Which 3D Modeling Tools are Best to Use For Concept Design?


In today’s highly competitive markets, the ability of a manufacturer to develop successful, innovative products often hinges on how well it fosters, fleshes out and evolves new ideas and concepts into new products. The problem with this conceptual design phase of development is that engineers and designers often struggle with what tools are best to use.

They need highly flexible tools that enable them to freely explore myriad of design alternatives and don’t lock them into too much detail before a sufficient number of ideas have been explored. However, they also need a way of accurately tracking and recording these ideas so they can have something from which to work once an idea has been approved and moved forward.

Engineers still use multiple tools to capture concepts

PTC conducted a study, Trends in Concept Design, in which over half of participants (51%) said they capture design concepts and ideas electronically in the form of 3D data. The majority (61%) responded that they use 3D CAD modeling and surfacing tools to quickly create a multitude of potential product designs.

The use of multiple tools from multiple vendors often complicates the process of concept design and creates problems downstream when concept models move to detailed design. According to the PTC survey, participants who used multiple tools from different software vendors during the concept phase of new product development were three to seven times more likely to have to recreate data due to incompatibility.

Concept design is an extremely vital phase of product development. Tools  used must be fluid and flexible so an adequate number of design ideas are explored. Image courtesy of Teams Design.

Concept design is an extremely vital phase of product development. Tools used must be fluid and flexible so an adequate number of design ideas are explored. Image courtesy of Teams Design.

Which 3D tools should be used?

During the “The Pros and Cons of 3D Modeling Paradigms” webinar, Creo Product Management VP Brian Thompson’s presentation included some of the survey’s results. The following question was posed to our panel of experts in regards to concept development: “The survey said that most companies what to reuse concept designs in detailed design stage. Wouldn’t that always prohibit using direct modeling in the concept stage?”

“No, it doesn’t,” says Thompson. “You can impart design intent on a model that’s largely history-free and still control certain key aspects of that model with constraints and with other types of technologies. What we’re finding is that customers can, in fact, mature designs from 3D that have no history–whether they came in from a third party or they were using strict direct modeling from the front end–and mature them into real production models down the path without having to recreate that model from scratch using history-based designs.

Both Siemens and PTC have thousands of customers that rely solely on direct modeling every day for everything they do. It can be very, very simple products or very, very complex highly engineered products with tens of thousands of parts in the assembly. There really is no limit, it’s all a matter of the company deciding what set of tools suit their needs best.”

Taking the “direct” route to concept design

The direct modeling paradigm enables engineers to create new concepts based on previous designs. Users can start with a 2D concept model and easily use it as the basis of a 3D model. Direct modeling tools also enable concept designers to leverage all types of available legacy data, including 2D drawings, sketches, surfaces, single parts, or entire assemblies without data interoperability issues.

Perhaps the biggest benefit is the time savings afforded by direct modeling tools. Because these direct modeling tools offer interoperability with parametric, feature-based modelers used for detailed design, no model recreation is necessary, giving designers more time to explore a wider range of design alternatives.

If you missed the “Pros and Cons of 3D Modeling Paradigms” webinar, you can watch it here in its entirety.

Barb Schmitz

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