Applications and Tools for Design and Visualization

By Hall, Kevin W.; Obregon, Rafael | The Technology Teacher, April 2002 | Go to article overview

Applications and Tools for Design and Visualization


Hall, Kevin W., Obregon, Rafael, The Technology Teacher


For some time now, graphics, illustrations, and drawings have been used in businesses and industries to convey information between departments, associates, and suppliers. Nearly 20 years ago, as the computer revolution began, creating photorealistic images and analyzing complex patterns of data were extremely difficult, if not impossible. The combination of powerful software and fast computers has revolutionized how people learn and communicate graphic information. In the past, complex algorithms and sophisticated hardware were necessary to process information. Today, these tasks are accomplished with personal computers and multi-purpose software. Whether we are interested in designing a part, learning a new surgical procedure, or simulating planetary systems, different computer-based tools allow for the manipulation and transformation of massive amounts of data faster and easier than with traditional techniques.

Although the procedures and methods used to create this information have changed through the years, the main idea remains the same: graphic information can be interpreted more quickly and accurately than information transmitted through written or spoken language. The use of visualization tools for presenting information and improving the exchange of data is growing. Manufacturing companies including Boeing Company, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and John Deere & Company are reducing cycle times by minimizing dependence on the development of physical prototypes, facilitating design collaboration, and enabling engineers to design products more intuitively (Schmitz, 2000). Presently, virtual models and computer, generated prototypes are being used as the cornerstone of conceptualization. One of the best examples of the application of virtual techniques involved the evaluation of mechanical fits and interferences in the Boeing 777 (Kalpakjian and Schmid, 2001).

The Importance of Computer Graphics in Manufacturing

Beginning with computer graphics, computers are used to integrate virtually all phases of the design and manufacturing processes. People involved in design and manufacturing face the problem of developing innovative products that satisfy customer requirements. In an effort to meet changing expectations or market trends, it becomes essential to use computer tools that simplify product development. The tools e see today, including three-dimensional modeling software and scripting languages, allow small companies to compete for a share of the global marketplace.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) have evolved into systems with virtual modeling and online design capabilities. Contemporary platforms enable developers to conceive and visualize new forms that, when built and placed in service, will perform a given task. Computer-based visualization tools include virtual modeling, real-time animation, image processing, virtual prototyping, and engineering analysis postprocessing.

Traditional technical drafting, primarily based on orthographic two-dimensional views, evolved into geometric modeling. Geometric modeling (including wireframe models, surface models, and solid models) later provided the basis for performing engineering analysis and creating photo-realistic images. More recently, photo-realistic and rendered images have led to the development of sophisticated animations and virtual models. Virtual prototypes combine all the different aspects of modeling, analysis, and visualization. Figure 1 illustrates how computers have transformed, over time, the visualization methods used to relay and depict graphic information.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Visualization

Visualization provides an avenue for understanding and involves cognitive functions such as recognition, learning, and memory. Visualization is the basis for the abstract mental representation of the human physical experience (Firebaugh, 1993). …

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