Hi Beth, My company is Well Planned Web and we've interviewed many of MediaLab's clients, such as Whirlpool, Black & Decker, NetGear and Kohler to learn more about how 3D models and animation has benefitted them. This was all part of the Case Study process. Their engineers have been thrilled with the results — especially in the warranty and customer service arenas. I don't want to seem like I'm pitching things too much here :) — but happy to post links to those case studies if you'd like. Extremely compelling stats and results of using 3D models, animation, etc. Just let me know!
Indeed, Beth, we've learned in our work with MediaLab 3D Solutions that an enormous amount of money can be saved by opting for high-quality 3D models over building prototypes, scheduling shoots, etc. The inevitable product spec changes and tweaks are also far less painful when using 3D — it's a matter of tweaking the 3D file, not starting back at the very expensive "Square 1!"
TJ: I totally agree with your analysis of how things are evolving going forward with the marriage of stronger 3D visualization and 3D printing. I always think you are spot on with the notion that physical prototyping doesn't go away. Every engineering organization I've talked to that has moved forward with a virtual prototyping approach says the benefits are being able to pursue more design instances more quickly and get to an optiimzed set, which are further proved out in physical prototyping. Essentially saving the costly and time consuming physical prototypes for the good stuff.
Beth, I love computer visualizations. So many different iterations can be tested to find the right one, and not have a huge scrap heap of discarded models. That is the strength of 3D visualization.
Infinite-Z's product is going to open new vistas for this, and I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on one (no pun intended).
However, there will always be physical mockups. At the very least, drivers will want to sit at the wheel. Pilots will want to climb into the cockpit. Just the act of walking around the real mockup makes the concept being viewed more real. Computer simulations suffer from the uncanny valley effect; mockups do not.
The way to take the strong points of 3D visualization and tie themt to phyiscal mockups will be the 3D printers we've been discussing this year. But for a full mockup of a vehicle, I see a future with large format printers.
It's the ability to visualize highly realistic models in 3D along with the highly advanced collaboration capabilities that enables these smaller firms to gain an edge and not have to pour all the time and energy into building expensive prototypes. That's really at the heart of the technology's promise.
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