Almost every engineering student earning a bachelor’s degree will participate in a capstone design project. This project most often involves the entire engineering process, taking a design from concept to completion. This will seem like a daunting task to students, but luckily we have SOLIDWORKS to help us every step of the way. This tech tip will focus on using SOLIDWORKS to enhance that very last, and most dreaded, stage of the capstone project, the final presentation!
Visual aids are an essential part of any presentation, especially when you are conveying a design. Taking screenshots of your SOLIDWORKS models will get the point across to your audience, but they often look bland and fail to convey what the finished product will look like. Luckily, there is a powerful add-on to SOLIDWORKS, PhotoView 360, that allows you to quickly produce photorealistic renderings of your design that are sure to impress your audience. The first step is to enable the PhotoView 360 add-in in SOLIDWORKS.
To demonstrate how to start a photorealistic render from scratch, I’ll use the toggle clamp assembly that I made from in my previous tech tip, Creating a SOLIDWORKS Assembly from a McMaster-Carr 3D CAD File.
As you can see in the above picture, all of the components in the assembly have their default, grey, SOLIDWORKS appearance. In order to produce a photorealistic image, you first need to apply appearances to the components. This is easy and quick to do, but you’ll need to add appearances in a few different ways to get the best result. I will show you how to add appearances to the individual components as well as to specific faces of the handle component to represent the overmolded plastic. For the purposes of this tech tip, I will only show how to add appearances, not materials.
First, I will apply Polished Steel appearance to the Base component. Launch the Appearances Property Manager by first clicking the double chevron to expand the visibility options (step 1), then click on the appearance icon corresponding to the Base component (step 2), then click “Appearance” from the menu (step 3).
Once the Appearances Property Manager opens, select “Apply at part document level” (step 1). We will be changing the appearance of the entire Base component, so the first option, “Select Part”, should be enabled with the Base component selected (step 2).
Next, expand the “Appearances, Scenes, and Decals” tab on the right side of the screen. We want to apply a Polished Steel appearance to the Base Component. Do this by first clicking on the “Steel” subfolder found within the “Metal” folder (step 1). Then click the “Polished Steel” appearance lower on the tab (step 2). Click the green checkmark on the Appearances Property Manager to accept the applied appearance.
With RealView Graphics enabled, the newly applied “Polished Steel” appearance can be seen on the Base component.
The next thing we want to do is apply the same “Polished Steel” appearance to the rest of the assembly components that require it. This can be easily done by right clicking on a component in the feature tree and selecting “Copy Appearance” (see below). This will then allow you to paste the appearance to any other component you choose and guarantees that you are using the same appearance throughout.
With the Base component’s “Polished Steel” appearance copied, group select the other components in the feature tree that you want to past the appearance to. Do this by right clicking on one of the highlighted components and click “Paste Appearance”.
The image below clearly shows the new appearance in contrast to the default, grey, SOLIDWORKS appearance.
The “Handle” component requires a bit more work to get the appearances applied properly. In reality we know that the handle is made from polished steel with a rubber overmolded tip. The difficulty here is that the overmolded portion of the Handle is not a separate component. This means that individual faces of the overmolded portion need to be selected to apply a rubber appearance.
Selecting faces independently can be a lot of work, but there are a few shortcuts that you can take to do this as quickly as possible. The first trick is to determine which appearance covers the majority of the component and apply that appearance to the entire component. In the case of the Handle, there are more faces on the component that require the Polished Steel appearance than a Rubber appearance, so I applied the Polished Steel appearance to the entire component. This method works well because appearances that are applied to specific faces of the component will override the appearance assigned on the component level. To make these face selections easier, I’ve isolated the component from the assembly.
After assigning the Polished Steel appearance to the Handle component, edit the appearance of the component again and enable the option “Select Faces”. This will allow individual faces to be selected. If the component name appears in the blue box as seen below, right-click the box and select “Clear Selections”.
Next we need to select the rubber appearance that we want to apply. Do this by selecting a rubber appearance from the subfolder “Rubber” within the folder “Plastics” then click the “Rubber” appearance just as we did with the Polished Steel (step 1). The default color for the selected rubber is black but I want to use a red rubber. This is easily changed after selecting the appearance in step 1 by then selecting a red appearance from the color palate (step 2). This will only change the color of the rubber and will retain the textured appearance.
With our custom Rubber appearance selected, now we can use our next trick. The next step is to click the faces that we want to apply the appearance to. To speed this process up, you can often take advantage of tangency between faces. By right-clicking on a face and clicking “Select Tangency” (see below), SOLIDWORKS will apply the appearance to any face that is tangent to the one you selected. I was able to apply this appearance to all but one of the faces using the “Select Tangency” option only 3 times. Any remaining faces can be easily selected independently.
With all of the faces selected, just accept the applied appearances by clicking the green checkmark in the Appearances Property Manager.
The last component to be assigned an appearance is the rubber tip of the spindle. This is a separate component that can be easily assigned an appearance. We want the same red rubber appearance we applied to the handle so all we have to do is copy and paste the appearance as we did before.
With all of our appearances in place, we are ready to set up the render with PhotoView 360. My personal favorite for a simple, crisp, rendering is using the “Plain White” environment. The Plain White environment provides bright lights and minimizes any background noise from the image. Assign the Plain White appearance as seen below.
Now we are ready start using the PhotoView 360 tool. Access the PhotoView 360 options by navigating to the “Render Tools” tab. With the assembly positioned as you want it, click the “Preview Window” option to get a rough preview of the final render.
The Preview Window will open and show you what the final render will look like with the currently applied settings. I think that the rendering looks a bit dark, which is taking away from the realism. Not to worry though because we can easily change that.
The easiest way to improve this rendering is to use the “Environment Rotation” option located with the Scene Property Manager. Do this by clicking the “Advanced” tab and manually adjusting the Environment Rotation angle.
Once we are happy with the render in the Preview Window, simply click “Final Render” to start the rendering. The time this takes will depend on the quality setting that were set in the Render Options. Mine were set to “Good” and took less than a minute to finish.
It takes a few passes for the image to completely render. The last pass will look as it does below. After the render has completed, click “Save Image” and save it as you would any file in Windows.
And here’s the final result, a crisp and simple representation of your design! I think we can all agree this is a lot better than a simple screenshot. You can use this same process for exploded and cross-section views of your model to really blow your audience away. Now you are fully equipped for your capstone presentation!