The recent release of Evolve 2015 by solidThinking points to a critical trend centered on the seamless concept-to-engineering transition of a product design from the mind of the industrial designer to the expertise of the engineer. In a company announcement from solidThinking parent company Altair, Tom Hicks, industrial designer at Lear Corp., mentions the goal of capturing "the essence of 'art to part.'"
Evolve is one of the prominent solutions in the emerging category of freeform design and digital prototyping tools, which allow the designer to render a product idea at the conceptual stage before committing to a full-blown engineering design in CAD. Other solutions in this category include 3DExperience by SolidWorks and Alias by Autodesk.
"CAD tools work best if you have exact dimensions and parameters that you're building to," Darren Chilton, solidThinking's program manager for Evolve, told Design News. "That can be a little bit difficult for the industrial designer creating a brand-new concept or the next generation of a product. You don't always know the dimensions at that point. You're still trying to figure those things out."
One of the key improvements in the new edition of Evolve is centered on the PolyNURBS tools, a set of capabilities that enables the designer to work more flexibly with polygonal objects and convert them into standard NURBS (non-uniform rational basis spline) shapes for export into CAD and CAE systems or for producing manufacturable designs. A new "Nurbify" tool (yes, you heard that right), allows the designer to convert a polymesh shape into NURBS curves, generating all the geometry with one click. Evolve retains a construction history throughout the design process -- even through the NURBS generation step.
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solidThinking sees Evolve and its companion product, Inspire, as important tools for additive manufacturing-based production. Inspire has functionalities described as goal-directed design (GDD) or morphogenesis, the use of biological-type algorithms to generate optimized shapes. Using a GDD solution, the designer defines a set of parameters and desired structural outcomes and the software generates the part or product. Results can be freeform designs that almost mimic natural structures like bone or trees, with the goals of maximizing strength and minimizing waste with materials.
Chilton says the flexible capabilities delivered by Evolve and Inspire are highly conducive to users employing additive manufacturing, in which parts are often created in small runs according to highly customized designs. He told us:
"Manufacturers in defense, medical, and aerospace often have lower volumes, so they're going directly to 3D printing for their parts. Several of our aerospace customers have been given a mandate not to develop new airplanes but to spend the next eight to 10 years just going in and redesigning the components of existing planes. The majority of that is being done through additive manufacturing."
Al Bredenberg is a writer, analyst, consultant, and communicator. He writes about technology, design, innovation, management, and sustainable business, and specializes in investigating and explaining complex topics. He holds a master's degree in organization and management from Antioch University New England. He has served as an editor for print and online content and currently serves as senior analyst at the Institute for Innovation in Large Organizations.
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