I'm a custom bladesmith (you can see my stuff at bigrockforge.com) and I'm interested in using 3-D technology to design complex sword hilts. Such as that seen on Scottish claymors and sciavona. Something like this:
I'm mostly interested in just getting a plastic model in real-world size that I can use to build a metal version. But I'm starting to learn that I may be able to get a metal version made as well that I could use for 'production' work.
Anyway... I'm like to get opinions on whether this can be done with some of the simple free programs like Sketchup or if I'm way over my head (I have no computer aided design experience). I'd also like to convert photographs of actual historical specimens into 3-D files.. although I understand there is no easy way to do that.
You definitely can do what you're looking to accomplish! Plastics are substantially cheaper, but printing in steel and even titanium is possible.
I recommend starting out using something like 123D rather than sketchup... Sketchup is a user friendly app, and good to start learning, but isn't really designed toward 3D printing so it can create some errors in your models that may create problems when you go to print. 123D is a more recent free app that is geared more toward printing, so it would probably be better to start there.
I appreciate it. I'm going to play around... but may also consider hiring somebody to do the design once I get more construction details. It may be that I will need to have 2 or 3 independent components. But maybe not since the method of construction is so different!