dimensionally accurate models using Instant 3D, you just have to be careful with the pliers and make sure you don’t slip.

And that’s how you get 3D in an instant.

Now I’m off to make sawdust.


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