By Elvis R. Sverko
We all use stuff. Sometimes we build or create stuff. Sometimes we fix stuff. Sometimes it’s small and fits in our hand. Sometimes it’s large and we have to walk around it. Regardless of its size or what we do with it, we always look at it. We look at it before we start doing anything to it. And then we look at it while we do stuff to it. We look at it from every angle that we need to, if it will help.
Take for instance a sculptor. If you’ve ever seen one in action, you’ll see that they constantly move around their model (or move the model in front of them if it’s small) while they sculpt. They’ll look at it from every angle before each modification they make. They want to make sure that their next chisel will look good from every angle. (If you’d like to electronically sculpt, try Autodesk 123D Sculpt for the iPad.)
Or an auto mechanic. When he’s got a car up on the lift and needs to take apart the engine, he follows any connected hoses and wires around, he looks for all the right screws or nuts to loosen, he’ll look how he’ll get his tools inside with enough clearance, and how the part will eventually be removed and replaced.
Or an everyday person looking for the ketchup bottle in their overstuffed refrigerator. They’ll look over the bread, move the beer can, look left around the mustard bottle, duck down to try and peek through the pickle jar, it’s like they’re bobbing and weaving around a swarm of bees. (Unless they’re like a few people I know who just open the refrigerator door, and if what they’re looking for isn’t right there in front, they stop looking and say they don’t have it.)
The point is, everyone looks at things from many different angles while doing whatever it is they’re doing. So why not take that same workflow process to your CAD models?
When I’m training students on Autodesk Inventor or AutoCAD 3D there are two things regarding viewing the model that I focus on.
- The training manual may direct the student to orient the model to a specific view, such as Top or Front or a specific origin plane. From there, it gives specific directions to create or modify the model based on the commands learned in that course material. However, sometimes it may be better to have the student use different and several views to better understand and be able to see exactly how the model is being modified.
- When I’m demonstrating a particular command, I’ll constantly rotate the model, viewing it from various angles, so the students will know the shape of the model before the command, and then be able to recognize how the particular command modified the model.
If you’re only viewing the model from one angle, it’s easy to miss what’s happening to the model from the other angles. Why do you think documentation drawings have Top, Front, and Side views? And with the advent of CAD, it’s easy to quickly add an Isometric view as well. And why do you think that is? Because it makes it that much easier to visualize the model.
So how can a student take that concept, and apply it to their workflow? Well, they are taught how to rotate the model through the use of the View Cube, or starting the Orbit command, or simply setting a predefined View, or some other various viewing command.
But one of my favorites, is the temporary orbit. Many students learn the standard orbit commands, but the temporary orbit keeps you right where you need to be, looking right at the model, not worrying about where to move the mouse to start it.
Simply press and hold <Shift> and the mouse scroll wheel simultaneously, and you’ve entered into the temporary orbit mode. Just move the mouse in the direction you want to rotate the model.
And what makes it an even greater tool, is that you can use it while smack dab in the middle of a command! So you can preview the effect of the command from any angle before applying it, so that you are positive it will complete the way you want and expect it. A tip anyone can use.
So how do you view your CAD model while you create it?
“Every view, and every object I studied attentively, by viewing them again and again on every side, for I was anxious to make a lasting impression of it on my imagination.” Karl Philipp Moritz