Bridging the gap between design and engineering

25 January 2009

The non-creative engineer is useless and the non-analytical designer is incapable, you hear them argue. But as 3D bridges the gap between design and engineering the focus is shifting away from the creator and towards the content itself, writes Josh Mings

The argument reeks of contempt. My design creates your engineering. No, my engineering creates your design. It’s a slap-down, drag-out breezeway brawl between black sweater and bifocal stereotypes. The fact is there’s an energy that is changing the process of design and engineering, as well as the link between them - a 3D symbiote wrapping itself around the embattled systems of form and function. The facilities of Design and Engineering are combining, but in ways that will crush adversarial roles of what each have become. The technology is here. It’s time. Let the melee begin..

Marshal McLuhan, literary educator and communications theorist, said it best. “The medium is the message.” He understood how media could affect different segments of society; how every bit of an idea can be described and built by the light that emanates from it. For too long however, in Engineering and Design, the focus has been on the creator of the content.

The non-creative engineer is useless. The non-analytical designer is incapable. Shadowy profiles of half-finished ideas litter the horizon of two disciplines controlled by decaying mindsets. All because the other simply doesn’t have what it takes. This common view people in the two fields have about the other festers… until one thing is realised. 3D, the medium, is making their job obsolete. That’s a phrase not easily accepted by either side. It levels conforming ideas and takes misconstrued focus off the other. It’s unspoken and at the same time understood. From renderings to analysis, 3D in the hands of the right person can make any amount of specialised training obsolete.

You could argue and throw rocks at that all day, but you don’t have to. What’s actually causing such a disturbing shift in the technical ether is how firms in design and engineering are working together, improving upon iterations and even consolidating the entire product completion process. The designer and engineer may be the same person. An engineer and designer may be team members. Regardless, the process potentially involves everyone from marketing to manufacturing - all of it enhanced through 3D-generated geometry. It’s an onslaught of production-ready possibilities advancing how firms attack a competitive marketplace. 3D is bridging the gap between Design and Engineering to allow companies to compete.

What’s actually causing such a disturbing shift in the technical ether is how firms in design and engineering are working together, improving upon iterations and even consolidating the entire product completion process

Companies are not alone. Individuals have the same potential. It doesn’t matter if you are an Industrial Designer or Mechanical Engineer. 3D is providing advantages for both disciplines; for different people in those disciplines. But again, what’s extremely powerful, is how the same tools are being used by each to explore possibilities and collaborate with the other. It goes beyond coursework, portfolios and gear ratios. It’s the importance of that knowledge being applied with a 3-dimensional weapon of iterative design built on the talent and interest of an individual. 3D joins common aspects of both branches of knowledge - aesthetics, functionality, and manufacturability - all compounded by an immeasurable attention to detail. These three things are the triune characteristics of what Design and Engineering are focused upon in the realm of 3D. They connect two distinct areas that have always complemented the other.

Initially, products may begin as explosive flashes inking and forming their way into prototyped existence by the hands of mindful designers and determined engineers. 3D may be the beginning of these ideas, refinement of the details or anything in between. In all cases, 3D builds the form of an object incorporating as little or as much detail necessary to visualize what the creator intends. It allows the person to explore how models works in context of their environment with scale and depth captured within the boundaries of a workstation’s monitor. Eventually, the model is proven. Material is put into possibilities, analysis is performed and structured within manufacturing requirements. All the focus is taken away from the person, even from the final product. The key factor is the technology being used to create that final product and how this technology manipulates the ability of those who are creating.

The peaceful outcome of engineers and designers vying for superiority, in industries increasingly showing their talents equal, is the desire to create solutions. Designs in 3D are a measure of strength above what has ever been used previously. Renderings impact. The analysis is done without prototypes and every model iteration advances the possibilities of actual end product. Whether 3D is used throughout the concept of an idea or after, the world is being discovered through it. New ideas in are explored every day. It’s a mechanized creature escaping from the depths of design practices from eras gone by, transforming into the combined power of creativity and analysis. A creature being consummated from the unbridled fervour of designers and engineers for visualisation through 3D. The model is the message.

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