do IDers design or do the 3D cad as well?

Hey all,

been wondering,
1. do professional industrial designers nowadays work solely on software like Rhino and Alias to design?
2. in addition, do we design the internal mouldings as well? like how the different parts go together etc. can those be done in Rhino? i know in alias it can be done.

3. Why do we need to use solely 3D cad progs like solidworks/ironcad/pro-engineer to design?
wouldnt we be partially assuming the role of engineer in that sense and not focusing on our primary role as industrial designers?

i’m baffled.
coming from a bkgrd where i was trained in solidworks, im new to surface modelling. so all ur feedback wld be awesome.

just starting out in the industry as well so trying to get my head around some things.

thanks everyone! lookin forard to hear some constructive feedback.


When designers use rhino or alias to design, someone else will have to build it later on in proE or solidworks…occasionally the overall surfaces can be extracted, but manufacturers usuualy require total parametric data.

this still baffles me how many design studios do not use paramentric modelling and instead get engineers to do it. I know that in Canada it is common practice that ID’ers use ProE, and know how to build the actual plastic parts (rib, bosses, draft, part lines, mold flow, etc) while many US studios strictly use surface modellers and have no direct involvement with creating the 3D manufacturing CAD…

It seems that there are 2 kinds of ID studios…ones that focus on branding/innovation/styling, and other that focus on the total process which includes part design for manufacturing…

to say ID’ers are not competent to design with proE and bypass an engineer is absurd. The worst part is handing off a design to an engineer to see them mess it up.

Literal answers:

  1. No, I personally use whiteboards, pen, Illustrator and Photoshop more than anything else
  2. No, we’re not toolmakers
  3. We don’t

Answer to what I think you’re really asking:

Designers prefer surface modelers like Alias because:

  1. It enables more complex freeform shapes (NURBS) than many parametric engineering packages.
  2. Workflow: the software affords freehand experimentation including rendering. The power of “undo” and “copy/paste” means 3D models are more versitile than the foam models and hand renderings designers grew up with.
  3. Shorter learning curve
  4. The data is usable downstream

hey. thanks for replying.

cg: love your literal replies. esp to qn 2.
just wondering, are u an inhouse designer w an inhouse team of engineers or are u in a consultancy?

just to give you guys my bkgrd, im gonna be the sole IDer in a small startup thats moving into designing stuff inhouse. am currently trying to decide what software to go for. a nurbs modelling one like alias/rhino or to get rhino AND a parametric cad prog like solidworks/ironcad as well. our engineers are in another office so there will be a lot of exporting of files going on. personally, i do NOT like solidworks. it limits my freedom to create a a design.l

my take on this is – why should i be paying for a relatively expensive parametric modeller when i am not going to be fully utilising the software? in this case shouldn’t i be going for a software that allows me more control over my design i.e alias? or will a lower end software like rhino suffice?

From my experience looking at a whole lot of design job postings the last few years, things have been changing.

The recession seems to have forced alot of designers to take on additional roles. A few years ago, it was rare that I saw an ad for anything other than Alias and Rhino. Today, it seems 50% ask for Solidworks and ProE. In other words, as budgets were cut, designers took over some jobs that engineers were doing.

If you are in position to choose your software, first of all, lucky you!

For some advice, I would ask what is expected of you at this company. Do they have alot of engineers that keep asking you for surface modeling files so they can design the part interiors?

What materials does your company manufacture in? Plastics give you more possibilities to use complex surface modeling. Also, complex surfacing may be harder for you to make the interior part design…

As for cost, I’ve found costs to be very similar between solid and surface modelers, and the solid modelers are getting very good at surfacing. I can’t recall how much SolidWorks is (it has many optional plug-ins that effect the price), but a basic version was around $2k Canadian (maybe much less), Rhino w/ Flamingo is $1300 Canadian.

Call around to the software distributers in your area to get a better idea. Also, if you want a deal, haggle. I know SolidWorks will often discount their product in the last three months before the new version will be released (yearly).

Also, be aware of some trade-offs. If you are able to hand off finished solid models in nearly the same time as surface data, you will be able to cut weeks off of your product development time. That’s a big advantage!

Lastly, if you need to create presentation renders, be prepared to pay for a seperate renderer no matter what program you get. I’ve used SW, Rhino, Alias Studio and Maya over the last few years. Maya, by far, renders the best, but deletes many design tools present in the other software. I would expect it to be the same with 3D Studio Max (which I’ve never understood the interface of).

Last time I looked, SW was around $3K CAD and RH/FL/PE/BO is around $1600 CAD. I you can get both, I would go for it… SW can do fillets and shells that RH cannot but nothing beats RH and Penguin for showing off concepts. Not to put down the others, but for start-ups it’s about price-performance, even when you get to pick your apps. If you learn how to move models back and forth between them, you will save much time and money when you have to export your work to engineering or mfg vendors. If you go only with SW, you will be very limited in the style of your work. If you go only with RH, you can style anything, but will have some translation issues with CAD/CAM. If I could afford to get SW also, I would, but after having tweaked my file translation with vendors, there is no longer any need.


I heard of software called think3, which enables you to work in both visualization type of models and cad models at the same time within the software. I don’t think it’s new software, but not too many companies have picked up on it yet. Although Nokia came out with experimental model. This is all just word of mouth, so the resource is not viable.

I do all design and all production surfacing in alias, this data translates directly into tooling w/out rebuilding via an iges file format. It’s the only way to get exactly what I want…I’ve tried going though another party and for me it slows down the process and leaves to much out there for interpretation. Just a different POV.
I work with others that do the same with rhino, and love it, it’s a matter of personal taste and $$$. There are differences but all in all for a small start up where money and versatility are an issue I would recommend rhino.

…the reason we do it is because we can…in the day of markers and pencils we had little control of how an engineer would interpret our 2D illustrations and the results were almost always disappointing at best…now the engineer can do to the structural/mechanical aspects of a design without mucking-up the aesthetic too much.

At my company we do 3D Surfaces to control the design then hand off to ME to do the internal structure. So it is Alias and Rhino and then hand off to Solidworks or ProE

hi there. its “Fresh” just that i signed in with my proper username. anyways to answer your queries…

in response to the one abt my engineering team, im not too sure at this point besides the fact that they are located in another office.

my company manufactures mainly consumer appliances . i would say that i will be working with mainly plastics.

as for presentation renderings, i will be required to churn those out as well as exploded views of the product assembly.