While doing product development we have found that the use of 3D visualization and modelling techniques cuts product development time, cost and risk. It also has the additional benefit of generating easy to use training manuals and programs.
Here is how we achieve this.
Our first output for any new product design is a solid model. Any 3D modelling tool, worth its name, nowadays does this. For example, we use Solidworks and it generates an executable that can be given to the customer. The customer can then examine the 3D model at their leisure - rotating it an viewing it from different angles, hiding parts, zooming in and out, reading component values and so on.
This solid model provides a visual view and gets the product concept across much easier than a drawing would. Making changes at this stage is easy and less costly than it is when a prototype is ready.
Now while the plain solid model generated by the solid modelling program is good, we can go a step further. We can take the plain solid model and add functionality to it. For example, if the device is a handheld with buttons and a LCD screen, we can write a program that makes the solid model of the handheld function the same way as the eventual product would. This high fidelity 3D model allows us to virtually prototype more features quickly early in the design cycle at a low cost thus cutting new product development time, cost and risk.
Writing the programs to instrument the 3D model is easier than writing it on the actual device, because we have the full power of the PC and its development tools.
It is easy to go over these iterations with remote customers. The virtual 3D model can be downloaded off the Internet and distributed to many people at once. Making changes and distributing them is very easy.
There are a couple of issues to be careful of
An additional benefit of developing these 3D models and instrumenting them is that they can be used to generate training manuals and also training simulators for the new product.
We have found such training simulators dramatically effective especially in cases where