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What is the Design Process?  Some Education for those of you who don't get it...

Question asked by Dan Golthing on May 15, 2018
Latest reply on May 21, 2018 by Glenn Schroeder

Often SolidWorks, as well as others, inadvertently admit that they don't have a clue regarding the design process.  They continue to advertise how "fast" you can drive their software. 


This happened last night when I had a discussion with someone using AutoCAD 3D.  I told them it was a wast of their time and they said "just try to keep up with me".


What does that mean?  Because you can click faster than me you're going to actually design something faster than me?


I don't think so.


Yes, the software needs to enable the most efficient work flow.  Sure.  But what are we actually trying to do here?  We are trying to design things, I would assume.  In almost every case, we are not simply inputting a fully-known design into a 3D format.  If that was my job I would be paid a lot less, and it would be very boring.


In reality, the overall design process is pretty slow.  When you design something, at least in my case where just about everything I design is something new and original, it's not about how fast I can click.


The actual design process probably involves some hand sketches to kick things off.  The white board was priceless when I was doing aerospace design.  we would all get in the conference room and hash out the preliminary design on the wall.  This would then be a crude initiation to a CAD design.  There is no real need for CAD speed at the initiation phase of a project.  The computer probably sits idle.


Next, the crude design would be slowly modeled in CAD.  Things would become apparent in 3D that may not have been obvious on the white board.  Adjustments would need to be made.  More meetings would need to occur so that the team understood the changes.  Speed is only moderately important during this stage, because you are constantly THINKING.  You are constantly analyzing each change and how it effects the overall assembly.  This stage as well as all others is not a flurry of determined steps.  It's not a class assignment to replicate a given object like a trained monkey.


Through all this process would probably be some calculations.  Maybe some FEA by myself or someone who actually knew what Von Mises stress is or had least seen Mohr's Circle once in his life.  Maybe some leverage calculations of a mechanism, maybe some speed and load calculations on a bearing, etc. etc.  The CAD sits idle as this is performed.  It could be the fastest program or the slowest at this point, it doesn't matter.


And then what really slows the process is all the research into various components that would fit your design.  How fast does the software have to be and how fast do you need to be able to click icons while you are looking for parts on McMaster or the thousands of other vendor websites or catalogs?  Again, the software speed is unimportant.


What about the time spent on the phone talking to application engineers about their product that you want to implement as part of your design?  There is no CAD speed requirement during this process either.


What about while you are trying to select the appropriate material and all that entails?  How is CAD speed helping?  It's not.


I can't tell you how many hours I've spent looking at a solitary linkage and articulating it through it's motion to better visualize if there's a more optimum arrangement.  Very little clickety-click needed here as well.  A little tweak here a little there.  Very slow and arduous. 


The overall design process is a tortured path that only partially includes the need for the CAD software to enable speed.  Those of you that have gone through this process thousands of times know what I'm talking about.


So, next time somebody tells you just how fast they are at driving CAD or how fast the CAD software they are selling is, just do as I do and feel sorry for them.