When your fingers are slammed in a trunk or car door, you’ll experience a great, yet painful, appreciation for the tolerances that are built into the gaps. When your double mocha latte goes flying into the dash and you spend the weekend cleaning the crevices with Q-tips and your favorite soundtrack, even more so. There’s software that delivers the subtle detail our minds perceive and pass along to us in bursts of thought like, “I want to lick the side-panel of that Nissan 370Z.” One company making those outwardly-awkward thoughts happen is Icona Solutions and the new version of their flagship software is available today, with the long awaited release of Aesthetica V4.

Gap and flush measurements are created and acceptable targets defined for each gap and flush measurement.

What is Aesthetica?

While Aesthetica looks like a tool for inspection and simulation, it really falls into a category all its own. The main purpose of Aesthetica is to view the geometric variation that occurs in the manufacturing processes and see what effect it has on the aesthetics of a vehicle or product. It’s largely a conceptual stage software, but can be used along the path from design development to engineering and manufacturing. Throughout the process, the 3D model can be imported and then the assembly tolerances adjusted and alternatives tested in Aesthetica to resolve any issues in variation.

Aesthetica V4

The news coming out of Icona Solutions has been sparse over the past years. Aesthetica 3.3 was released in October 2010. Not much has been heard since then and for good reason. They’ve been working on a new version that brings in a new 3D visualization system, new geometry-based measurement tools and a completely new user interface.

The main direction Icona went with this new version is in speed of visualization. The visualization is in real time and interactive, meaning that if you move a component in the rendered model, the measurements update in real time. The rendering engine has been developed in-house by Icona and is based on OpenGL using nVidia shaders. While the software is designed to run on a modern CAD workstation, Icona recommends nVidia Quadra mid-to-upper range GPUs.

If you’re wondering how Aesthetica works with scanned data, it is not designed to measure scanned physical parts against the nominal CAD model. Again, Aesthetica falls in the genre of design/engineering support tools and not in engineering inspection tools.

Aesthetica V4 Pricing

The cost of Aesthitica is $28,300 (£17,500) which places it firmly within the budget of larger automotive and product development companies, no doubt. You can find find more details on Aesthetica at Icona Solutions.

Aesthetica automatically moves the parts to visualise the model at the extremes of the proposed gap and flush targets allowing assessment of the resulting perceived quality from the customer’s perspective.

Aesthetica analyses the build up of variation within the assembly, virtualises the results, instantly revealing all the issues that will affect the perceived quality of the assembled product

Aesthetica simulates the effect of component deformation during the assembly process –shown with special analysis shaders to highlight the displacement and stress within the component.

Press Release / Click to expand

Icona Solutions’ latest 3D ‘virtualisation’ software empowers concept and design teams in perceived quality decision-making

aesthetica Version 4 provides concept and design teams early, visual insight to the precise effects that manufacturing variation and materials flexibility will have on product aesthetics: enables perceived quality simulation and visualisation from concept to production.

Manchester, UK. 1 November, 2012. – Icona Solutions Ltd., developer of the innovative 3D ‘virtualisation’ software solution for perceived quality simulation and visualisation, aesthetica, has announced the availability of the latest version of the software.

aesthetica Version 4 addresses the high perceived quality aspirations of the automotive industry, as well as those of manufacturers of white goods, domestic appliances and personal electronic devices, etc. It builds on earlier versions of the software to enable and encourage a continuous cross-functional focus on perceived quality that is driven from concept design and styling, continues through engineering development and is delivered in manufacturing.

The latest version of the software enables a proactive approach to perceived quality that provides early insight to possible issues so that concept and design teams can deliver achievable requirements into the downstream design development and engineering processes.

It also introduces several advanced new features and functions. These include a new 3D visualisation system supporting high dynamic range (HDR) environments, lighting and shadows; a new, extended material library; a new, geometry-based measurement system; and a new graphical user interface (GUI) that significantly reduces model preparation time.

From concept onwards

Version 4 of aesthetica also acts as a precursor to the introduction of aesthetica for Concept Design. This will focus on the early concept design and styling phases of the design-to-manufacture process. For example, the software’s Target Study functions will allow worst-case combinations of proposed variation targets for all gap and flush conditions to quickly be generated, demonstrated visually and confirmed or refined accordingly. This insight enables the key decisions on perceived quality to be made early in the concept design stage.

“aesthetica users in the automotive industry, in particular, already identify cost savings many times greater than the original software and implementation costs, through fewer late design changes, fewer physical models and more right-first-time tooling,” said Tim Illingworth, chief executive, Icona Solutions Ltd. “The developments in aesthetica Version 4 are a direct result of feedback from our customers about their experiences and the ways in which they would like to further improve their perceived quality target-setting and validation processes.”

