How to flatten 3D surfaces?


I am trying to take a 3D surface and flatten it into 2D. For example, imagine a pattern on a soccerball. We all know that we can take it and actually flatten it out into a 2D pattern. My requirement isn't as great as that though. I am designing a model airplane and would like to create a 2D cutsheet for "skinning" the wings with balsa sheeting. I would like to take the curved surface of the top and bottom and create 2D templates for cutting the balsa.


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Your probablyout of luck with Soildworks to do this, unless the parts are sheet metal, which I'm guessing they are not - esp with a wing. your best bet would be to do this in Rhino

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Neville Williams Z-Axis Design - NZ "remove the KNOT to reply"

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Nev Williams

I asked a similar question about 10 months ago and was steered towards GeometryWorks or SurfaceWorks Flattener.

Try searching in this group for either.

GeometryWorks can be downloaded for a 30 day trial - it's not straight forward to use but after a short while I was able to get some decent results from it.

I've also been told that Rhino can do this - but I've not seen it demonstrated or even seen any resultant flattened surfaces.

If it does work it's probably going to be less expensive than the other two options, As far as I can recall Geometry works was =A3GB 1000+


Nev Williams wrote:

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Forget the soccer ball and figure out if your surfaces are developable or "flat wrap". If they are it opens up a lot of possibilities.

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Jeff Howard

I have done this using only SW. You have to use good old descriptive geometry in a drawing. The object is to divide the surface into triangles and project them onto a flat surface. It is a time consuming process but it works. I used the biggest triangles I could and had the resulting pattern laser cut. The welder did notice the triangulations on the edges but they were well within the tolerance we needed. This works best if the surface is not too distorted or stretched.

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Hi J,

I've done this in sw sheetmetal with a lofted sheet metal part, I did the top and bottom half seperately and they flattened pretty well. Give it a try.


SydDythers wrote:

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Hi J:

the company I work for makes a product exactly for this

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