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SolidWorks Doesn’t Do Trains, Planes and Automobiles

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This is a story from Mark Biasotti on his journey of advanced surface modeling in SolidWorks, from a Senior Industrial Designer at IDEO to a Senior Product Manager at Dassault SolidWorks. SolidWorks Doesn’t Do Trains, Planes and Automobiles originally appeared on the SolidWorks forum. Republished with permission.

Back in the fall of 2002, while working for IDEO, I had an idea to see how far I could take SolidWorks 2003 Beta (SolidWorks’ first multi-body version) and I conceived of an idea to create the Aston Martin Vanquish V12 that was featured in the latest James Bond movie Die another Day. The SolidWorks car model was introduced to the SolidWorks community at SWW2003 in Orlando, FL in the form of a short movie (using Lightwave3D) I created and produced wryly named “Kill another CAD”.

After that exercise, I was drained and vowed that I would not again approach such an exercise for the sake of my sanity (and my marriage) but it did prove to be somewhat of sweet revenge having remember the conversion I had with Mike Payne a few years earlier. You see, I visited the SolidWorks office in Concord in the late 90′s and was trying to make a case for the potential of SolidWorks to become a product design tool (at that time Alias and Pro/E were dominant.) I can still remember Mike’s response, in his distinctive Brit accent “Marrrk, we don’t do Trains, Planes and Automobiles!”

Now Mike was, and still is, correct that SolidWorks is not a Class A modeler but my point was that consumer product design needed many of the capabilities that were only available in high-end surfacing packages at the time and SolidWorks needed to be augmented with a fair number of those capabilities if it were going to succeed in capturing Industrial Designers and product designers alike – and uh… also show Mike a car executed in SolidWorks.

It has now been approximately 10 years since my first automobile attempt in SolidWorks and since then there have been some tremendous examples of others in the SolidWorks community that have gone on to do to fantastic car modeling with more recent versions (thinking of Matthew Parez and Alex Worsfold.) Well, I got the bug again about a year ago when I needed to dig into some research on advanced modeling. I was curious at how SW2012/2013 would compare to my SW2003 beta experience when trying to uncompromisingly recreate an existing manufactured automobile body.

solidworks-biasotti-01-tnImpetuously, I decided to go all the way and simply pick my favorite car design of the last decade. For me that would have to be the Porsche Carrera GT manufactured between 2004 and 2007 at a cost of $445K USD. Only 1270 were produced with only 604 entering the US. This 2 door convertible can go 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds due to its hefty 5.7L V10 2xDOHC 612 HP engine. Having only seen it once in person, this is a gorgeous automobile which captures the classic essence of Porsche brand design signature. I obviously set the bar pretty high for myself and worse yet, a convertible, which meant not stopping at just the exterior body design.

solidworks-biasotti-02-tnI set out in the fall of 2011 to collect as many hi-res internet photos as I could. Like the Vanquish, I also aquired a 1/18th diecast scale model purchased online at scalecars.com but unlike in 2002 I afforded the luxury of scanning the model using my NextEngine desktop scanner and then importing the mesh directly into SolidWorks to use against as reference. Armed with the scanned mesh and numerous sketch pictures as reference, I set out to build up the design. On and off over the next year I would slowly complete my vision.

Finally, this last December, I had pretty much finished my design. What resulted was a 2450 feature multi-body master model, an independent master model for the wheel assembly (configured for a 19 inch front and 20 inch rear rim) as well as separate model files for the seat and steering wheel built using the beta version of Integrityware’s Power Surfacing add-in for SolidWorks (Sub-D modeling.) All told, close to 2800 features.

solidworks-biasotti-03-tnNow I have to say to my fellow SolidWorks advanced modelers, unequivocally, once you pass the 1500 feature mark, there is what I call “a parametric point of no return” especially so when creating advanced surface features. In other words, the time it takes to rebuild (robustly) 1500 features is not efficient compared to creating new features to supersede the existing design intent – i.e. Whack and hack your model with whatever is necessary at that point in the history tree to get your job done. With that said, I was able to at times venture back to the top of my tree when it was totaled about 2000 features and successfully rebuild my entire model, but usually not without some unforeseen influence on a child feature/s that I had to correct. Building the Seat and steering wheel this past fall using Power Surfacing was a refreshing change and with far fewer features as compared to the 2400 feature car body file. I have to say that Sub-D modeling for objects like these really saves time and puts the word “fun” back into modeling.

The Porsche Carrera GT model has been and an invaluable experience for me to insure that I say close to the SolidWorks issues and modeling experience that many of you face daily in your production environments. My hope is that it will serve, along with the existing vast collection of customer models, as an important benchmark for our development team to analyze as we strive to continue to improve our advanced modeling capabilities and robustness.

Rendered images using PhotoView 360 (click to enlarge)
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Rendered images using Modo 601 and the Moofe Urban Kit (click to enlarge)
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Editors note: In the article, Mark mentioned Integrityware’s Power Surfacing plugin for SolidWorks. This plugin will be released at SolidWorks World 2013. Stay tuned for upcoming coverage of the conference and more on this new plugin for SolidWorks.

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About Josh Mings

Josh is co-founder of EvD Media. He engineers and designs, is the Marketing Manager for Luxion, is a CSWP certified for SolidWorks training and support and excels at falling awkwardly. He is editor of SolidSmack.com and co-host of EngineerVsDesigner.com, a weekly podcast about design, engineering and what makes it all happen.

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  • Jaroslav

    This is great. So we dont have to be woried about T-splines for SW from Autodesk now. I would be happy to see zebra stripes anyway ;)

  • http://twitter.com/DevonSowell DevonSowell

    My hat’s off to Mark Biasotti, probably one of the top 5 SolidWorks Surfacers in the world.

    However, his post just emphasizes how difficult the project was using SolidWorks. i.e. “All told, close to 2800 features.”, “In other words, the time it takes to rebuild (robustly) 1500 features is not efficient”, “With that said, I was able to at times venture back to the top of my tree when it was totaled about 2000 features and successfully rebuild my entire model, but usually not without some unforeseen influence on a child feature/s that I had to correct”

    Again, it’s a beautiful rendering, but is it a production ready file? And is it cost effective as a design tool at approximately $75.00-$100.00 per hour? If so, great. If not, that’s one expensive rendering.

    Cheers, Devon Sowell

  • Mark

    Hi Devon,
    The title of my blog says it all – and with that, I think we are in agreement. :-)

  • http://www.rickyjordan.com Ricky Jordan

    Really enjoyed this article. I remember the unveiling of the Vanquish video at SWW03. (That was actually my FIRST SolidWorks World!) I was totally blown away when I saw that model was built completely in SW2003!

    Mark – I can’t say enough how much we as SolidWorks users appreciate all your contributions to the product over the years.

    Ricky

    P.S. – You’ve still got “the touch”. :-) That Porsche model is AWESOME!

  • AugustineThomas

    Really beautiful work! I’m still trying to build a box though, so good job making me feel like an incapable moron! :)

  • Bandhit Junior

    can anyone told me, what is this mean “a folder with lock icon”, and how to create it ?
    btw, great job Josh :)

  • Josh M

    Hi, yes, that is the ‘Feature Freeze’ icon. This keep those features from rebuilding. Enable it in the General System options, then drag it to the level in the Feature Manager where you want to keep features from rebuilding.