“Customers including Bentley Motors, GM/Opel and Nissan, among others, are constantly seeking new ways to improve the design processes required to achieve quality in manufacturing and several have worked closely with us in the specification of aesthetica Version 4,” Illingworth added. “We are therefore confident that this latest version will help concept, engineering, quality and manufacturing teams better appreciate and understand each other’s requirements and limitations and thereby reach agreement on tolerances and locator schemes much earlier in the design development process.”

New features build on existing

aesthetica Version 4 has been developed specifically to enable design and engineering teams, throughout the entire development process, to accurately visualise, in real time, the effects that geometric variation caused by manufacturing processes will have on the aesthetics of a new vehicle or product.

Among the new features introduced with aesthetica Version 4 are:

  • New 3D visualisation system: supports HDR (high dynamic range) environments, lighting and shadows and a new material library, with accurate car paint materials, including metallic and pearlescent finishes; glass with accurate reflection and refraction; bump-mapped materials with natural and technical grains; automatic depth-sorted object transparency; local and global/environment shadows; and an on-idle rendering mode to progressively improve anti-aliasing and global shadow quality.
  • New geometry-based measurement system: enables gap and flush to be defined relative to the CAD geometry within the section; point and point-to-point measurements; relative difference measurements that can be used to assess taper and parallelism; and closest point, to measure the minimum distance between two geometric objects (edges, surfaces or parts).
  • New user interface: a new, intuitive ribbon and context-sensitive menu system replaces the older-style menus and tool bars in previous versions. All functions for a specific perceived quality process activity are launched from the appropriate tab – Target, Tolerance, Review, Output – on the ribbon and most common functions are now immediately accessible through the context menus. Interacting with the 3D model is also easier and more intuitive, with selection and navigation performed directly on the 3D model without the need to switch interaction modes.

User benefits

With its new visualisation system, aesthetica Version 4 brings high-end 3D perceived quality simulation and visualisation to the design studio. This enables on-demand, real-time perceived quality reviews to be conducted without the need to book VR facilities in advance, saving time and enabling issues to be uncovered in the earliest stages of the development process. Nevertheless, when full-scale, virtual reality design reviews using fully ray-traced visualisations are required, aesthetica provides export interfaces to most of the popular high-end 3D design visualisation and VR systems.

The new measurement system introduced with aesthetica Version 4 provides a number of new capabilities and brings a new level of precision and visual clarity. It enables gap and flush plans to be developed and reviewed entirely within the aesthetica environment and then documented directly in Microsoft Powerpoint.

Efficiency and ease-of-use are improved through the new ‘ribbon’ user interface. Context sensitive menus enable the user to manipulate the model without needing to go back and forth between the ribbon and the model. This significantly speeds up the data preparation stage. Efficiency is further improved through the four tabs on the ribbon that deliver all the functions required for differing perceived quality studies, their review and their documentation.

Finally, a significant benefit of the developments in aesthetica Version 4 is that perceived quality studies and reviews require less time than with previous versions. In particular, model and data preparation time has been reduced by more than 50% compared with the previous version.


aesthetica Version 4 is available immediately through Icona Solutions’ world-wide network of distributors and value-added resellers. For information on their locations visit: www.iconasolutions.com

About Icona Solutions and aesthetica
Icona Solutions Ltd is a UK-based developer and provider of unique and innovative software solutions for helping manufacturing companies improve the perceived quality of their products.

The company’s flagship software solution, aesthetica, is 3D ‘virtualisation’ software that simulates and creates high-quality visualisations of the effects that geometric variation introduced during the manufacturing process will have on the aesthetics of the final product, from a customer’s perspective. aesthetica enables this geometric variation to be simulated on the evolving 3D CAD model of a vehicle or of consumer durable products such as white goods and personal electronic devices, as early as the concept design and styling phase of the product design and development process. This saves time and reduces costs.

Many of the world’s leading automotive OEMs, including Nissan, GM/Opel, Porsche, Bentley Motors, Chrysler, FIAT Automobiles and Great Wall Motor Company, are users of aesthetica, along with automotive design houses and manufacturers of commercial and heavy-duty vehicles.

aesthetica can form an integral part of a manufacturing company’s overall product lifecycle management (PLM) software environment and is supplied and supported through an expanding, global network of qualified, specialist resellers and engineering services providers. Icona Solutions is a member of Dassault Systèmes’ CAA V5 Adopters, Siemens PLM Software’s JT Open and Autodesk’s Developer Network programmes. Find out more at: www.iconasolutions.com


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.