OT: Industrial Design and CAD

So I write this article with the intent of trying to understand what Industrial Designers are looking for and if today’s modeling
packages are offering what is needed to get the job done "right". Notice I put the words "right" in quotes because that is probably the key element to the whole article. Sure you can pick any package out there, model with it, and create the forms that you want. But how many "work arounds" did you need to do to get there? As in life, nothing is 100% perfect, but are work around an acceptable way of solving the issues that arise because or due to the fact of the limitations of the software/hardware?
There is always this running joke in my office about the tired and true Industrial Designer vs. Engineer, conflict. Where the stand point of the Engineer is "all it has to do it work, who cares if it looks like a box" and the Designer says "it is ALL about how it looks." I exaggerate both sides of the spectrum, but I think the point is clear. Form vs. Function.
We all know that with technology, internally speaking, is pretty much the same. Some have a few more bells and whistles but studies show that people will gravitate towards what looks better. Which brings me back to what started this whole article. Using what ever software package to do ID, are we there yet? Can we achieve the forms that we envision in our heads without a million and one work arounds to get there? Should design be dictating what the software is capable of, or should the programmers create tools that re invents the wheel?
Chime on in.............
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I once wrote an editorial piece for Pro/E magazine about this very subject. It was supposed to be a 2 part series, but I was unexpectedly thrust into the job market before part 2 was done and landed in SolidWorks turf. :)
The bottom line is the bottom line. Engineers make parts and mechanisms, but companies sell products. Consumers make purchasing decisions based on many factors, and technical merit is often not even on the top of the list. One needs to look at the design in this context to see the importance of fiddling about with funky surfaces.
As far as SW goes, I don't think I would want to use it for ID work. The curvature control in 2D and 3D is nowhere near where it should be for a product that has been around this long.
As far as Pro/E vs. UG: Pro/E lets you play doctor; UG lets you play God.
Arthur Y-S wrote:

many
is
the
clear.
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That's a loaded question. The broad answer is; Yes. Depends, of course, on summed abilities; user's ability to describe / define a shape and the software's ability to create it. Given certain combinations everything is there to get to the finish line. All that follows just serves to lower the hurdles; make it easier, faster, more efficient.
What loads the question is "work around" and "there" (subjective). Complex shapes are just that and things that make shape definition simple limit potential (there's a difference between a user friendly interface and being dumbed down to the point a casual user has no problems, which is precisely where some mCAD vendors want to go). The assumption has to be made that adequate definition is not considered to be a work around.

What does that mean? If I'm guessing correctly; marketability, e.g. profit potential, dictates what the software is capable of.
Could be missing the mark on both questions, though. 8~)
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Hey Arthur, So did writing the article and doing the research answer anything for you? Or did you simply raise more questions? Can you ask 10 different ID folks what the "right" way is a expect to get one simple answer? Probably not. The debate about whether existing tools and technology is adequate will rage on forever. I wonder if back in the days of clay models thay had these debates..."Man, this clay really sucks". "At my last company we used SolidClay and it could run circles around this crap".
What one ID might see as a sufficient tool another might find major fault with. I wonder how many workarounds are found because somone was trying to do something that a CAD package simply wasn't intended do. Do we blame the CAD companies when we need a workaround because an internal company standard (it's our "right" way) cannot be achieved using out-of-the-box software that follows some other standard. Can you blame them when you come up with a wonderful new shape that simply can't be modeled? Can you blame them because you just don't have the talent to model something (like me). Workarounds will always be necessary because of the basic differences in standards, company practices, and because we are humans and have minds of our own. I think in a lot of cases we should expect the CAD companies to catch up to us, not the other way around.

