thinkiD v2007 (Cadalyst Labs Review)

22 Oct, 2007 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth

This lower-priced solution from think3 is a highly recommended alternative to the usual choice for industrial design.

Highly RecommendedOkay, so you want to do product design. More accurately, you want to do industrial design. What do you do first? I have found that the answer to that depends on how old you are. At the risk of sounding like an obsolete geezer, those in my generation pick up a pencil (or marker) and paper and start sketching by hand. Those a bit younger hop on the computer and fire up Autodesk AliasStudio. But there is a third option: thinkiD v2007. Never heard of it, you say? Read on.

The Meat
Industrial design software has always been dominated by AliasStudio -- and for good reason. It's good software. But it's not cheap. Over the years, people have begun turning to other, lower-priced Scorecardalternatives, such as McNeel's Rhino, Autodesk 3ds Max, and even SolidWorks. Add thinkiD v2007 to that list.

One of the first things I noticed about thinkiD v2007 is that it can model solids. AliasStudio doesn't do solids. Why is that a big deal? Because it can get fiendishly tedious when you're creating and then trimming each surface to build up the model you want. When I was new to AliasStudio, I was modeling a computer mouse and had to extrude and trim the side surfaces. Then I had to do the same for the top. Then I had to add blends between them and trim everything to match. In a solids-modeling system like thinkiD v2007, I would only have had to extrude the solid, modify the top, and add a blend. It would've been so much easier and so much quicker. thinkiD v2007 makes no distinction between solids and surfaces, or skins, as think3 calls them. They are the same, except that a surface encloses no volume. What you can do to a solid, you also can do to a surface and vice versa. It opens up a lot of possibilities.

Click for larger image Figure 1. thinkiD v2007 keeps track of what you are doing on screen. Because it has no window, it seems to take up less space in the graphics window. (Click image for larger version)
One of the most intimidating things an artist or author can face is a blank page. When you launch thinkiD v2007, you get a wide-open field on which to work. The interface is surprisingly sparse. think3 did that for a reason. The developers wanted to give you as much modeling space as possible. The commands are hidden away in a simple icon bar across the top. When you start to work, things cascade down the left side of your screen (figure 1). It's simple, uncluttered, and elegant. Can you tell I liked it?

With thinkiD v2007, you can fully customize the user interface -- drag stuff, turn stuff on or off, etc. Then you can save the customized interface in a different file. You can name the file whatever you want -- even your own name. Each user can have his or her own setup. The menu for the right mouse button is user customizable as well. You can set it up to include what you need most. The middle mouse button also is customizable, but not by users. It must be done by think3. Tell the company what you want, and it will program a file that you can download. The middle mouse button is context sensitive, so you only get choices that make sense depending on what you're doing. It will help you work more easily and quickly. It also has a lot of hot keys: H is hide, F8 is plane view, F is fit, and Z is zoom. You get the idea.

A good modeling package usually offers two or three ways to get the same results. thinkiD v2007 does just that. The more ways you can do things, the more flexible you can be. If one method doesn't give you the results you want, you have alternatives -- always a good thing.

Click for larger image Figure 2. Using the Associative Global Sweep command, you can sweep geometry along and around any path you want to define -- even around sharp corners. (Click image for larger version)
You create thinkiD models on the work plane. That way you are grounded and know what to expect. And thinkiD v2007 has some pretty wild modeling capabilities. I really like the Associative Global Sweep. This function allows you to sweep a profile along a user-defined path that can even include sharp corners (figure 2). It will let you experiment with your design by changing your curves and boundaries. The lasso select is great! Just lasso what you want, and it's selected. Yee-haw!

think3 was one of the first companies to use global shape modeling (GSM). Of all the capabilities this program has to offer, I think this feature might be the most powerful -- and the most fun. GSM allows you to bend and twist and otherwise deform your model in any way you can imagine -- all without losing your parameters (figure 3). (If you make flexible parts, your eyes should be lighting up right about now!) You build your mathematically perfect model and make it perform like a sideshow dog act. It's amazing! You can morph your entire model and still preserve its edges to maintain surface continuity. That's big stuff, trust me.

Figure 3. Global shape modeling allows you to make wholesale changes to your model without having to worry about messing up your parameters. They are a feature right on top of the models. Here, a fender is altered to incorporate a flare.

How many times have you gotten far, far down the road in your model only to find it needs to change? Instead of going back to the beginning and hoping you can get there from here, GSM lets you make those changes to the model globally. Say, for instance, you have a sweep profile that is a standard. You want to use it, but you need to alter how it's used. GSM allows you to do that. You create geometry that represents what you want to do to your model, then apply it to the model. Your model will happily jump through whatever hoops you've set out. I like this capability.

New for 2007 is a welding management system and a sheet metal wizard. The new Rake Sweep command is very much like a virtual palette knife. It's used with a haptic device that provides tactile feedback. That means when your cursor touches the 3D model, the input device becomes more difficult to push. It feels surprisingly like the model. I've used these things before, and weird as they are, they're also just plain neat! It's a unique way to work on Class A surfaces. The new Free Hand Curves on Surface tool lets you sketch curves directly on whatever surfaces or solid faces you've selected. It's quick and easy.

And the Potatoes

Click for larger image Figure 4. Online training for thinkiD is very good. You have access to anything you want to know -- and you can take it with you by downloading a chapter. (Click image for larger version)
think3 handles training in a number of ways. You can attend classroom training, but you can also access thinkiD training online. New users can learn from videos galore. One great advantage: You can download each lesson and take it with you wherever you go (figure 4). If you want to check out the thinkiD v2007 software, you can download install it without a license. It's the full install with everything active -- you just can't save what you do. It's for trial and learning only. If you need to travel, you can export your software license to a think3 online server and access it from anywhere. Student versions are available by annual subscription.

think3 has a free 2D drafting product you can download. It has a nice assortment of capabilities and is a standalone, so you don't have to buy anything else to make use of it. The photorealistic rendering is remarkable, as would be expected of an industrial design product.

A Square Meal
If you do industrial design and want a great alternative to the industry-standard AliasStudio, think3's thinkiD v2007 is definitely worth a try. For more information, visit the think3 Web site. Highly Recommended

About the Author: IDSA

About the Author: Mike Hudspeth

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