Maximize Your Design’s First Impression

14 Oct, 2004 By: Adrian Scholes Cadalyst

Solid Edge Virtual Studio+ lets you to quickly simulate your products and their environment

Solid Edge Virtual Studio+ is an add-on application that lets you quickly and accurately simulate your products and their environment. Virtual Studio+ also incorporates the latest technologies for generating artistic-based renderings for more of a hand-drawn look, which is useful in the concept stages of a design.

Access Virtual Studio+
Activate Virtual Studio+ from within the standard Virtual Studio environment. If you have an active license for Virtual Studio+, you simply select the Virtual Studio+ command.

The Render Scene command initially renders the model in Photorealistic mode. Note that you can also use the Render Area command to render just a portion of the model, and that you can press to stop a rendering operation.

Apply and Edit Materials
Virtual Studio+ offers an extensive selection of predefined materials you can apply to individual or multiple components.

You can apply materials from the library using one of two approaches. First, with the Library tab active in EdgeBar (figure 1), expand the library settings tree. Click one of the nodes, such as Metals, find the material you want to use (notice the materials preview at the lower pane in the Pathfinder), and simply drag that material onto the part where you want to apply it.

You can also use the standard Select tool to choose one or a number of parts, and after locating a material in the library, right-click and choose Apply to Selected from the shortcut menu.

Figure 1. EdgeBar provides instant access to all Virtual Studio+ settings.

To edit the look of a material, right-click on its entry in the tree and select Edit Definition from the menu. You can use the Material Editor to control characteristics such as color, reflectance, highlight, ambient light effect, roughness, and diffuse light effects. You can also assign textures such as patterns, bumps, wrapped images, grids, stencils, and transparencies to specific materials.

Backgrounds and Foregrounds
Backgrounds can range from simple or graduated color schemes through to custom images, while a variety of foreground modes let you apply effects such as fog and snow.

You can modify backgrounds and foregrounds by dragging effects from the library or by directly editing the model. For example, you can change the background to a gradient using predefined settings from the library. Expand the Backgrounds folder, locate the background you wish to use, and drag it to the model's graphics window. The model automatically rerenders according to those settings. To edit a background, right-click on its entry and choose the Edit Definition option from the shortcut menu.

Foregrounds are just as easy to add and modify using the same steps.

Create Realistic Scenes
Adding surface colors, materials, textures, and transparencies helps evaluate prototypes and make design decisions. With Virtual Studio+, you can take your design proposals to the next level, creating realistic scenes to simulate the environment in which the product will be used (figure 2).

Figure 2. Quickly create realistic scenes such as this by choosing from a predefined list of bases and environments.

With the Library tab active in EdgeBar, expand the Scene folder. Use the preview in the lower pane to see the selected scene, and choose from options ranging from simple bases to complete rooms. Once again, you can change the look of a base, such as the scale, size, and reflectivity of a tread plate, by right-clicking over that entry in the tree and choosing Edit Definition from the menu.

For maximum realism, place your product inside a virtual room, which is an environment consisting of four walls, a top, and a base, or a cylinder with a top and a base. By applying custom images or materials to each wall of the environment, you can visualize exactly what the product will look like in the situation it will be used, including the effects of lights, reflections, and shadows.

To complete your scene, choose from the many interior, exterior, and colored light options. You can set the ambient lighting value, simulate the effects for natural sunlight, and add point, spot, or distant lighting. You can position spot and point lights anywhere in the scene, and you can control the intensity and luminescence drop-off.

You typically begin lighting studies by adjusting the intensity and color of the ambient light. To do this, expand the Lighting Studio node, locate the Ambient entry, and right-click to select Edit Definition. The Material Editor dialog box appears. Control each light using a shader. Using the Ambient light shader, you can change the intensity value by keying in a number, or the color by simply clicking the standard color block.

Different lighting types give you different options. Distant lights simulate a light source at an infinite distance from the model and create parallel light rays. These lights illuminate the entire model, and you can change values such as intensity, color, location, shadow type (hard or soft), and shadow quality. Spotlights offer additional parameters such as cone angle.

In addition to placing and editing specific lights, you can choose from numerous predefined lighting "studios." You can find these in the library under the Lighting Studio section as well. Drag them to the model's graphics area for immediate rendering to show the results.

Options for Early Stage Development
Solid Edge Virtual Studio+ lets you create industrial design-style renderings for early-stage visualization and concept reviews, making the image appear as if it were sketched by hand.

For an example of artistic rendering, right-click on the Render Mode option in EdgeBar, and select Edit Definition. From the rendering mode shader list, select Hand Drawn and render the model. You can use the same steps to adjust parameters such as the line width and curliness.

Figure 3. Artistic representations are useful for early concept reviews.

Try out each of the artistic options. These can be very useful for early concept reviews so the client understands you're still in a conceptual stage.

Complete the Picture
You can continue to finetune your images, controlling many different effects for more photorealism. Add transparent or semitransparent material shadows to convey, for example, when light passes through colored glass, add depth hue fading to simulate depth of field, and include light scattering to show light rays reflecting off dust or smoke in a room.

By interactively exploring various lighting conditions and viewing the product from different positions, you can get immediate, realistic feedback of what the final product will look like. You can even create animated views of your product designs using the standard Solid Edge Fly-Thru command with any of the available rendering options. Presenting your product ideas using animated video is a powerful addition to any design review, as well as to promotional materials.

Improved: Top and Bottom Line
Solid Edge Virtual Studio+ is more than just an image creation tool. Use it to give your customers the best first impression of a new design and improve your chances of winning new business. And, with more effective communication, you'll reduce product costs by reviewing designs before you build costly prototypes -- not to mention the higher quality sales and marketing materials you'll produce, and the maintenance documentation you can generate.

See you On the Edge next month.

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