Oswestry Works has been entirely designed using Trimble Sketchup, initially from the drawings of the architects Ainsley Gommon who were commissioned to redevelop the site. Using the plans on their website I was able to produce a rough representation of the works buildings to get an idea of the scope of the project. Before I was aware of the capabilities of Laser Cutting, I’d originally printed the drawings from Sketchup and made a foamboard mockup of the site. This quite simple task helped get a real feel for the proportions of the diorama and what was achievable. It was only later after seeing the work of Tim Horn that I realised this project was perfect for laser cutting.
Although laser cutting requires 2D drawings, I continued to use Sketchup to build the works using virtual versions of the materials, 1.5mm MDF in this case. Starting out with a brick measurement of 1.5mm W x 1mm H x 3mm L, the next step was to count bricks and then reproduce in Sketchup. An early issue was found around ground height – it had changed by 2-3 feet since the 1960’s with the redevelopment! That initial issue overcome, the design came together quite quickly using period photographs, floor plans from the National Archives and my own photographs from visits to the works. Virtually building the works helped to trial construction methods, iron out issues and other factors that couldn’t be found without actually building the model. Periodically printing out and building a mock up from foam board allowed for the building to be checked before committing time and money to the laser cutter.
It’s been a bit of a journey with Sketchup, with many hours spent doing things the hard way before finding easier methods. The biggest benefits have been the use of arrays to copy and move objects, components for multiple identical objects and the use of groups and the Outliner to keep things organised. The main works building design has now been completed, next steps are the yard buildings, the overhead cranes, the foot bridge and all manner of works equipment such as fitters benches, jacks, vices etc.