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Posts Tagged ‘industrial design’

Industrial Design Software Choices

Friday, July 13th, 2012

I’ve been an industrial designer for a long time, so long in fact, that I still have Prismacolor pencils, pastels, markers and gouache (long ago dried out) that I used to execute product design sketches and renderings. I still sketch quite a bit with pencils and pens. However, there are also a lot of ID software packages out there today for different budgets and needs.

With all these ID software choices, you can narrow them down with a few basic features and capabilities that you’ll need for ID:

GUI — A good one is essential for minimizing the learning curve (which can be very steep) and fitting in with the way you work.

Sketching — For mimicking napkin drawing medium, and not with contstraints and parameters, easy and fast sketching ability is an absolute.

Surfacing — Freeform, organic shapes require top-notch surfacing, above and beyond basic 3D modeling.

Rendering — Communicating a design to others inside the company or to customers outside is much more effective with high-quality renderings.

Export — ID is not a standalone endeavor and the ability to export to other CAD packages for refinement is key — in native and/or neutral file formats.

We don’t have room to detail all of the ID software possibilities, but some of the more notable packages include:
-Alias Design/Surface/Automotive
-3ds Max

Any others you care to add? Let us know.

In the future, I’ll put together a matrix that lists the products above and their features for comparison purposes for aspiring and practicing industrial designers.

Universal 3D Creativity: Reality or Myth?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

The past couple of years we’ve been hearing that anyone can be a creative genius by using a variety of tools ranging from CAD products to rapid prototyping machines. While most people have the capacity to be creative in a certain capacity, this heady claim fails to take in to consideration that not everyone might be truly creative when it comes to creating something of real value in 3D – for either themselves or others. In other words, even with the best tools in the world, there is no guarantee that everyone will be able to create things that anybody else would really want.

The current popularity of the DIY movement has helped the “creativity for everyone” movement, but I think back 20+ years ago when another “revolution” took place in desktop publishing. Prior to desktop publishing for all, printed documents for most home computer users consisted of Courier, Helvetica, and maybe Times Roman fonts on dot matrix printers. With the introduction of Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) and more capable printers, the font possibilities were endless. So endless, in fact, that many early EPS documents with their myriad fonts looked more like ransom notes than business documents. It took a while, but eventually most people got that more fonts is not necessarily better for printed communication. I’m afraid the same thing is happening with 3D printing for visual and tactile communication, but should get more realistic and sound with time and more than just silly toys.

As an industrial designer, over the years I have critiqued designs and reviewed portfolios of ID students at design schools and conferences. The most prominent trend I’ve seen over the past several years is that students have a ton of digital tools at their disposal, but they are concentrating too much attention on the tools themselves and presentation, and not enough on the design problem they are trying to solve. Closely related to this is the fact that while a lot of pretty product designs are being created, relatively few can be manufactured economically, if at all.

When I look way back to my own creative beginnings, as a child I loved to draw on paper and Etch-A-Sketch in 2D and build things in 3D with Legos, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, and wood with nails. Did I create anything of real value that appealed to anyone but myself? Honestly, no, but it did spark a an interest in a formal education in design and engineering, as well as fostering a lifelong interest and appreciation for good design.

With the advent of easier to use and affordable (a lot even free) 3D software and hardware, will creativity proliferate? Certainly it will to an extent, but let’s be realistic on the quality and value of the vast majority of the things produced. While there is some reality to the thought that everyone can be creative and produce things in 3D, there is also a good deal of myth with regard to what is actually being created. However, new creative hands-on skills are being learned and put into practice, which is a good thing.

I applaud the efforts that some of the 3D software and hardware vendors have put forth in getting their technologies into the hands of a new type of user. I would just caution the vendors from overselling the promise of creativity for everyone that will result in stunning designs. A small percentage of the designs might have value, but as with products coming out of the professional community, many probably won’t.

Don’t get me wrong, along with DIY, I think it’s a great movement and should be strongly encouraged, we just need to sort out myth from reality when it comes to creating things in 3D.

Since this is such an interesting, strong movement, I’ll come back to this topic many times in the future, especially as I check out a number of the 3D software and hardware products and services for myself. Let’s get creative!

Concept Design and Cost Management In Early Phase Product Development – A Vital First Step

Friday, December 16th, 2011

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.

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