What Are Visualization and Animation, and How Do They Benefit Product Design and Development?

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Engineering teams face numerous struggles while improving or developing new products. Even when you have made precise drawings of an equipment or tool, you may still have a difficult time ensuring that the parts fit and interact with each other. After all, most people find it challenging to visualize in three-dimension (3D) and many more lacks the ability to manipulate the images to see how finished products would behave in the real world.

Using 3D visualization and animation can benefit engineers significantly during the product design and development phases. Once you learn more about these benefits, you will have a better understanding of why more engineering teams have decided to use visualization and animation for concept testing during product development stages.

What Makes Product Design and Development Difficult?

According to Professor Juan Manuel de Toro of IESE Business School, there are five key steps to developing a new product:

  1. Identifying the opportunity and filling it with an idea.
  2. Measuring the opportunity.
  3. Developing the concept.
  4. Testing, testing…
  5. Positioning and launching the product.

For engineers and designers, most of their work happens during the concept development and testing stage.  These are the stages when the designer develops the concept, test the prototype, make improvements, and, as de Toro suggests, continue testing until they work correctly in the real world, not just on paper.

Some of the challenges that engineers encounter during these stages include:

  • Fitting all moving and stationary pieces into a compact, cohesive item.
  • Deciding how much power the product needs.
  • Finding room for power supplies, knobs, switches, and other controls.
  • Sourcing or fabricating the items needed to build the product.
  • Gauging the product’s safety.
  • Testing various materials to suit the product’s use and function.

Of course, you have to complete these stages and go through possibly many rounds of testing and fine-tuning while keeping within the project’s budget.

Finding solutions and making decisions would be a lot easier if you had the ability to visualize a 3D version of the product so accurately and realistically that you could turn and manipulate to identify potential design faults.

The Benefits of 3D Animation Technology

The use of animation has progressed far beyond the ability to turn still drawings into moving cartoons. Today’s best animation software creates realistic virtual environments where you can build and test practically any concept and design. Animated environments, for instance, can create the illusion of believable physics.  If you drop an item in the animation environment, the item will follow the law’s of physics on Earth, where objects accelerate at a rate of 9.8 m/s/s. Interestingly, with some software, you can change the rate to determine how products would behave in other environments, such as underwater or outside of the atmosphere.

Advanced animation technology can also show you how multiple pieces will behave with each other. Since the virtual environment simulates the laws of physics, you can see how manipulating one piece will affect others. At the simplest layer, you can see whether the pieces fit together. At the most advanced layer, you can see how every piece of a product moves together.

How 3D Animation Technology Makes Product Design and Development Easier?

Now that you know some of the benefits of advanced animation technology, you can probably think of ways that animation can help engineering teams design and develop new products, equipment, and tools.

Engineers are often excited to get help from animation specialists because it means they don’t have to think about their projects in hypothetical or theoretical ways. Instead, they can see how all of the pieces fit (or don’t fit) together. Once you take the idea off of the 2D paper design and put it into a 3D animation environment, you don’t have to make guesses about how the items will behave. You can test how they behave in real-time on the computer screen.

This gives you a huge advantage during the testing stage. When products don’t behave the ways that you expected them to, you can easily review your design to find the mistake and prevent unnecessary lost during later stages of production. When products function exactly as predicted, then you know that you have made a successful design that will perform well in the real world.

Additional Benefits of Using Animation When Developing Products

3D animation isn’t limited to helping you build and test products in a computer-generated environment. Engineering teams and their employers also benefit from:

  • Shortening the amount of time that it takes to develop and test products.
  • Reducing the risk that a product will not work as intended.
  • Keeping the project within, or under, budget.
  • Making sure a product works well before spending time and money on a prototype.
  • Giving you more free time to think of features that customers will need.
  • Opportunities to make products weigh less, cost less, and easier to use.
  • Enhance communication and understanding of complex product features and functions
  • Enable better control over time-to-market

Most people are unable to visualize completed products in their minds.  Even if you think that you can, there is still a high potential that you may overlook small factors that could radically affect the way an equipment works.

Today’s advanced animation takes all of the guesswork out of product design and development while helping companies save money on prototypes, dissatisfied customers, and recalls. Reach out to us to learn more about how 3D visualization and animation can benefit your next product development project.