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To Direct Modelling and Beyond!

The release of DesignSpark Mechanical forms the latest step in a process of software evolution which spans at least 5 decades and forms an increasingly fundamental framework within today’s global design industry. The process by which we have reached this point forms a microcosm of the development of the technological world. Typical of early acquisition technology scenarios, in the early 70s, a single seat CAD software licence would have cost around USD 150,000 (USD 7-800,000 current equivalent) as compared to the RS offer of DesignSpark Mechanical as a free download package today.


CAD or computer aided design first emerged as a tool in the 1960s and was created mainly to support the demands of the automotive, aerospace and defence industries. By the 1970s, CAD was being presented to Engineering students as the way forward, with traditional manual draughting methods falling gradually by the wayside. During the 1980s, due to both the move from 16 to 32 bit processor technology, and the introduction of colour raster display technology, the evolutionary process took a quantum leap forward.



Much of the early motivation to develop such systems was focused either on the potential productivity gains or on the ability of new systems to define complex surfaces and solids. Early work in the automotive sector has proved to be central to the progress made. Renault, for example, can be credited for initiating the process which led to the emergence of the CATIA software product.

More recently, the focus on CAD has been as a creative tool, allowing for the design process to comfortably take place on a screen rather than on a sheet of paper. One barrier to this has been the constraints built in to parametric CAD systems whereby designs tend to become “locked” in form by the inter-relationships of features, planes and surfaces within them. Re-shaping or developing the design in a creative way becomes very difficult, time-consuming and demanding of great expertise. DesignSpark Mechanical, on the other hand, is a Direct CAD Modelling system. Such constraints are not built into designs unless required. Creative or developmental adjustments therefore become quick and easy to carry out, whilst still retaining precision and accuracy.


CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture) has evolved in a similar way, especially with the recent innovation of Rapid Prototyping, including technologies such as 3D printing, Rapid CNC and Rapid Injection Moulding. Product development timelines have been decimated as a result, with the ability to generate “real” 3D examples of a product in a small number of days, rather than a series of weeks. Files generated in DesignSpark Mechanical can be used for many popular Rapid Prototyping processes.


With justifiable excitement we look forward to what this new era of design will bring!

My broad based technology degree equipped me well for a range of roles including project engineering, training, change management and marketing engineer. My career has included a rich variety of experience in industry sectors including food packaging, automotive, robotic vehicles and materials handling. I have taught electronics and product design in schools as well as implementing new technology for students such as laser cutters and 3D printers.

11 Sep 2013, 9:28