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. Here’s how he fits Shapr3D into his workflow and where he sees the CAD industry heading.

Claas’s workflow

Based on the model and complexity, he usually starts with quick pen-and-paper profile studies of an idea to block out forms and proportions. The initial sketches can be pretty rough and quick. He will quickly put some lines down as a mental note so that he doesn’t forget about an idea.

He often recreates select ideas on the iPad Pro using Concepts, an iOS vector sketching option that lets him use some drafting tools.

pencil sketches

Then he creates 3D models in Shapr3D based on his sketch observations. He doesn’t do many perspective freehand sketches anymore, because he feels Shapr3D is faster and more accurate -- the right tool for the job.

Sometimes he makes a quick 3D model, prints it out, and uses it as a template to create hand sketches, for a more accurate result if the model is too complicated or the variations need to be precise.


Working with Fusion360 and Shapr3D in the same workflow

While brainstorming, he often pins all the sketches onto a wall to see the story behind them, and compare and 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."

He loves that he doesn’t have to start from scratch. If he doesn’t need to continue working in Fusion360, he can also export the model as an STL file and send it to a 3D printer to create a prototype.

shapr3d 3d model

Fusion360, for example, is very good for creating product assemblies and doing tolerance checks. He can also export a STEP model from Fusion360, load it into Shapr3D on his iPad Pro and continue direct modeling in the app.

"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

Claas finds today’s CAD applications to be extremely powerful, and is amazed at what can be achieved with them. He can model a 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 getting democratized, and more people have access to the necessary tools than ever before.

Two big problems remain:

  • Industrial design strength apps can have a very steep learning curve, because not only do 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.
  • Most of the time you are locked into a desktop or laptop device interacting with the software via a keyboard, mouse, and trackpad. This is not natural. Claas prefers working remotely and enjoys his mobility. He has a preference for generating 3D model data as if he was sketching with pen and paper. He believes that reating 3D designs should feel natural. But on most desktop CADs it’s not natural, at all.

3d models chairs

Shapr3D makes it possible for Claas 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

We 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 how Claas, as a designer, wants to work.

chair rendered

That’s why he started experimenting with Shapr3D from day one. And so far, he likes 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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