Creating Vessels in Rhino



The ideas guiding this project were to design 3D objects using technology as a tool for sketching and idea generation. Along with these ideas, I was working towards bringing the models into 3- dimensions by utilizing laser cutting and cnc routing as a method for form generation.

I used Rhinoceros for Mac- They have a free beta version that can be downloaded here:

Step 1: Making Vectors

Rhino is an intuitive program in the sense that you are able to draw lines similarly to how you would if you were doing it by hand. The only difference is that you have technology working in your favor in order to maintain a sense of precision.

The first part of designing a vessel is to create vectors of the top and bottom shapes as well as the shapes that act as definitions in between the top and the bottom of the vessel.

Vectors are the starting off point for the vessel, you can use rhino's line tools or shape generation tools to create the vectors you want. Make sure the shapes are closed shapes, otherwise you will run

Create as many shape definitions as you want and space them accordingly so that the vessel is the height you prefer. Use the gumball tool to move the vectors to their appropriate heights.

Step 2: Making the Profile of the Vessel

In order to make the profile you need to use one of the many line tools.

You can use the straight line tool or there are many curved tool options that you can use. For my work, I prefer to use the curved line tools.

Turn your grid snap tool on and make sure that the selection 'end' is selected because you want to make sure the profile you're adding is going to be attached to the form.

Switch to front view and put as many defining points as you would like for the line. Remember, the more points you put, the more complicated the line. If you are looking for a more natural, organic curve put less defining points.

Step 3: Sweeping Rails

Now that you have the components necessary to make the vessel form, we will use the 'sweeping rails' tool to finish the vessel.

In the command section in rhino, type 'sweep 2' and press enter.

It will prompt you to select the first rail, select the top vector. It will then prompt you to pick the another, make sure you pick them in order from top to bottom.

Select the cross section and then press enter. This will make your vessel.

Step 4: Cap the Vessel

In order to use this model in applications for CNC Routing or Laser cutting, you must 'cap' the vessel to create a solid, closed form. To do this, type 'cap' into the command bar and select the vessel.

Step 5: CNC Routing

You can now use your model for CNC Routing or Laser cutting purposes.

For CNC routing, the machine that we have uses Aspire software. The object was prepared for cutting by dividing the object into 4 pieces that didn't have any undercuts. Another consideration in how large of a tool you have and how much material it can handle. I used a 6" end mill bit to cut 4" of pink foam material.

After cutting the foam, I assembled the model together using spray adhesive and then used joint compound of the surface to give it a smooth, mold ready surface. In the end, I want these pieces to be made out of clay, so I will be making plaster molds of the objects I produce.

In order to get a smooth surface, I sanded the joint compound between layers with fine drywall sandpaper to get a smooth surface.

Step 6: Laser Cutting

You can also export stl files from rhino and bring them into a program called 123D Make. This program is also a free download and you can find it here :

Once you bring your file into the program you can resize the object, but you need to remember how large the laser cutter is before you make an object that exceeds the limits of the machine.

You use the left sidebar to alter the object. I used a slotted setting to get an object that I could fill with clay before making a mold of the object.

For this object, I used masonite for the design. The laser took the pdf file from 123D Make and used the vectors on that program to act as cutting lines in the main program.

After all the cutting is finished assemble your object using corresponding markings on the slots.

Step 7: A Model of a 3D Vessel

Now you have a prototype of a 3D vessel made in rhino.



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