ID falls into many different categories, no? I don't know the first thing about what makes a consumer product like a cell phone, or a stapler more attractive than another (hell, I can't even get my clothes matched without a little help from the wife). Ever had an argument with a significant other because you wanted the cool looking Jet-Black refrigerator and all she could see was Darth Vader in the kitchen (true story, BTW)? People perception about what looks good is widely varied.
But ID is also about human interaction with products. Are the gauges in the right place? Are the handles, knobs, and buttons easy to see, easy to work, and yet out of the way? You'll have to admit, CAD shines for this kind of ID. So did paper and pencil back in the day. Designing swoopy stuff, (consumer products like I mentioned) has to be more of an art than a science. In the days before CAD, were these designs created on paper using t-squares and triangles. No, they were hand drawn by ID folks with a lot of talent for free-hand sketching. I could produce good quality drawings for all sorts of mechanical designs with my straight edges and scales, but ask me to draw something free hand and you might as well get the crayons out - at least then people might think it was done by a six year old. When you can put together artistic talent along with excellent CAD skills you get Ed Eaton or Paul Salvador. You also get software pushed to the absolute limits, and workarounds are bound to happen.

No, we're not there yet. Well, okay, I am because my CAD package does everything I need it to do. But is there, or will ther ever be one CAD package (at any price) that does it all? Time will tell.
Richard Doyle Don't forget to sign up for SolidWorks World
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SolidWorks is definitely engineer-centric. It's a tool some ID folk can use, but it's not really geared toward their way of working.
First of all, it doesn't run on a Mac...
Second, it's very process based, which is an engineer thing. Software for ID folk would have far fewer rules. More like Cosmic Blobs for anyone who has seen that.
I kind of laughed when I saw the word "right" talking about ID work. I thought engineers made things "right". ID is not very black and white, so I doubt there is a real "right".
That's a little unfair. I know there exist ID types who are very precise and think about how their data will be used downstream. But the vast majority couldn't model a parting line to save their career.
Mark Biasotti (used to work for IDEO, now works for SolidWorks) used to argue that SW had to become more visual to be used in ID work (meaning he wanted the ability to create what SW otherwise would consider to be invalid geometry, just so long as it looked ok). I believe it's that kind of attitude that perpetuates the stereotype implied above, that ID people have their collective head in the manufacturing sand. I hope Mark being at SW doesn't mean that SW will head in the direction of an approximate 3D graphic arts tool.
On the other hand, I wouldn't mind seeing some more "tug-and-pull" function in SW, which I believe would give ID folk the direct control over the shape that they probably want, and as long as it still creates manufacturing quality surfaces, would not interfere with the engineer's requirement to be "right".
matt
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there really are far too many steps with sw to do fairly simple or basic things- don't get me wrong i love working with sw; and this is not to compare sw with other cad software, because i don't have any real experience with many other cad systems- that said however, i do find myself avoiding some things in sw because i didn't want to head down that path unless i absolutely had too, now ok, maybe that means i'm not a good cad operator by having the software impact the design, but it does also say the software is not there yet either. ( my opinion )
Laz
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With just SolidWorks Office Pro, I'd say close but no cigar. There are still some tangency limitations that require extra work (or perhaps even other software add-ins) to model certain shapes.
It's just a matter of time before SolidWorks implements the remaining essential I.D. tools. 2005 added some, the next release will add even more. I would say they are focused pretty good in the I.D. area.

