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The evolving designer ecosystem

The evolving designer ecosystem

There are now a variety of tools to accelerate the initial conceptual phases of the design process. The graphic tablet has replaced the old drawing board, shapes can be fashioned by 3d printers, and AR/VR is now officially within reach.

“Years ago, we would start from a sketch that we would give to a sculptor,” explained Nicolas Lebrun, Head Designer at our (big) sister company, Creaform. “The sculptor would make a model based on the sketch and then provide us with a sculpture. We would then try to reproduce their work into our CAD software. Just getting the sculpture could easily take a month. And the project was not over; it was just beginning!”

Nowadays, there are tons of new tools to make the design process more efficient without cutting down on the romantic part of it all.

The most significant ones are 3D scanning and 3D printing, as they offer a quick way in and out of computerized design steps.

Fig 1: A typical designer’s workshop with a Makerbot as its centerpiece.

Improved workflows

Projects still typically start with a sketch and, with modeling software getting more user friendly and accessible, the product designer may create a rough model by themself. Some designers will prefer to work with their hands and fashion their first iterations out of typical modeling materials (foam, cardboard, clay); others, like Nic, will rather start their design with CAD directly. Once the rough model is completed, it can then be produced using a 3D printer.

“I sometimes keep entire areas empty on my preliminary models. Instead of trying to guess what the perfect fit will be, I leave the area completely empty and fill it with sculpted clay afterwards,” Nicolas explained. “It is spectacular what a small variation can have on the look and feel of a given object. Sculpting it directly gives you that feel instantly.”

This iterative process allows the designer, using a 3D scanner and 3D printer, to jump in and out of a computerised process. “Making the exact shape you have in mind is easier and more direct by hand but then, making it perfectly symmetrical is much easier and faster on a computer; this is where both methods work so well together.”

Fig 2: Collaboration of 3D scanning and 3D printing in a modern design process


When working on a design, the typical process usually involves concepts; designs sketched on a sheet of paper. Concepts then lead to physical prototypes (functional concepts that do not fully consider the visual design). Then follow the visual prototypes (concepts more faithful to the design but that do not integrate the internal components). Both physical and visual are finally combined to create alpha and beta prototypes (preproduction models that work and look like the final product). These steps usually overlap considerably, as shown below:

A lot of iterations and prototypes are produced throughout this process, and this is why saving even a little time on each prototype design cycle is so valuable in the end.

Opportunities to be bolder

“Of course, more efficient tools shorten the time it takes to run a design cycle. They allow you to bring new designs to the market faster. However, there are other benefits as well,” Nicolas pointed out.  “Working faster during given period can also let you consider more options, try and try new things. In the end, having more time available to test different options brings your project closer to perfection!” Designs can therefore be bolder or simply better adapted to their applications.

The shared roots

What is even more interesting is that the process described above is pretty much the same regardless of the product you are making. A product designer working on the latest pair of running shoe will use a design process comparable to one working on the latest bike helmet for instance or even on furniture design.

All designers have their own way of working and preferred tools; a 3d scanner with a smaller field of view and a higher resolution will be better for scanning a running shoe as an example while one with a larger field of view will work better on larger furniture. Clay may work better for a certain type of project while silicone moulding and plaster will be more suitable for others… but in the end, it all comes down to the same thing.


Worn Running Shoe scanned with peel 2 by peel-3d.com on Sketchfab

In the design engineering jungle, competition is fierce. Only the manufacturers that can produce high-quality products the fastest will survive. Software intelligence, augmented reality and future technology developments will undoubtedly bring further progress in how products are designed. The day when products design themselves has yet to come. Until then, the fittest product designers will be there to create the innovative objects we use in our daily lives.


From clay to a motorcycle…

From clay to a motorcycle…

I remember playing with clay back in the days, in visual art class. I remember trying to make a vase… it sure was not easy. I never imagined that there was a much deeper use for clay, one that would still widely be used 25 years later. I am talking of course about the subtle art of designing vehicles with clay.

Designing bodywork for a specific vehicle is delicate and precise work. It requires a lot of experience and know how. Given how impactful every tiniest detail is, it is essential to use the most accurate tools possible and, for most designers, these tools are… their hands!

Take the example of Nick Graveley, a senior designer at claymoto. When working on a new project, he usually starts with existing components such as the frame or even the entire motorcycle. That is one of the first step where 3D scanning comes in handy and where Nick will use his peel 3d scanner. An accurate scan of the existing bike will be quite helpful later in the design process when designing the actual body parts. Peel 3d also provides all the necessary tools to convert his 3D scan into an accurate and reliable CAD model.

After a few hand drawn sketches, Nick starts to work with clay and puts all his skills to work shaping and designing what will be the perfect shape for the bike. After all, the body is most of what you see when looking at a bike, it is worth putting in the extra efforts.

Once the shape is perfect, Nick can put his peel 3d scanner to work again and digitize the shape he has just designed. 3D scanning really is the best way to bring your exact design into CAD and use it to design body parts. As soon as the scan is complete, the project of designing the actual parts can start and since everything has been modeled so accurately, the designer can be in great confidence that everything will fit the first time. Click the photo below to see Nick’s project in details.

 For more amazing design projects, follow Nick claymoto on IG.

Like father, like son. Comparing siblings in 3D!

Like father, like son. Comparing siblings in 3D!

As a parent, one of the most common things you are likely to hear is: “Oh my, he (or she) looks just like you!”. And that is no mystery, our children are an extension of us, they bear the same genes; the resemblance is therefore not a coincidence at all. But, besides the visual similarities, did you ever wonder how closely related are you with siblings? We tried to answer this question with this little experiment we did.

Our subjects (we will call them son 1 and son 2) are aged 26 and 30 respectively; they both share the same parents. Using a peel 2 scanner, we started by scanning their faces. The process was pretty straight forward, point and shoot, the scan was completed within seconds.

Right off the bat, it is pretty obvious there two are related as they do bear a resemblance. To take our experiment further, we aligned the two faces in peel 3d software using best fit alignment. This method tends to minimize the distance at any point between the two scans and gets them as close as possible to each other. We can then proceed to a colormap between the two subjects:

The comparison showed son 1 has a more prominent eyebrow and slightly elongated nose while having a somewhat narrower face. The rest of their faces is actually quite similar (within 2mm).

Of course, this project was done for fun, but the results are actually quite interesting as they now allow us to quantify the resemblance very accurately between two individuals. Should you be interested to hear more about this experiment, you can view a video we made about it here. We took things a little further, adding the girlfriends in the mix! Enjoy!