Computer graphics and 3D modeling in design

Engineering Infrastructure Design Institute develops design documentation using the three-dimensional design technology (3D technology) for more than four years. We have faced many challenges at its implementation and want to share our experience, stated in this Section, with the colleges who have just started their way in 3D designing.

Possibility to create complex solid elements is the basis for three-dimensional modeling. Any such object consists of an assembly of simple elements joined as per certain rules.
Three-dimensional design is a brand new level of design works execution. Not only design process changes but approach to work execution changes as well. Three-dimensional modeling of a designed project allows a group of specialists to work on this object at once. Each specialist shall perform the operations stated for him as associated participants of design process depend on his actions. Time expenditures for creation of designed object models are subsequently compensated by their faster adjustment. Design result (sections, views, etc.) is generalized on the basis of maximum completed model which essentially reduces time of design documentation issue.

Efficiency of 3D modeling implementation is estimated by two criteria – applied resources (including time) and obtained returns. It is widely believed that three-dimensional design allows to quickly get high-quality drawings of designed object at minimum cost. Ideally it is so but in actual practice everything is much more complicated.
According to many software distributors a variant of switchover to 3D design seems to be simple. It is necessary:

  • To purchase 3D modeling software.
  • To purchase new computers meeting the system requirements of the software, when necessary.
  • To train specialists-designers how to use the program.

In realty all this looks completely different.
Development of the procedures regulating the design process is a very important stage of 3D design technology assimilation.
As opposed to a majority of foreign companies, there are few highly specialized design organizations in our country. As a rule, a design organization performs a wide range of design services: process design, electrical engineering, construction design, etc. As a consequence, every Russian company has its own settled technology of design works.
Development of the procedures describing the processing chain of design works is required to draw up technical specifications for the software complex by means of which three-dimensional design will be performed

The most correct variant for selecting the 3D technology software vendor is tendering among vendors or companies which are resellers in the sphere of information technologies related to design.
The procedures for design works in a certain company are submitted as a technical assignment.
However it is necessary to know that for customer acquisition some software developers reduce software prices at most but at further support of the system require substantial expenses exceeding license cost in many cases.
In practice tender comes to selection of the cheapest software. But in any case it should be remembered that responsibility for selection of the proper software falls on a design company itself.
When making a decision in selecting the vendor it is necessary to rely on the following factors:

  • applied objects modeling algorithms defining the system operation speed;
  • data storage organization methods;
  • current task specificity (2D/3D architectural, design, process and other modeling);
  • possibility of combination with adjacent software products which allows to implement software into the information systems existing at the enterprise;
  • software cost value;
  • cost of ownership and support of software which is the most important at selection of a product.

Three Dimensional Design

Three dimensional design technology is a new stage in development of a design company. On the way to it any company passes certain stages of technical development. Availability of a local network is the required condition. Sooner or later computers united in a network create a project document flow.
It is also necessary to consider a possibility of “connection” of computer-aided design system (CAD) to adjacent systems. For example, the results of engineering survey carried out by many companies are initial data for design process. To get data on geology, geodesy and other surveys, specialized software, the results of which processing shall be sent to CAD system as initial data, is required. All this determines one requirement – openness of the system.
At software selection economic factor is one of determining factors. At conclusion of contracts a majority of customers requires a legal, officially purchased and licensed software. Purchase of the required numbers of work stations to switch over all design engineers to a new technology would be the best option. But in practice this requires substantial financial expenses and that is why stage-by-stage purchase of work stations is an optimal option.
There is an opinion that it is enough to train the personnel in new software and three dimensional design technology starts to function. In realty everything is quite to the contrary. The main problem consists in change of design method. Implementation of 3D modeling converts 2D drawing into 3D modeling. A design engineer can draw a top view or side view of a projected object imagining the complete view of the object. However he can be not ready for work with realistic volume representation of the projected object in the computer. As a consequence, the design engineer will required the time for adaptation to design in three dimensions simultaneously.
Switchover to the 3D design technology changes the interaction pattern between the specialists. A majority of design companies has a strict hierarchy in accordance with which the executor makes a drawing and the manager or chief specialists checks the work.
This new technology allows to analyze quality of performed work at the early stage as the drawing is generated at the final stage. It is much easier to detect collisions in a 3D model than in 2D drawings.
Thus, as it is seen from the presented material, switchover to the three dimensional design technology cannot be fast, easy and cheap. As any new technology, 3D modeling requires great efforts, time and material inputs.
The considered features of the three-dimensional design technology implementation are dogmatic, but our experience shows the following:

  • the regulations for design works are required;
  • It is not recommended to select the software system rashly: this is a responsibility center of the design process itself and it is hard to be replaced with the other one. The system to be implemented shall be integrated into the existing design system;
  • it is necessary to perform periodic training of the specialists and design engineers;
  • It is necessary not only to install software but also to support it;

There are two more factors which sufficiently increasing the chances for successful implementation of a new technology: availability of a cohesive team of the professionals who can lead the way for the main body of the design engineers, and the management actively participating in promotion of new technologies and understanding that 3D design will allow the company to sustain a severe competition on the market.