I would say that the design is dictated by the manufacturing process. In fact, there are companies that manufacture products straight out of the Rapid Prototype machine and right to the consumer!
A design really has no excuse for being dictated by the software in this day and age.
Mike Wilson
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Are we there yet? Nah. As long as anyone is having trouble, we aren't there yet.
Can we ever reach 'there'? I really don't know. Every type of media, whether pencil, clay, balsa-foam, CAD - has its limitations, and those limitations influence design. With pencil/marker, it is inconvenient to imagine other views of the product - to see the back side, you have to start a completely new drawing. With balsa-foam, it is inconvenient to add material back if you have cut too far (so guess what happens - the product gets smaller!). With clay, you have support and precision issues that can influence design.
If it is inconvenient to do something, it is usually avoided. That's just human nature. And that is where the problem is coming in with the CAD/desinger interface
When it comes to CAD, the interesting story is not how CAD vendors respond to the needs of the designers.
What's interesting is how the design industry unconsciously evolves to the limitations of their CAD.
Lets take a brief look at design history, CAD adoption, and how they feed into my thesis:
When CAD was first introduced into the auto industry, it was 2D and really only capable of creating lines and arcs.
And then, at the same time, cars got boxy....
Then CAD developed into surfaces
And, coincident to the introduction of surfaces, the cars got swoopy.
Then CAD developed into Solids. and did you notice how 'chunky' cars got in the latter half of the 90's?
So do you really think that the tools were a response to the designers needs, or that the designs were informed by the limitations of the tools? There has to be elements of both, but I'm pretty sure the larger component was the latter
However, I have to admit that the car industry is just conjecture for me. I have not worked in it. But I can vouch for the consumer product industry.
In consumer product design, we went through a really swoopy spell a few years back with all of the Alias designs.
Then, in the interest of compressing the design cycle, a lot of Industrial Designers went to Illusrator and PhotoShop to create their concepts and concept presentations - the presentations would show the front view, and maybe a side/end view in a rendered 2D image. There were rarely perspective views because they are hard and time consuming to draw in PhotoShop and Illutrator.
And then... you could walk down the aisle of a Best Buy, and see that a terrible proportion of the products were orthographic -they would have good front and side views, but look like crap when held at an angle, and the back would have absolutely no design sense. This was really noticeable on cell phones, where the back is a big part of what you interact with, yet there was zero ID there.
Finally, in the last few years, ID folks have been pressured into using Solid Modelers. And have you noticed that the 'sexy cube' became the driving fashion of the day?
I went shopping for a printer two weeks ago, and was shocked at how radically the forms had evolved (or devolved) in the last year - just about every printer was a couple of extrudes, maybe a revolve, and some filleting. Hewlitt Packard has a series that look just like a breadbox.
This pollution fo design by lazy (or time pressed) solid modelers is everywhere you look. We have a projector in our conference room, and I can pick out every single feature in it - a rectangle extrude, a revolve, fillets on the edges and a VAR fillet to blend the rectangle to the revolve (you can even see the edges of the VAR fillet). Then a cut or two for the control panel - this thing would take maybe an hour and a half to model, and you would not need a single complex feature.
Another interesting place to see how solid modeling is changing design is in the laundry detergent aisle. The detergent bottles used to be really swoopy and complicated, and now they are getting VERY simple from a solid model standpoint. The designers have simply eliminated a lot of the stuff that is tough to model - Y-branches, creases that fade into smooth faces, etc. Take a look next time you are at the grocery store, and compare it to what they looked like 3 years ago.
Does anyone else see this too? I swear that it is everywhere I look.

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I have noticed it as well. Would the tooling for molding those products be any cheaper if the surfaces were flat rather than swoopy?

