Cobalt Case Studies

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Watching Conceptual Design Take Form

Luc Heiligenstein of Tres Design Group has built a clientele designing peripheral products for sports equipment manufacturers. One of his recent successes is a computer heart monitor for a cycling company. Luc uses a number of drawing and modeling packages, among them, both Ashlar-Vellum Graphite™ CAD and Cobalt™ 3D modeling software. As he puts it:

“When we discovered Ashlar-Vellum software in the late ’80’s we knew then that it was the software that industrial designers would understand. It had an intuitive way for visual people to create something without going through a ton of calculations to achieve a tangible result.”

When Luc designs sports products like this heart monitor, he starts with the integrated electronics from his client, including the printed circuit board and LCD display. Then, using Graphite, Luc lays out the components getting the chips, receivers, contact keys and buttons into the best place. “Graphite is a better 2D/3D CAD solution because it is easy to move parts around. You don’t have to be an engineer to run it,” commented Luc.

With the layout done in 2D, Luc uses Cobalt to extrude parts for the PCB and LCD in several layers. “With Cobalt 3D modeling software you can just extrude in any direction to get a product shape very quickly. It’s as flexible as modeling clay. Unlike other design software, you don’t have to calculate everything using parametrics, create a detailed assembly and add all the dimensions just to get something to show the client for interim approval.” Luc quickly lights and renders these extrusions and sends them off to the client for concept review.

Luc uses both Graphite and Cobalt back and forth, just as he does Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. “One doesn’t go without the other,” he says. “It’s hard to check a minimum wall thickness in 3D but it’s easy in 2D. I can quickly check the viability of an idea with the manufacturer using Graphite because manufacturing people are used to 2D. For upper management, however, 3D photo-realistic models of the product are like 3D illustrations. They have more influence to sell product ideas.”

Because Luc’s client is standardized on SolidWorks, he delivers his finished designs in a standard file format that the manufacturing department easily handles from there. Any revisions are sent back into Cobalt without difficulty.

Luc concludes, “Ashlar-Vellum CAD and 3D modeling products bridge the gap between the artistic aspect and the engineering requirements with everything needed in between.”

Graphite 2D/3D CAD software is used to determine the best layout for the watch components and communicate with manufacturing in 2D drawings.

Photo-realistic 3D models have more power to sell design to upper management decision makers.

Simplicity Pays Off

Andy Marshall’s focus on simplicity has led THD Electronics to award-winning recognition in the field of guitar amplification. THD amplifiers have attained a level of flexibility and quality no other manufacturer can reproduce. Cobalt™ 3D modeling software has significantly helped Andy as he designs with his musician customers in mind.

The THD line of amplifiers have drawn a world-wide fan base which includes well known musicians Eric Clapton, Peter Buck, Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Page, Ben Harper, and Eric Johnson, just to name a few.

For over 19 years, Andy’s work has built a reputation for quality that enabled THD to initiate the American “boutique” amplifier market. As a result of his efforts in this market, Andy hears daily from guitarists who are pleased with the consistent quality in the 3- and 4-channel guitar amplifiers. All channels provide a distinctive sound—extremely important for recording artists and sound aficionados.

With current projects in mind, Andy looks to Ashlar-Vellum’s Cobalt CAD and 3D modeling software to provide ease of use in design. Andy states that Cobalt has enabled him to catch errors early in the design phase.

“As our products grow more complex, Cobalt’s ability to show me what a product and its component parts will look like helps me to completely visualize the product and ’turn it over in my hands’ before we ever stamp a piece of metal or machine a piece of plastic or wood.”

Because of his years of experience in the music world, Andy designs with an artist’s ear and touch. His amplifiers have a distinctive sound, yet an uncommon ease of use. Andy can’t imagine “ever designing another product without Cobalt.” His experience with Cobalt has proven that this 3D modeling software substantially shortens his time-to-market. Overall he credits Ashlar-Vellum Cobalt with saving him “a stunning amount of time, money, and general grief.” Ashlar-Vellum is happy to be part of the THD success story and we look forward to being a part of THD’s growth in the future.

Providing a distinctive sound for their customers as well as an uncommon ease of use is something Andy has achieved through years of experience in the music industry. Now he has turned to Cobalt 3D modeling software to provide him with the same ease of use for his current design needs.

These Yellow Jacket converters allow for the use of different types of tubes within the same amplifier, one of many design innovations from THD.

Art, Ceiling Fans & Square Roots

Ceiling Fans and beautiful form make an unexpected pair. Mark Gajewski of G Squared brings the two together, one ceiling at a time, with his award winning designs. Some of the most notable are featured in the permanent collection of the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design.

Gajewski, a Polish native and entrepreneur, relocated to the United States, and in 1996 formed the company G Squared. Building on his interest in contemporary ceiling fans, Gajewski did some research to find only two of that type on the market. He read the book Growing a Business by Paul Hawkin, then began an endeavor which would define his career path and his niche.

Gajewski came up with his first design, the San Francisco ceiling fan, rendering it in Cobalt™ CAD and 3D modeling design software. From his own savings, Gajewski designed and produced the first 50 units. Once he launched the design, the customer response was overwhelming.

“Using Cobalt has allowed me to translate my ideas into reality and to share my visions. Being able to model and photo-realistically render sculptural 3D shapes was very valuable in selling my ideas to others.”

G Squared takes existing solutions to a new level, adding beautiful form and impeccable quality. Although G Squared focuses mainly on ceiling fans and lighting products, Gajewski also designs for manufacturers like Prima Lighting and Inpako, for whom he designed the luxurious “Haven” leather arm chair.

