Product concepting at university

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 earliest Shapr3D users. He shared with us how he fits Shapr3D into his workflow and where he sees the CAD industry is heading.

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.

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

pencil sketches

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

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.

"One of the greatest things about Shapr3D is that it has many export options. I can easily export models created in the woodshop, at a meeting with a client or a student as a STEP file, then I can send it to the client or continue working with the CAD data in Fusion360."

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.

shapr3d 3d model

Fusion360, for example, is very good for creating product assemblies and doing tolerance checks. I can also export a STEP model from Fusion360, load it into Shapr3D on my iPad Pro and then continue direct modeling in 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. Much 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 in the age of 3D printing is 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 not only you need to learn the tools but also the workflow and the process of generating your model data. Today we still make models using approaches that are actually quite old – logical, but labor intensive and sometimes way too complex.

3d models chairs

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. I prefer working remotely and have my mobility. I also have the similar preference when generating 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 makes it possible for me to have that experience. It features a very elegant approach to creating sketches and 3D shapes by using an Apple Pencil and gestures with a very minimalistic UI that limits visual distractions and lets you focus more on the creative process.

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 its 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 some 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, at your desk, in the woodshop, while talking to a client, or while commuting. Later, you can 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.

chair rendered

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 be incredibly precise and smart."

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