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Not so much today- My vendors don't seem to care whether it is a box or a curvy shape. The machining is typically automated, following the CAD geoemtry
The tooling design might be less on a boxy product if the designer did not put in correct draft - it can be a terrible amount of work to add draft to an undrafted curvy model. And I do not know if it is harder to generate the toolpaths for a curvy model or if it is all pretty much automatic.
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Interesting ideas. I guess I assumed that artistic design is an inherently fickle and fad driven thing, where what is considered "good design" today could not possibly be more gauche tomorrow. Marketing driven planned obsolescence.
iPod, one of the coolest products out, is a completely rectangular box with constant rad fillets. The internal mechanism (disk) is round, the control (dial) is round, but the housing is rectanglular. I'm not sure how simple laziness or boxy cad tools could be to blame for that, I just think that the vascillating pendulum of the design world's sensibilities has swung boxy (or clean, simple, etc). Could also be an over-reaction to the ridiculous shape of some of the software MP3 players interface.
matt
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I think its a combination. What happens is that design conventions get 'nudged' by the tools designers use, then the butterfly effect kicks in - one boxy product inspires the next, which is pushed a little by the tools the dsienger employs, and so on.
There is definatley busniness pressure driving it, too. Industrial Designers have to come up with multiple concepts on the front end of a project, so they will use simple representations (revolves, extrudes, some fillets, push/pull surfaces) to get across the general flavor of alot of concepts - FAST. Then, when a concept is chosen, its cheaper to just work with that simple representation. Sometimes it is out of thecontrol of the designer - they intended to go back and tweak the detials, but the slected concept is passed overthe wall before they can finalize it.
But lets not rpetend that human nature is not a large part of it. One neat thing about designers - it is really easy to change their minds when their convenience is involved. If YOU have to do it, the industrial designer will fight tooth and nail for 'his' initial vision. If THEY have to do it, it is fun to watch how readily they will compromise their vision (often justifying the compromise as an improvemnent!) The really good ones will justify every step of their compromise by using Important Designer Catch PhrasesT such as 'stripping down to the essence', 'purity of form', 'elegant', 'thats an interesting detail', etc etc. Its a fun thing to watch when you are sensitive to it.
Of course, I am not talking about me....
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Speaking as a consumer, there may be a useability reaction against things being too curvy. Something like a portable music player needs to behave well laying on almost any face, fit into a pocket, whatever. It needs to be easy for the fingers to navigate without looking at it, something a box is well suited to. I am surprised to hear about constant radius fillets on it though (I've never looked at one).
Overall, I'm tired of the "ergonomic" craze too. These new swoopy toothbrushes are actually harder to hold when wet and toothpasty. Just give me a straight, flat plastic handle.
Do I sound like Ron Khol to everyone else?
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snipped-for-privacy@jamestool.com says...

Good points on all counts.
I have one more example: Computer Cases.
Do you realize how difficult it is to find a simple, functional, inexpensive ATX form computer case? It seems everyone is swarming to the swoopy, clear plastic windowed, neon lighted, neon colored, toolless, aluminum cases. IMO, I just want an INEXPENSIVE, simple, metal case to effectively hold everything.
Anyone else feel the same?
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Amen, brother!
WT
says...

things
be
is
it
give
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Actually, today's designs are still very shapely, it's just that when they come back from manufacturing in China, they've turned into boxes for some reason.
OK, I made that up.
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Ah, yes. Curv gratis curvis (curves for curves' sake). Not a big fan.
I was privileged to work with some really great ID's. My last boss was a master of handles. This was borne from years of study and experience. He knew anatomy pretty well, too. Good handles needn't be excessively swoopy. Usually size counts as much as shape.
Curvature control counts for much more than the ability to create (Dr.) Suessian swoops. Good C2 continuity control is required to make surface patches that don't have unsightly reflect line breaks. With todays modern CNCs, tangency isn't enough. Machining accuracy is at a point where C1 continuities are modeled so well that there is no "washing out" of the break line, so a C1 discontinuity can be readily seen.
Dale Dunn wrote:

things
behave
to be

box is

on it

Just give

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be
give
Ron Kohl rocks!!! Bring back the horn rimmed glasses and neckties in the office. I love the early 60s.
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Neck ties? Let's not get carried away now...
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He he he - I have gone this way too. I've turned my back on those funky snow-brushes and I now use the old wooden handle one like back in the 60's when those things did an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. It has not broken yet, and yes, it looks like something that only has utility and no "sizzle", but who needs "sizzle" when there's an inch of ice on your windshield?
I must say that I am intrigued by all the two shot molding that goes into the tooth brushes these days - that is still a complete mystery to me that I awefully gaze upon with confusion and admiration.
I too have been afflicted by industrial desingers galore - I married one and my brother is one as well. I do love their creativity and the world is better because they are around, BUT when was the last time I slapped on a black beret and a unibody suit carrying a book by Jean-Paul Sartre and declared myself an artiste simply because of cap screw placement? The ID folks sometimes come down with a really bad case of that, like they were haute-couture clothing designers . . .
I still want to ram my fist into the gut of the guy who designed that "neat" tent that my kids love (can't throw it out) that I cannot get back into a flat form, you know, that one with the two intertwined rings that can be (in theory) collapsed like a bandsaw-blade into a nice tidy flat package . . . many family fights revolved around that thing
"no take the other end and pull that in"
;)
SMA
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