3D modeling has completely changed the way that new products are designed and created in an array of industries. These tools offer so much more than older processes were ever capable of. Today, we’ll take a look at using 3D modeling for prototyping as well as some of its other prominent uses in various industries.
About 3D Modeling and How It Works
In the years before the widespread use of CAD and 3D modeling, drafting and design were tasks that had to be completed by hand. The mechanical engineering services who took care of this work were very skilled, but the nature of the process meant that it was far from flawless and inconsistencies could also be a problem.
While CAD development actually goes back earlier than many are aware of, the 1980s and 1990s brought some of the most significant changes here. Once basic CAD was widespread, CAD software with full 3D capacity was quick to follow.
So, before 3D modeling and 3D CAD systems, flat 2D CAD was the working standard. The main difference between 3D and 2D CAD systems is that 3D systems can create 3D models. The best you can do with a 2D system is to make a traditional multi-view drawing with something like top, front, and right side views.
The modern 3D CAD systems on the market today make true 3D models. These can be single parts or entire products made of multiple assemblies. Software like this is so accurate that it can actually animate the mechanics of an assembly.
The process of creating a 3D model is fairly similar to making a 2D CAD drawing. An engineer or 3D modeling design service starts by creating lines or points where appropriate. Once the desired profile has been created, it can be made into a solid 3D model with these programs by using the correct command or defining additional data. Modern 3D CAD software makes the process of creating and editing 3D models quick and easy. Those who are trained and experienced with these programs can do some truly impressive work.
As for prototyping, it used to be a very costly and time-consuming process when working with physical models. First, you would have to come up with the design of course. Once the design looked satisfactory, then you would either build the prototype yourself or outsource this part of the process. After the prototype is made, then it needs to be closely examined to look for ways it could be improved. However, that was before the widespread use and availability of 3D modeling.
Benefits of 3D Modeling in Various Forms
All forms of media based on 3D models offer their own advantages. 3D modeling and variations of it are widely used today because of the range and degree of their benefits. Below are some benefits that tend to apply to most, if not all, variations.
One of the most significant advantages of prototyping with a 3D product modeling service is the incredible speed that this process offers. Compared to traditional prototyping, which could take weeks, months, or sometimes longer, a 3D prototype can be created in much less time. If you know what you’re looking for and you can communicate with an engineer effectively, a 3D model of the prototype can be created in less than a single day at times.
This drastic difference in the speed of the process applies to later stages of prototyping as well. Sure it helps when creating the first version of the prototype, but it also offers a significant advantage when you want to implement changes in the design. Changes can be made to the 3D model multiple times very quickly instead of starting the clock all over again like with traditional prototyping.
Creating a physical prototype is a necessary part of the product development process, but it’s something you only want to do once per product if at all possible. In addition to taking less time to create than physical prototypes, 3D models and 3D prototypes also offer very substantial savings.
When it’s time to make a physical prototype, it could easily cost thousands of dollars or more because of the skilled prototype design service that’s involved, along with materials and other necessary expenses.
If you choose to do the majority of your prototyping with 3D models, then these savings will add up, especially if multiple versions of the prototype are created before settling on a final design.
Creating a new prototype may cost thousands of dollars for each version or copy. Compare this to simply being able to edit a 3D model while paying a single professional by the hour. The savings can be tremendous.
It’s tough to argue with the quality of an accurate 3D model. There’s no room for mistakes when working with a manufacturing service. If the size is off, it can be changed in a matter of seconds in most cases.
This impeccable level of accuracy is a huge advantage over prototyping with only physical models. When you’re dealing with physical prototypes, there’s room for human error everywhere. Since it’s a physical object now, if mistakes happen, then most of them cannot be corrected. They can be ignored, but at that point, are you still able to evaluate the prototype with an acceptable degree of accuracy?
These issues are avoided when prototyping with 3D models. If the design calls for a cylinder with a diameter of precisely 3.0625”, then you can create it at that exact size and see how it interacts with the rest of the parts in the assembly.
Number of Prototypes
When creating a prototype for sneakers, regardless of the approach taken, it’s expected that the first version of the prototype will probably not be perfect. It’s actually improbable that it will be. That’s exactly why iterative design and prototyping exists.
The iterative process is cyclical and works through a series of steps for each generation of the design or prototype. Now, if you’re working strictly with physical prototypes, then the number of prototypes you need will be a significant factor in the cost of the project. This is true whether you’re talking about multiple copies of the same iteration or just a large number of iterations.
If you need a large number of copies, then that’s not a problem when prototyping with 3D models. It’s not much extra work to send the file to all the people who need to see it. As for iterations and design changes with a 3D model, these are much easier to implement than with a physical model as well.
Multiple Uses and Purposes
It should also be noted that 3D models are not strictly for designing and prototyping. They can effectively be an end product on their own for some purposes. The best example of this is when it comes to marketing. Are you going to wait until the first full-scale run of your product is complete to start promoting it? If not, then promoting with images of 3D models would be a wise and effective solution.
