The Magic of a Reflection

This is a two-part blog that investigates the power of SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS Visualize to accurately model and render illusions created by mirrors. In the first part we will create the illusion of disappearance and in the second part we will see if we can create a hologram.

Part 1: Thinking INSIDE of the box
Our goal today is to create a box that will make things disappear. More specifically, we want to create a box that to which we can put something inside and it will look empty, no matter where we sit around it.

The concept behind this trick is simple – we create a box and insert a mirror at a 45 degree angle such that it reflects the floor of the box and tricks our eyes into thinking that the box is empty. This mirror also creates a pocket in the box that we can hide all kinds of things in. For example, your mini hand sanitizer or that roll of toilet paper that your coworker keeps stealing!

Let’s get started. I began by creating a simple box, shelling it, and then adding another body for the mirror at a 45 degree angle. I then dragged the Mirror appearance over from the task pane (Appearances > Glass > Gloss > Mirror) and applied it to the newly created mirror body.

Here’s what it looks like in SOLIDWORKS:

So far, pretty simple, but it’s hard to tell if the trick will work. I needed something to help me visualize the result (especially the reflection from the mirror), so I activated my SOLIDWORKS Visualize Add-In and selected Export Advanced to quickly port my design over and check that my design was on track.

Note: I used Export Advanced instead of Export Simple because I knew I would be iterating my design. This option enables the Monitor File feature in Visualize, making updating the picture in Visualize almost automatic as I work on my model in SOLIDWORKS CAD.
First attempt: THE LINE IS VISIBLE

Whoops! Thank goodness I was able to check my design in SOLIDWORKS Visualize. We can see here that we need something to make the parting line less obvious.

Let’s disguise it by adding some stripes using Split Line and quickly Rebuild, Save, and pop back over to Visualize to check our work.

When we do this, Visualize pops up with a handy dandy window asking if we want to re-import our data.

As soon as we select Yes, we get the following result.

Second attempt: SUCCESS!

INCREDIBLY better! I’ll take it. Also, can I say that I’m seriously impressed with how well Visualize renders mirrors? I’m seriously impressed.

Ok next step: Let’s quickly add some finishing touches (doors, hinges, knobs), export our multi-body Part to an Assembly using the Save Bodies command, apply mates, and then check out how it looks from different angles using the Turntable feature in Visualize.

To activate the Turntable function, all we need to do is click the power button after hovering over the feature in the heads-up toolbar.

Then we can click on the play button to see what our model looks like from various angles. I went ahead and took it one step further so that I could share this result with all of you – I exported a video (Output Tools > Turntable)!

Check out the video below:

I love it! It works from everywhere in the audience and we’re completely fooled. There’s just one step left to finish our design.

Let’s check to see how much we can fit in the pocket created by the mirror! To do this, I quickly simplified the model and used the Intersect command, making sure to select Create Internal Regions. I then got rid of unnecessary bodies and quickly looked at Mass Properties on the Evaluate tab.

Here’s our result:

So… the ultimate question: Will our essential items fit inside?

Based on the volume of our toilet paper roll and our mini hand sanitizer, this should work! Let’s try it out!

Fantastic! It works! Thanks to the power of SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS Visualize, our essential items are now safe from the general public.

Thanks for tuning in. This was a ton of fun for me, so be sure to check back in for Part 2 of this blog where we use mirrors to make a hologram appear!

Loretta Stiurca

Loretta is a mom, a wife, and an engineer. She is a CSWE and has been using SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS Electrical for more than 6 years. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with the puppy, playing Dungeons and Dragons, thinking up crazy inventions, learning magic tricks, juggling, making her baby girl laugh, and going on adventures.

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