Engineer & Designer

Garbage Truck Toy


Translating the real world to the digital

One of the projects for the Engineering Graphics & Design course in Columbia University’s Mechanical Engineering Department is to take a real toy truck and recreate it digitally in SolidWorks with matching dimensions, features, and functionality. The following is a description of my project, which earned an A+ grade:

The most challenging part of this project was recreating the cab of the truck. Like many children’s toys, the cab incorporated a highly rounded geometry with irregular, curvatures to create a friendly, cartoon-like appearance. Naturally, the solution to accurately reproducing the cab was surface modeling. Though I hadn’t had much experience with surface modeling prior to this project, I learned quickly with intensive practice. I found it useful to incorporate pieces of reference geometry to define positions of points on lines and curves. This practice was crucial to ensure arc lengths and curvatures remained faithful to the geometry of the original toy truck. I created individual surfaces from 3D sketch frames for each face of the cab, then knit them together to create a solid object, and created cut features to add the remaining details of the cab.

The remainder of the truck was considerably more straightforward than the cab. Though the truck bed, chassis, and wheel geometries seem somewhat complicated, nearly all of the geometries of these parts could be broken and modeled as a sum of simple features, which allowed me to create them with standard solid modeling techniques. Some of the finer details of the truck, particularly on the cab and the truck bed were omitted due to the two week time constraint of the project.


In addition to the appearance of the truck, recreating its functionality was also a top priority. To this end, I designed all connecting pieces of the digital truck in exactly the same manner as those of the original, including the chassis to cab joints, the axles connecting the wheels to the chassis, the axle connecting the bed to the chassis, and the hinges joining the bed door to the main bed. Though the connecting features are not visible to the eye when the truck is fully assembled, modeling them in the same way as they were originally designed guarantees that the functions of the truck, such as rolling wheels, a dumping action for the bed, and an opening action for the bed door would be maintained in the digital model.