Conceptual Design

Conceptual Design Software Tools

22 May, 2014 By: Sanjeev Pal

Cadalyst Labs Report: Whether it's a bridge or a ball joint, every design must be roughed out before designers can tackle the details — but a growing group of digital options is making that process a little smoother.

How It Works

Before the process of detailing a product or structure design can begin, project collaborators must determine its shape, form, and aesthetics; they must create the conceptual design. Conceptual design software supports this process, fostering creativity by enabling users to try out shapes, curves, fillets, surfaces, or colors that would be constrained in detailed CAD design due to complexity or cost to produce.

"The key is the free­dom to explore new con­cepts, and [the] software allows ideas to flow," said Mark Dodd, head of Group Research at GP Acoustics. Dodd uses the conceptual design tools within Siemens PLM Software's NX software to explore various design concepts for KEF brand loudspeakers. "[It enables] the user to check out possi­bilities with speed and ease," he continued.

Conceptual design software tools offer a broad range of functionality, from simple digital sketching and automated design iteration to social tools that facilitate collaboration and behavior modeling that helps designers predict whether a design will move and function as desired.

Mobile options. With touch or stylus-based tablets and powerful, mobile phones, designers can start a design anywhere, then place it on a background photograph taken by the device's camera or from saved images. This feature is especially applicable in the AEC domain, where architects are better able to visualize ideas in context at the earliest stages of design.

Cloud technology enables designers to access designs from any location with an Internet connection, and to share their work with project stakeholders within and beyond the enterprise. The union of cloud and social computing has improved collaboration, decision making, and idea sourcing.

Application areas. Conceptual design software has a multitude of uses, from mechanical and industrial design to architecture and interior design, graphic arts, and other creative endeavors. In general terms, designers call on it to support the following types of tasks:

  • Design development focuses on incorporating requirements and specifications into the conceptual design and easily converting it to the next stage of design;
  • Generating new ideas or adapting existing ideas for launch into new markets. In the AEC industry, the growth of smart or sustainably designed buildings is an example of how conceptual design has been used to support innovation;
  • Capturing strategic vision and saving those ideas for future development or research purposes. A concept car developer, for example, might capture ideas that are not yet ready for production but could move into mainstream use in the future, such as self-driving cars and collision avoidance systems; and
  • Creating design visualizations and marketing collateral based on conceptual designs, allowing marketers and salespeople to communicate with customers and clients before a project is complete — even before a bid is approved.

Plant designers use conceptual design software, such as Bentley PlantWise, to evaluate various layouts of piping and machinery for process plants.

Designing KOR Hydration Vessels

There is not much one can change when designing a humble product such as a water bottle — right? RKS Design took the challenge to make a simple water bottle into a vessel that not only looks like a piece of art, but is also environmentally friendly and can be operated with one hand without losing the cap.

KOR Hydration Vessels

The RKS design team used PTC's Creo Direct to generate multiple design ideas at the conceptual design phase. Although the iterative process could have been performed with pen and paper for such a simple product, that approach would not have afforded designers the same opportunities to collaborate with stakeholders, an important factor in producing the appealing final designs. RKS designers achieved a more innovative end result by concentrating on the conceptual design process and using software that provides much more flexibility than sketching on paper.

KOR Hydration Vessels
Images courtesy of KOR.

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About the Author: Sanjeev Pal

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Re: Conceptual Design Software Tools
by: Direct CAD Guy
June 3, 2014 - 10:28am
Sanjeev covers the broad top well. But concerning moving from conceptual to detailed design, there is one point that I see very differently. If you are using a Direct CAD modeler like KeyCreator Direct CAD or one of the others Direct modelers mentioned, there is no need to import your model into another (hisotry-based) software. The CAD design with all of the exact tolerances can be completed within Direct CAD. The fact that the history-based modelers are now getting religion on Direct CAD proves the utility of Direct CAD, not just as a conceptual modeler, but as a complete design to manufacturing tool which in some cases includes full Analysis/Simulation, CAD Comparison and NC programming functionality.
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