Thanks to the influx of mobile tablets like the iPad, 2D sketch tools and industrial design capabilities are suddenly hot. So hot that Dassault Systèmes just added a new 3D sketch tool to its CAD and PLM lineup.
While not a tablet application, CATIA Natural Sketch seems to deliver similar functionality to the new wave of iPad sketch apps, but aimed more specifically at the industrial designer, not the hobbyist or enthusiast. CATIA Natural Sketch lets the user work with 2D paint gestures and movements similar to sketching on paper in an effort to remove any kind of emotional barrier to 3D creation, according to CATIA officials.
Dassault says Natural Sketch is a natural addition to its lineup, given that the creative design process always starts with a sketch, typically on paper, then as the project evolves, that sketch is translated to 3D products like CAD and industrial design tools to explore the design volumes and proportions. The idea beyond CATIA Natural Sketch is to let users more quickly transform 2D ideas into 3D realities as well as to explore design details and alternatives by sketching directly on existing 3D models.
CATIA Natural Sketch aims to help industrial designers fast-track 2D ideas into 3D models in a way that mimics paper sketching.
So what's the benefit of sketching in 3D? According to a YouTube video demonstration on the product, the ability to sketch in 3D will help design teams avoid any misinterpretation of 2D views and better communicate their ideas. Dassault says the transition from ideation to actual design is not as seamless as it may seem. Someone's 2D napkin sketch may not be feasible in 3D, and at the same time, the process of constructing 3D models from a 2D sketch can also be quite time consuming and prone to design intent interpretation errors.
Natural Sketch is part of Dassault's CATIA for Creative Designers line, a portfolio of tools aimed at industrial designers that is intended to address the complete industrial design workflow, from ideation and concept to refinement and design validation, all the way through the final step of creating production-ready 3D products.
There are a variety of other sketching products on the market, including Autodesk's professional-grade SketchBook Pro, available on the desktop as well as a mobile app for Apple iOS devices, including the iPad.