Thursday, October 20, 2011

Objects of Rotation in Google Sketchup: A Problem of Nomenclature

I've been using Google's free Sketchup program for some 3D object designs lately. I've been using it for a while, but I only use it off and on, so my expertise is growing slowly.

Tonight I wanted to model something based on an Object of Rotation, which we all remember from math class is what you get when spin a shape around an axis. This is usually a trivial thing to do in both CAD and 3D design programs like AutoCAD, Lightwave, and so on. I couldn't remember how to do it offhand, so I did a quick search, expecting "sketchup object of rotation" would get me there in moments.

Technically Accurate, but Useless
I soon got lots of results for "Rotate Object", including a Sketchup tutorial video link. Unfortunately, I realized about 30 seconds into the video that it wasn't what I was looking for. It's a very nice tool for rotating an existing object's position around some arbitrary center of rotation, and possibly replicating it in a pattern around that center.

Nice, but not what I needed.

After a few frustrating attempts to rephrase the search to get what I wanted, I ended up just doing a search on what I knew is usually created as an object of rotation: a rocket.

"Sketchup rocket" yielded a couple of promising results. An amateur rocketry buff had instructions for drawing model rockets in Sketchup. The instructions for the nose cone were: how to draw an object of rotation in Sketchup.

Sketchup Follow Me Tool icon
Words Get In the Way
The tool for creating objects of rotation in Sketchup is the Follow-Me tool. In Sketchup terminology, an object of rotation is called a Lathed Object. Which makes perfect sense, if you already know it. (Thank you for the meme, Arthur Conan Doyle!)

So, to successfully search for how to create an object of rotation in Sketchup, use the terms "sketchup lathed object" or "sketchup follow me tool" to get what you want.

Hopefully this will show up when you search for "sketchup object of rotation" and save you some grief. ;)

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