Empowering Conceptual Design via the Single Modeling Environment

Written by: SOLIDWORKS | Published: 04/20

Developing innovative design concepts is critically important to the success of product development organizations, large and small, because these ideas lay the foundation for future business success. Using conventional CAD software for conceptual design presents challenges because traditional modeling tools—developed to finalize designs and support manufacturing/assembly—constrain the freedom, flexibility, and creativity that drive effective conceptual design. With the SOLIDWORKS® Conceptual Designer single modeling environment, design engineers have a dedicated platform that is completely focused on quickly capturing, developing, and communicating design ideas and concepts.

The Conceptual Design Environment: Where the Magic Happens!

Innovation dominates the future of virtually all manufacturing companies. Manufacturers that can stimulate innovation in product development—improving upon existing products while simultaneously pursuing new product ideas—will likely succeed, while those that are content with maintaining the status quo will probably go the way of the dinosaurs. There’s no room for complacency in a global economy where strong competitors and market-disrupting products can rapidly emerge from virtually any part of the world.

Facilitating innovation in product development requires a focus and commitment on conceptual design because that’s where innovation begins. Those magical “eureka” moments—when inspiration and creativity result in innovation—generally don’t occur when an engineer is adding detail features to a model, outputting drawings, or releasing designs to manufacturing. The same focus on modeling, evaluating, and outputting manufacturable designs from a practical production standpoint—which makes traditional CAD tools so useful for efficiently developing and making products—also limits their utility for conceptual design, which is where the innovation magic typically happens.

Manufacturers who understand the importance of innovation view conceptual design as the engine of growth and rely on their design engineers to keep the conceptual design pipeline full. However, design engineers who are tasked with transforming innovative ideas into potential product concepts have a different frame of reference than production-focused design engineers and require a more dedicated conceptual design approach. While traditional CAD tools satisfy most product development requirements, they do not sufficiently address the needs of conceptual designers.

Because inspiration comes from many places, conceptual designers need a means for gathering information from numerous sources, for collaborating with key stakeholders with varying points of view, and for establishing overall design requirements. They need to be able to quickly capture innovative concept ideas, explore a range of “what if” scenarios, and evaluate multiple design concepts. In short, conceptual designers need an instinctive single modeling environment.

Existing Challenges to Effective Conceptual Design

The greatest impediment to effective conceptual design is that it doesn’t get the attention and resources required to separate it from everyday product development processes. 3D CAD, simulation, and product data management solutions certainly pay dividends in terms of generating productivity gains in developing, optimizing, and manufacturing products. However, because these tools were designed to “develop” rather than “conceptualize”, they require production-related steps that are completely unrelated to what conceptual designers are ultimately trying to achieve, which is to create, communicate, and capture innovative concepts. This focus on production makes the use of traditional CAD tools for conceptual design both time consuming and cumbersome, leading to a lack of time for and concentration on the development of innovative concepts.

For example, how can a design engineer gather information, communicate with all stakeholders (including some that don’t utilize CAD tools), and then quickly incorporate stakeholder input into a single modeling environment that doesn’t carry the data overhead associated with creating parts and assemblies for production? How does the conceptual designer instinctively leverage his or her creativity and inventiveness when the traditional CAD data structure—with numerous links and references between parts, drawings, and assemblies—continually gets in the way? How do conceptual designers maintain their creative flow when they repeatedly must attend to tasks that are unrelated to concept development?

What conceptual designers desperately need is a “white board for the mind”, a platform where they can quickly model, share, test, modify, document, and save design concepts in an instinctive, intuitive way that’s removed from traditional CAD modeling approaches and unassociated with the downstream CAD concerns that are inherent to production-centric development. They require a single, unfettered modeling environment that is solely designed to focus their complete attention and creative talent on concept development, without the potential distractions and additional tasks involved with product development. This single modeling environment forms the basis of SOLIDWORKS Conceptual Designer.

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