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Cutting panels in a saucer

Quickie info on cutting panels into a mesh, this uses modo, but the technique is the same for any polygon modeler tool out there.

Create the base mesh, in our case a saucer (like the one found on the USS Enterprise from ST:TMP) with 16 divisions:

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Adjust accordingly and add subd edge loops along the corners:
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Apply subd to it (i.e. hit the TAB key in Modo)
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Freeze the subd mesh, this increases the number of polygons on the mesh and takes you out of subd mode. Alternatively you could just subdivide the mesh and smooth it. The point is that you want to greatly increase the detail in your mesh.

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Still have our 16 edges:

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Use this as a reference select the edges that we are going to apply a bevel to - this is where the panel cuts will ultimately go:
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Apply a thin bevel
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Select the faces that you now have (this is unfortunately a bit of a PITA, patience is a virtue here):
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Extrude the faces inwards, preferably along the face normal (as opposed to just extruding straight down). In modo the easiest way to do this is use the bevel tool in face selection mode.
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Increase your selection to include the newly added faces: (in modo shift + up arrow)
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Convert to edges:
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Bevel again, to round off the sharp edges:
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Repeat as needed.

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Jim Crafton is software developer currently doing a variety of work in C++, C#, and Java. He is the author of the Visual Component Framework (more at http://vcf-online.org/), an advanced C++ application framework. He's also interested in graphics, particularly 3D graphics using tools like Houdini and ZBrush.