Products and Design

Tutorial Tuesday 32: Learn to Fly With Wings3D

In this week’s Tutorial Tuesday, we’ll expand our design toolbox to include the 3D modeling program Wings3D. Wings3D is free and open source, but includes much of the functionality of paid professional software like Autodesk’s 3ds Max, as well as topological mesh modeling software like TopMod. Wings3D is a “low-poly subdivision” tool, meaning that you can create a geometric model with very few faces, interact with mesh selections and modifications, and then smooth or subdivide the model later as needed. Wings3D also has materials and UV mapping tools that can be helpful if you want to export your models for rendering in other software.

The “wings” in the name refer to the Winged-Edge Data Structure that Wings3D uses to describe the edge, face, and vertex adjacency data of its polygonal models — but you don’t need to know about that to design something!

Getting Started

You can download Wings3D for free on Mac, Windows, or Linux/Unix. To get started immediately, try right-clicking to open a menu for dropping shapes onto the workspace, then select vertices, edges, or faces and right-click again to open a new menu of possible modification tools. Check out the Wings3D guide Finger Exercises to Get You Started for a quick text overview of how basic modeling works in Wings3D.

Navigation works a little differently than other modeling programs you might be used to, so check out the Wings3D Tutorial – Beginners, How to Get Started by VscorpianC. In this video, you can learn the default Wings 3D navigation tools for rotate and pan, or, if you prefer, how to set your preferences so that the navigation works like it does in other programs like Blender, Sketchup, or Maya. You’ll also learn basic workspace setup, how to move and place objects, and how to use the Wings3D Geometry Graph.

When you’re done with this introductory video, you can continue learning about 3D modeling with Wings3D by working through the rest of VscorpianC’s extensive Wings3D Tutorial playlist.

Creating With Wings3D

To get a quick overview of the Wings3D design process, watch Micheus Vieira‘s video Wings3d: Making a chair:

The video above is just one of a large collection of Wings3D videos that Micheus Vieira has on YouTube, including tutorials, design covers/translations, and Wings3D work in progress.

Because Wings3D is a subdivision modeler, it can do a lot of the same things as TopMod (see our previous Tutorial Tuesday on Topological Mesh Modeling with TopMod). For example, check out Art Wade’s video Another TopMod-style model in Wings 3D, but with a twist:

Another great source for Wings3D walkthroughs is David Brinnen, who has a long list of YouTube videos on the subject. This video Wings 3D project – simple armoured ball is particularly nice (and, unlike the two videos above, is actually voice-narrated):

Designs Made With Wings3D

So what can you make with Wings3D? Shapeways user Pocket Sculpture made this interestingly textured double toroid Xylem Pocket Sculpture:

Jamie Perrelet from Schumacher College uses Wings3D for science! She designs 3D-printable physical models of plated microscopic phytoplankton called coccolithophores, like the Emiliana huxleyi coccolithophore model pictured below. For more information, read her article 3D Printing the Long Term Carbon Cycle at Fractal Teapot.

Wings3D was also the tool of choice for Sean Blaine, from the University of Minnesota. He used Wings3D to create a flexible, live-hinged prosthetic finger that you can read about in the 3D Printing Industry article “The ‘Origami’ Finger Prosthesis.” This Dynamic finger prosthesis model is also available for free download from Thingiverse.

Finally, check out this Zelda-themed Hookshot engagement ring! This ring was designed using Wings3D and prototyped at Shapeways before being sent to a jeweler who milled it out of wax for casting. You can read more about this project at the 3D Printing Industry article “Reddit User & Fiancé Hooked for Life with Legend of Zelda Engagement Ring and 3D Printing.”

Do you have this powerful 3D modeling tool in your design toolbox? If you’ve made designs with Wings3D, let us know so we can feature your models in future posts.

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