Virtually all new product developments projects begin with a conceptual design phase. During this early stage, industrial designers and engineers rapidly explore and refine several ideas by engaging in free-flowing, collaborative brainstorming sessions. These sessions are intended to originate a wide range of potential design solutions from hand-drawn sketches, 2D drawings and layouts, 3D models, and renderings. All of these concept design methods come with inherent advantages and disadvantages. Designs coming from the sessions are considered and evaluated until a final concept design is chosen and pursued for further development – usually determined by functional, marketing, and manufacturing requirements.
During the concept phase, ideas are generated using methods ranging from rough sketches on paper or white boards to using a 3D CAD tool. A recent study entitled, “Trends in Concept Design,” conducted by PTC, discusses the different methods by which concept designs are initiated and captured. According to the survey, the largest percentage of the survey’s participants indicated that concept designs were captured electronically in the form of 3D data, however, several participants indicated that concepts were still created and shared through hand-drawn paper sketches. Regardless of how concept designs are generated, manual or digital, the vast majority of those involved with concept design have the ability to visualize and create designs in 3D. This is only natural since we all live in a 3D world.
Another reason why concept design is such a critically important phase of successful new product design is because this is usually when the majority of the total development costs are committed to developing, manufacturing, and bringing a product to market. The PTC survey found that the majority of the manufacturing cost of a typical product is committed by the end of the conceptual phase. As a result, if poor decisions made during this early phase of design, manufacturers stand to lose much of the money that was committed before production even starts. The bottom line is that a high-quality concept design model is essential for accurately determining and committing to product costs.
PTC’s Creo family of design apps is well-suited for both concept design and detailed design. Creo Sketch is a tool for capturing early concepts in the form of 2D sketches, while Creo Direct is suited for efficiently creating a high-quality 3D model that can be used for a multitude of purposes. In the Creo Direct environment, you can create and edit 3D designs through direct interaction with their geometry. You can make changes to the basic design elements at any point with little impact to the overall design process. In this design environment, the shape of a 3D model is how it appears from the outside. Additionally, the resulting geometry is compatible with all downstream Creo applications, like Creo Parametric or Creo Simulate.
So, while some manufacturers have downplayed conceptual design in the early phase of product development as an unnecessary cost, successful manufacturers have embraced concept design and have been rewarded with better overall designs and cost management up front – ultimately leading to more satisfied customers and higher profits.