Getting the most out of your CAD/CAM performance

Concepting in Creo – Part 2: Modernizing Concept Design

by Bill Martin-Otto on 11 Apr, 2012 in Creo


In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about PTC’s global survey on Trends in Concept Design. In Part 2,  I delve into modernizing concept design.

If you’ve ever been part of the Friday afternoon fire drill—you know, when the concept you’ve released downstream to engineering hits a major snag—you’ll want to read the eBook from PTC, Making the Case for Modernizing Concept Design.

In the book, industry analyst Chad Jackson looks at concept design’s past to point the way to its future. He gives proper credit to physical tools, even pausing to honor the iconic napkin sketch; after all, what could be more symbolic of the lightning bolt of inspiration that the most basic physical tools can capture? But Jackson acknowledges the obvious limitations of physical tools in today’s high-speed, highly globalized design environments.

In fact, the need for speed—or the need to use concept development time as efficiently as possible—is one of the key insights in Jackson’s book. It takestime and skill to move from a paper-and-pencil concept to a 3D model, so many designers have tried to jump right into 3D tools from the start.

As Jackson points out, however, the trade-off for the exactitude of 3D modeling is its rigidity. It can be hard to capture that burst of inspiration when, as Jackson puts it, “Parametric feature-based modelers require users to be able to manage the interdependencies and potential failures of features.” 3D modeling is also a rather poor tool for revealing the big picture, as it often requires separate files for each individual component of a product.

In practice, most designers have relied on a mixture of physical, 2D digital, and 3D digital tools to create their concepts—often leveraging existing designs during the concept phase. But because of incompatibility among design tool formats, designers are forced to recreate design data at one or more points during the design-to-engineering process. For Jackson, this cumbersome process of recreating data is non-value-added work—a losing proposition not only for individual designers and engineers, but also for the company as a whole.

Jackson makes the case that the future of concept design is in “direct modeling.” In this process, designers may start with 2D drawings based on cross-sections of existing designs, then move seamlessly into a 3D digital modeling environment with an easy-to-use, push-pull geometry. Format incompatibility becomes a thing of the past. Instead, interoperability is the name of the game, as designers “read in design data from anywhere and any application.”

Although PTC’s recent Trends in Concept Design survey shows that technology has underserved the concept design process, Jackson’s e-book indicates that the trend is about to change.

In future posts, we’ll delve into some of the other free concept design resources available on PTC’s Web site, including A Buyer’s Guide to Concept Design Solutions and the Top Tips for Selecting Concept Design Software webcast.

In the meantime, let us know how you’re using direct modeling to develop your innovative ideas.

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