How an industrial designer implements Shapr3D in his workflow

Front Page DisplayIndustrial Design

May 17

Claas Kuhnen is an industrial design professor at Wayne State University and he runs his own design consultancy studio. He is also one of the early adopters of Shapr3D. He shared with us how he fits Shapr3D into his workflow and where he sees the CAD industry is heading.

3D Concept Exploration with Shapr3D

Further Concept Exploration in 3D with Shapr3D

Claas’s workflow

Based on the model and complexity, I usually start with quick pen and paper profile studies of the idea to block out forms and proportions. Those initial sketches can be pretty rough and quick. I only want to quickly put some lines down as a mental note so that I don’t forget about the idea.

Claas Kuhnen: Coffe table Sketch

Initial Ideation Sketch with pen and paper

Selected ideas I often recreate on the iPad Pro in Concepts from TopHatch. This is a great iOS vector sketching option that allows me to use some drafting tools.

Concepts App: Refined Sketches by Class Kuhnen

Refined Concept Sketches in Concepts App

Then in Shapr3D, I will create 3D models based on my sketch observations. I do not do many perspective hand sketches anymore because I feel with Shapr3D I am faster and more accurate. One should use a tool for what it is good for.

Shapr3D: Concept Exploration in 3D

Concept Exploration in 3D with Shapr3D

For a more accurate result, sometimes I make a quick 3D model, print it out and use it as a template to create hand sketches in case the model is too complicated or I want variations to be accurate.

Working with Fusion360 and Shapr3D in the same workflow

During the brainstorming phase, I often pin all those sketches onto a wall to see the story behind them, to be able to compare and to identify possible design directions.

The great part about Shapr3D is that it has many export functions. Models created while in the woodshop, meeting with a client or student can be exported as STEP so I can send the file to a client or to Fusion360 and continue working with the CAD data there.

That is really great because I do not have to start from scratch. If I do not need to continue working in Fusion360 I can also export the model as STL and send it to my 3D printer to create a prototype.

Fusion360, for example, is very good when you want to create product assemblies and do tolerance checks. I can also export a STEP model from Fusion360, load it into Shapr3D on my iPad Pro and then continue direct modeling it there.

I found this very useful when I leave my studio, or when I go to a client and just don’t want to carry a laptop with me. Modeling with gestures and the Apple Pencil is just so much nicer when you are on-the-go. Seriously better than a trackpad and a keyboard.

His views on the changing nature of CAD

Today’s CAD applications are very powerful and it is amazing what you can do with them. For example, you can model your product, put it through a physical simulation to stress test it and then send it to a rapid prototyping machine to build a physical model. Design today in the age of 3D printing is really being democratized, meaning more people can have access to those tools now than ever before.

However, currently, there are two big problems present.

First, those industrial design strength applications can have a very steep learning curve, because you not only need to learn the tools but also the workflow and the process you have to use to generate your model data. Today we still kinda make models using approaches that are actually quite old – logical, but labor intensive and sometimes way too complex.

And second, most times you are locked into a desktop or laptop device interacting with the software via a keyboard, mouse, and trackpad. This is not natural. But nowadays I prefer working remotely and have my mobility. And also have a similar approach to generate my 3D model data like if I was sketching with pen and paper. Creating 3D designs should feel natural. But on most desktop CADs it’s not natural, at all.

Shapr3D gives me just that experience. It features a very elegant approach to creating sketches and 3D shapes by using the Apple Pencil and gestures with a very minimalistic UI that limits visual distractions and lets you focus more on the creative process.

Blender 3D render of Shapr3D file

3D rendering of a Shapr3D model in Blender 3D

Optimizing the workflow around tools

You need to keep in mind that there are also different types of models:

  • an explorative model,
  • a refined study model,
  • a manufacturing model.

Ideally, each model should have their own way to be created. In my studio or model making space, I find Shapr3D the ideal companion to explore my ideas in 3D. And if I need the CAD data, it can be exported to other desktop applications. So you are not locked into Shapr3D, but you can use it as a great tool for the ideation phase, on your table, in the woodshop, while talking to a client, or while in transit to work and then later refine the model for manufacturing in a different application other engineers use.

This is the way how I, as a designer want to work in today’s time.

That’s why I started experimenting with Shapr3D from the very first day. And so far, I like what it has to offer.

I like Shapr3D a lot because it gives me some of the industry standard drafting and modeling tools, however in a nice natural pen and paper workflow. And since the software also offers the ability to add dimensions and other constraints to sketches I can work incredibly precise and smart.