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"Built Dam Strong!"

25 August 2012

Google SketchUp, A Newb Review

This morning I met up with a prospective client. I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing since I hadn't met this guy before, but, ya gotta take a chance, right? The meeting went well. We bounced ideas back and forth. It was productive. He wants two sign frames that can fold into the trailer "wings" simply. Speed of setup is his main concern, keeping weight down and maximizing strength is mine. I came away with a good idea of what to do, but, having to draw up a plan by hand is pretty tedious and is no where near precise as what you can do with CAD or Computer Aided Design or even Cardboard Aided Design. A friend told me to try Google SketchUp. So, I watched some tutorial videos and said, to myself, "Self, I can do this. Okay . . . GO!" And I did. It took me a few tries, but this is what I ended up with for the afternoon and evening.

Let me see if I can find a pic of what I am talking about . . . 

It's not a great picture, but this is similar:


The trailer I will be doing these for has even wider "wings" that open upwards. The doors are made from a frame of likely 1"x1" aluminum tubing. The strange thing is that even though the doors are about the same size, the internal framing is not made evenly. The customer wanted an even look to the supports, so I had to come up with a way to mount the signs securely by spreading the load over as wide an area as possible. I'm pretty sure I've done that.


This is the underneath view:


 No, I have no idea why I did this one first. LOL! The wide horizontal plate is going to get bolted to the actual frame of the door. It is eight feet wide. The frame of the sign itself is slightly shorter as it has to clear the door supports and some other odds and ends.

Here's the front view:

The sign itself is made of vinyl and will be grommeted and bungeed to the frame. The straps you see are going to help stabilize the sign by transferring wind loads to more points on the frame and make the frame more rigid.

Another view, showing more of the support structure:



Detail of the support:
The idea is that the frame will swing under the door and lock into place with simple pins making it fast and safe to open the doors and display the signs. The swinging part isn't completely modeled yet, as I have to angle some corners so things will actually clear.

All the holes are 1/2". The bigger box tubing is 2". The thinner tubbing is 1" square. All the reinforcements and stiffeners are 3/16" plate, and on the forward point where the bigger tube meets teh smaller tube, the plate is set back from the edges in order to get enough weld on the corners to stiffen up the whole thing tremendously. I am also likely going to add some bracing to the "swing plates" and also to the point where the supports are actually welded to the backing plate.

Why bother? Because I have an accurate model and can figure out exactly how much material I need to order, especially with two of these things to build. That's a powerful tool in anyone's belt. I plan to use it more often, and I'll get faster the more I use it. I'd recommend checking it out. There are limitations on the free version, but, if you aren't doing anything crazy, I don't think it will matter all that much.