3D Artist

Tutorial: Modelling wires, pipes and cables

Tips & Tutorials

This week we’re taking a look at modelling wires, pipes and cables in LightWave.

Thanks go out to Craig A Clark for this week’s LightWave tutorial. You can see more of his work at caclark.net

Tutorial: Modelling wires, pipes and cables

01 Lay out the points

My example here is modelling a set of HT leads for an engine, but any kind of cable or pipe would work the same. To start off , just roughly follow the path you want the cable to go, adding points one by one. The exact shape can be tweaked afterwards, as trying to be too precise at this early stage is a bit futile.

Tutorial: Modelling wires, pipes and cables

02 Path for the cable

Next use the Make Open Curve button to create a spline curve. You’ll be able to see much more clearly whether you need to tweak the layout of the cable guide. As a comparison, with the Rope Editor Plus plug-in, deselect the points, and then select them in order along the path, and use the Link Points by Polygons function to create a chain of two- point guide polygons.

Tutorial: Modelling wires, pipes and cables

03 Use Rail Extrude

Using the spline curve method first, create a disc which represents a cross section of your cable; make sure it is over the first point of your curve and roughly aligned with the normal along the curve. Use the Rail Extrude tool to then sweep your cross section along the spline. The Uniform Knots option enables you to use a specific number of sections proportionally spread along the length.

Tutorial: Modelling wires, pipes and cables

04 On the ropes

Rope Editor Plus works a little differently. With your chain of two- point polygons selected, activate the plug-in. You will see a small blue control point at each joining point. Select Solid Pipe from the preset dropdown at the bottom, and you will see the cable created along the path. You can now drag the blue control points around in the viewports to interactively tweak the layout of the cable. This is a much smoother workflow in my opinion.

Tutorial: Modelling wires, pipes and cables

05 Tweak and twiddle

Whichever method you are using, be it spline and Rail Extrude or Rope Editor Plus, you will almost certainly need to tweak the layout. In my case, as the engine was added too, the cables needed adjusting quite a lot, and that is where Rope Editor Plus comes in extremely handy, because as long as you keep your two-point poly chains, you can adjust the cables without having to remake them. Only the surface shader needs reapplying after modifications.

Tutorial: Modelling wires, pipes and cables

06 Tie up the loose ends

The cables are now completed and, as you can see, the two- point poly chains are still there. They don’t impact rendering, and should you find you want to make any changes, there are no problems with Rope Editor Plus. If you are using splines and Rail Extrude, keep your splines as well. Although you can’t adjust them without re-extruding a poly, you’ll need your splines to keep the process as painless as possible.

Tutorial: Modelling wires, pipes and cables

  • Abe

    Very helpful thanks for taking the trouble,more of the same please.Why car’nt you include simple tut’s like these in the mag,just a one pager would mean so much.Especialy for LW.

  • ChrisMcMahon

    This is actually from the magazine! 🙂 It was from a few issues back. We will certainly look for more content like this in the future and get it into the magazine though.

  • Jim

    Good tutorial. Rope Editor Plus seems quite a useful tool.

  • Pingback: How to use Wrap deformers in Maya | 3D Artist()