Many types and variations of 3D models are used for marketing. Basic still images of 3D models and high-quality 3D renderings are often sent to online retailers and distributors so that the product can be presented accurately and in a favorable light.
3D animations are a popular and effective choice here as well. These clips can provide unique perspectives that may even go beyond what a potential customer would see if they were examining the finished product in person.
How 3D Modeling is Used Today to Save Money and Increase Sales
3D modeling and associated tools have an impressive number of uses in many industries. They can be used at many stages of the product cycle and for numerous purposes. Here, we’ll take an in-depth look at what some of these uses are and why they are being favored over older methods.
3D Modeling in Design
Among professional engineers and CAD design services, 3D models are the tool of choice for creating new designs. They are versatile, easy to work with, and can be changed very easily.
They also offer an exceptional level of accuracy. This is more visible when working with more complicated designs such as assemblies and complete products that have multiple moving parts.
For example, let’s say that you already have a mechanical product that is selling, but you want to re-design an assembly within the product that drives one of its primary functions. By using a 3D modeling design service, you can manipulate factors like the size of each component along with things like the location of each piece and even the way that things fit with each other.
This is a massive advantage because it makes impractical and ineffective ideas immediately visible. If there is something like an interference issue or an incompatibility between the sizes of two parts in the assembly, it can be caught and corrected quickly.
Prototyping with 3D models is just as effective as prototyping with physical models for many stages of the process. Creating a 3D model of the first iteration of the prototype will allow you to see just as much on the computer screen as you would if you had a physical model in your hand.
Since the prototyping process often involves multiple types and generations of prototypes, this is often a very large expense when developing a new product. The cost of creating a physical prototype for every generation of the design really adds up. Now compare this to just making a few clicks in a CAD program and you can see how much faster and cost-efficient prototyping with 3D models is.
Problems that may have taken weeks or months to see can be found in a matter of days, hours, or even immediately. This can drastically reduce the overall time it takes to bring an idea from concept to marketable finished product. Between the savings in time and costs, many companies are quick to adopt the process of rapid prototyping services.
Testing with 3D Models
Whether they’re familiar with design and civil engineering or not, many people know that 3D models can be created with stunning ease and accuracy. However, what those outside the design field may not know is that 3D models can actually be tested for function from a mechanical standpoint.
This is where complex 3D models like assemblies come into the picture. If you aren’t familiar with what an assembly is, it’s a single file that includes multiple components precisely as they will fit together in the physical world. A single 3D assembly in a powerful modern CAD program could consist of a tremendous number of individual parts. Assemblies like these take a significant amount of time for the design for assembly service or engineer to create, but these can test the mechanical abilities of the design.
By utilizing 3D models and 3D assemblies, issues such as interference and clearance can be checked with actual motion. Sometimes part size needs to be adjusted; other times, it may be an issue caused by location. Either way, testing with 3D models allows problems like these and more to be found and corrected before any work is ever put into the first physical model.
Getting Feedback before Physical Prototypes
3D models are also being utilized as a means to gather feedback earlier in the product development process. Prototyping and product development is already a risky venture due to the associated costs, time, and likelihood of success. However, 3D modeling is being used to reduce the risk and expense at more than one stage of the process.
Unlike physical prototypes, it’s very easy to distribute copies of a 3D model. This could be in the form of still 3D renderings, 3D animations, or even copies of the 3D model itself. All of these can be created with a high enough level of accuracy and realism to portray the product adequately to decision-makers or research groups.
By using these tools, feedback can even be collected from the general public by incorporating social media. If a product is nearing the final stages of the design, but the development team is split on a decision or feature, then an animation showing both possibilities could be shown to the public to gather feedback and see which will receive a better response. This not only cuts prototyping costs but also allows for some very valuable insight into the market for the product and what demand may look like.
Reduce Overall Prototyping and Development Costs
In many cases, it takes a significant budget to conceive and develop a new product successfully. Relying on 3D models for as much of the process as possible can cut both the associated time and costs by an impressive margin.
Let’s compare these approaches directly. When prototyping with traditional methods, the process looks something like design, build, test, evaluate, and then go back to the design stage if necessary. Now, it’s important to remember that whether using 3D or physical models, the same process applies.
However, this process will likely cost thousands of dollars and take weeks or months when only physical prototypes are used. The same results could be achieved with far less cost by using 3D models, and likely in a matter of weeks or perhaps even less.
There’s another element to the cost difference though. When changes are necessary and a traditional approach is being utilized, you may effectively double the cost of the project to get from the first-generation prototype to the second generation prototype. If the work was being done with 3D models, then the additional cost would likely be negligible. It may even be as low as a few hundred dollars as opposed to the extra thousands for a new round of physical prototyping. The difference in cost is quite steep, especially as you move through iterations.
When it’s time to make the first physical prototype, 3D models can be used to 3D print the object. This process is much quicker than traditional means such as machining. The combination of 3D modeling and 3D printing is responsible for much of the speed behind rapid prototyping.
