Sub-D Modeling for SOLIDWORKS Users

If you’re a SOLIDWORKS® user looking to quickly create smooth, organic shapes, 3D Sculptor may be a good fit for you. Built on the 3DEXPERIENCE® platform, the cloud-based solution (which includes the xShape app) has advanced subdivision (sub-D) surface modeling capabilities, plus it works seamlessly with SOLIDWORKS desktop, so a change in 3D Sculptor can propagate throughout SOLIDWORKS.

When it comes to building complex, organic shapes with parametric CAD tools, like SOLIDWORKS, it’s sort of like building a wooden boat: Build a frame and then build a surface, or surfaces, over that framework.

First, you must know what you want the final shape to look like – this is a crucial point – making it a lot harder to improvise when using typical parametric surfacing techniques. You have to know what you want upfront. After all the upfront thought and work of determining how you want the model to look, you create a framework of curves, and then loft surfaces through these curves.

It often takes a significant effort to make that initial framework, and if you want to change the appearance significantly, you will usually need to change the underlying structure, resulting in significant rework and even re-lofting of surfaces. And if any downstream features are dependent on the lofted surfaces, you could lose that geometry as well.

Again, all this takes a good amount of time and limits your ability to try out different ideas.

The Freedom to Change Your Mind

3D Sculptor is a sub-D modeling tool that is much more like sculpting. You can start with a shape and then push and pull it to get the shape you desire (see video below).

Often, designers use images of similar products or sketches they created as a reference for guiding the form of the model. You can also design around solid geometry, or even mesh geometry as you would get from 3D scanners and topology optimization studies.

Making changes is as easy as pushing, pulling, and creasing the shape. 3D Sculptor gives you the freedom to design whatever pops into your head such as a new water bottle or coffee cup design; you don’t have to know what you want ahead of time. It helps you decide what shape you actually want. And that’s the big difference.

Look here at 3D Sculptor in action.


Exploring Concepts and Ideas

As an engineer, I have spent a good portion of my career working with industrial designers to get their ideas into the CAD system. Sometimes they’d say, “make some shapes of what I just described, and I’ll tell you what I like.”

Exploring shapes with a parametric modeler often required a long day which usually ended with just one concept. Making changes typically resulted in starting from scratch as the framework of the design had to be totally reworked.

By leveraging the advanced subD modeling capabilities of 3D Sculptor, you’ll be able to significantly increase the number of designs you produce in a day and make changes on-the-fly to get immediate feedback.

Streamlining the Conceptual Design Stage

Conceptual design works best when you can experiment with several ideas. Think about ergonomic designs such as game controllers, sports equipment, medical devices, or other products that need to fit comfortably and feel secure in the hand.

With 3D Sculptor, you can convert those shapes quickly and easily into a 3D model that you can render and experience in a VR/AR environment, or 3D print it to hold a physical product in your hand.

As stated earlier, organic shapes are challenging to build with parametric modelers. If it takes you all day to create one concept and another one to modify it—and you’re still on that first concept—you are not working very fast.

With 3D Sculptor, you can streamline the idea or conceptual stage of design because you don’t have to set up all the sub-structure necessary in parametric modeling.

Independence and Spontaneity for Industrial Designers

Industrial designers who don’t currently have SOLIDWORKS can benefit from combining 3D Sculptor for subD modeling with 3D Creator for parametric modeling. Both products are designed for and run on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform so that they can be accessed from anywhere with a web browser.

Because 3D Creator and 3D Sculptor are browser-based solutions running in the cloud, users won’t have to invest in an expensive computer. Any existing laptops, Chromebooks, tablets or other devices will work just fine.

Industrial designers have told me they like being able to access their work online in 3D Sculptor at any time of day. Sometimes they get a great idea while sitting on the couch at home, outside the office with friends, or just playing with the kids. With an internet connection and a web-enable device, they can access their design and spontaneously try something new. No need to rush back to the office or write it down for later.

3D Sculptor offers an intuitive approach to creating dramatic freeform shapes, which makes it the perfect tool for developing new designs quickly so they can be rendered and manufactured for design reviews, customer approval or testing. And, it works seamlessly with SOLIDWORKS desktop as well as 3DEXPERIENCE design solutions like 3D Creator.

Click here for a demo of cloud-based modeling solutions. Or feel free to add your comments and suggestions below or click on the banner below to get your seven-day trial of the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.


Craig Therrien

Craig Therrien

Craig Therrien is a 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS Senior Portfolio Manager with over 30 years of CAD and industry experience - engineer, consultant, CAD product manager, CAD company co-founder. Currently, serving as Senior Product Manager for SOLIDWORKS and 3D Mold Creator. Craig has a B.S.M.E. from WPI and is a Graduate of General Electric's Manufacturing Development Program.