3D models and similar tools see plenty of use during the prototyping and design stages of a new product. This is far from their only use though. During the prototyping and design stages, they are primarily used to cut costs and save money. These tools can also be used to help generate sales in some potent ways.
Did you know that 3D models can be used to create high-quality 3D renderings and 3D animations? These renderings and animations can easily be completed before the first piece has even been manufactured. This type of media is a useful option for marketing because products can be shown in ideal conditions. There aren’t any creative limits here either.
If you can think of it and you can find a product design service with the skill to bring your idea to life, then you can have the exact 3D animation you want to promote your product. Animations and renderings can open up additional marketing channels as well. Video formats are taking over, especially online.
Building Customer Interaction
While 3D animations and 3D renderings can be visually stunning and present your products in a way that’s superior to photography, they also help to build customer interaction.
In today’s online marketplace, video and interactive features help your products stand out to potential customers. 3D animations and 3D renderings can take care of both. Visitors can interact with them to change the view, zoom in, and look at the parts of the product that they want to see. These interactive features keep visitors on the page longer, and they also can provide the answers to specific questions that they may have.
Since it’s not necessary for your product to exist in physical reality to create a high-quality 3D model or rendering, you can also begin selling before the product has actually been manufactured. There’s nothing like a substantial backlog to keep teams motivated.
Another way that this can be applied is to gauge interest while also turning a profit. Pre-sales with materials showing 3D models also provide direct insight into what future sales may look like for the product. This could be useful for simply creating projections, or it may be something more involved like weeding out optional features so that only market favorites are offered in the future.
There are more companies operating with remote and virtual teams today than ever before. In situations like this, getting physical prototypes to everyone within the company who may need to see them could be a severe challenge logistically. It’s even worse when deadlines are tight and something inevitably goes awry.
With 3D prototypes, all of this hassle can be avoided. As long as everyone has a version of the file that they can view, then everyone is on the same page about the current prototype. This creates an opportunity for clear communication so that progress can be made in an efficient manner.
Beginner Tips for 3D Modeling Projects
The sheer amount of possibilities and creative options that come with 3D modeling and its various forms can be overwhelming. Below you will find a few quick tips to help make the process a little less intimidating.
3D Modeling Ideas
The most significant opportunity to save money by utilizing 3D modeling is during the design and prototyping process. The savings can be very substantial on the front end. What some may not realize is that some of these savings can carry over into marketing when the time comes. If presentation worthy 3D models of the product are already available from design and prototyping, they can easily be used to create marketing materials like renderings and animations.
If efficiency is really a priority, utilize 3D models as much as possible. They will save time and money over traditional methods during design, prototyping, and marketing.
Marketing with 3D Models
When marketing with 3D renderings and 3D animations, go all out. These methods are already more affordable than many others when you’re working from existing 3D models. Get creative and remember to incorporate features that allow potential customers to interact with the media. Whether it’s just zooming in and spinning the product or showing all available color options, don’t cut corners. Give your product the best presentation possible.
Remember to investigate the additional marketing channels that are available as well. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook have excellent systems for video advertising.
As far as what to make, 3D animations are a great choice for many marketing purposes. Still, 3D renderings are also excellent for showing product quality and basic features.
Working with Freelance 3D Designers
You’re probably going to need the help of an experienced 3D designer or freelance engineering design service to utilize these tools efficiently. In any case, it’s a smart move to have one involved so that you can draw from their experience. They’ll be able to make the process as smooth as possible for you.
Also, when working with a freelance professional communication is key. Be clear about what you are looking for. If you expect to have a high number of changes during the course of the project, then be upfront about that. Let them know about your needs for the project. This will help you to find the most appropriate professional for your situation.
Is 3D modeling too advanced for my project?
There’s no such thing really. Even very simple products can benefit from 3D modeling because of the flexibility it creates. You’ll have more choices at the prototyping stage and showing your model to any others who are involved will be a breeze.
My product is already in production. Would I still benefit from some 3D modeling now?
You certainly could. It would open up more options as far as marketing and design modifications. Even with an existing product that is already selling, you may be able to save money on marketing by moving towards 3D modeling. For example, marketing material made from 3D models tends to be more affordable than some other types.
I have a tight budget for my project, is 3D modeling still something I should look into?
You should definitely get a quote or two. There’s a good chance that you can minimize your costs without compromising the quality of the finished product by taking advantage of 3D modeling.
Ready to Start Using 3D Models for Prototyping and Other Purposes?
If you’re ready to take advantage of 3D modeling technology for prototyping, design, and marketing, then you’re going to need professional help. There are plenty of highly skilled 3D designers and engineers who may be a good fit for your project, although finding the right one can be a challenge.
Here at Cad Crowd, we can help make this process easier. In addition to only permitting freelance designers and engineers who are vetted and experienced, we have standard procedures in place to protect your interests. You can hire an experienced freelance 3D designer at CAD Crowd confidentially.
Your project will be protected by a non-disclosure agreement. If you’re worried about intellectual property rights, we have you covered there are well. All of the intellectual property rights stay with you.
Getting your 3D modeling project started is easy. To take the first step, just get a free quote.