Today Gajewski is using Cobalt to model an advanced ceiling fan design which could become a breakthrough product with a similar feel to Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall—very sculptural yet simple. On the horizon Mark envisions a completely new collection to embody his design philosophy—the simplest geometric forms, combined with beautiful proportions and simple materials—all without sacrificing functionality.

The San Francisco ceiling fan is featured in the permanent collection of the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and has won the Good Design Award, one of the world’s most prestigious design awards.

Mark Gajewsky has created a wide variety of elegant and artistic ceiling fans in Cobalt CAD and 3D modeling software.

Dare to be Square

From an initial range of traditional freestanding bathtubs, Telford, UK-based Victoria and Albert Bathtubs, have expanded into the design-driven market with a range of uniquely contemporary tubs. Cobalt™ CAD and 3D modeling software has helped design Kevin Quigley keep pace and detail his ideas.

Given only the size as a starting point, Kevin Quigley took up the challenge of designing a totally unique and contemporary tub for Victoria and Albert Bathtubs, creating the Capri. Kevin needed to explore options for the basic forms as quickly as possible. With the associative 3D solid and surface modeling features in Cobalt, Kevin was able to create six different concepts rendered in gray scale in only a few hours. He told us that in a product like Solidworks this would have taken an entire day, and each concept would have doubled the time and cost. In addition, half way through the design process, Victoria and Albert needed to make a significant change to the front of the tub. Because of Kevin’s confidence in Cobalt he was able to say, ‘Sure, no problem.’ As he puts it:

“In Solidworks this major design revision would have been a serious problem. It would have been easier to start from scratch. But Cobalt’s flexible history-tree feature allowed me to make the changes in only half an hour—and Cobalt updated 10 associated drawings automatically.”

To allow the Victoria and Albert representatives to see the effect various designs had on material thickness and lumbar support, Kevin utilized the flexible sectioning feature in Cobalt.

The final design for the Capri was developed completely in Cobalt, including the renderings, Viewpoint 3D web viewing files and full production drawings. Kevin commented, “The Viewpoint export from Cobalt is excellent. You can even get inside the tub!” With the customer based in Telford and the production and tooling facility in South Africa, Cobalt’s outstanding viewing files, and PDFs of renderings and drawings, played a critical part in quickly assessing and finalizing the project.

The final result for Quigley Design? Another success…the Capri is now one of the top selling bathtubs at Victoria and Albert.

Using the associative 3D solid and surface modeling in Cobalt, Kevin was quickly able to create several variations of the bath for the client to choose.

PowerSwat Skating Over All Terrain

Livio Ronchetti is a design engineer using Ashlar-Vellum Cobalt™ for an exciting new folding inline skate. His product transforms skating from Saturday morning urban recreation to a viable means of efficient transportation over all types of terrain.

Traditional inline skates are cumbersome when navigating steep stairs, boarding public transportation, or entering retail shops and offices. The skates must come off and proper street shoes put on before continuing.

But this design team in Luzern, Switzerland has changed all of that with the PowerSwat. Strapped to the calf over any type of street shoe, the PowerSwat folds backwards at the touch of a button, clicking into place behind the ankle. Later, with a gentle touch the rollers move down again into place and the toe clip clicks around the foot, offering a secure fit.

Better yet, the rollers can be easily exchanged with four optional adapters including ice blades, mini skis, ice climbing crampons and caterpillar tracks for descending grassy meadows or gravel paths.

The PowerSwat moves skating beyond weekend recreation, to a serious vehicle for urban commuters, onto competitive multi-discipline sports, and finally as a great resource for police and military all-terrain transportation.

Ronchetti is part of a three-person design team, each an expert in marketing, construction or design. Their business model is to develop an idea then sell the international patent and rights to an investor who will finance final revisions, production and marketing channels.

As the team’s design engineer, Ronchetti uses Cobalt because of its user-friendly functionality and easy Organic Workflow™. Cobalt allows both free-style and parametric modeling giving him the freedom to explore new ideas quickly. He tells us:

Cobalt™ was used exclusively for the entire 3D model. I could have only solved the free forms of the framework and calf shell by modeling in it.

Ronchetti and his team used Cobalt at every stage of development and prototype production. The entire prototype and its many adapters were produced on a 3D printer using Cobalt modeling files. He also used Cobalt for developing 2D CAD plans and for renderings used in the marketing brochures and documentation.

Cobalt gives Livio Ronchetti the flexibility to bring a product as diverse and imaginative as the PowerSwat inline skate to real life.

The PowerSwat in closed position, for easy walking and in open position, ready to glide.

The PowerSwat’s rollers are easily switched for mini skis, ice crampons, caterpillar tracks or ice blades.

Illuminating More than Product Design

Brazilian designer, Celso Santos, of Rio 21, uses Cobalt™ CAD and 3D modeling software for more than just product design. To him, the best way to maximize his profit on new products in Brazil is to handle not only the design, but the production, packaging, marketing and distribution to retail outlets. Santos finds the 3D capabilities in Cobalt so powerful and easy that he uses it in all areas of his business including packaging, customer assembly instructions, communication with his tool maker, even for his business card.

Cobalt’s powerful Organic Workflow™ paradigm allows Santos to go back and forth between 2D and 3D as he designs and develops a new product like the Luminária RJ 21 table lamp, refining his ideas. Then he uses PDFs of Cobalt’s precision engineering drawings in Adobe products to facilitate discussions and easy design changes with the manufacturing teams. As he tells it:

“One great thing about Cobalt precision 3D modeling is the ability to improve our communications. There is not a point that I can’t explain to someone on the other side of the world. I could talk to our tool maker while he was looking at the PDF.”

Santos also uses Cobalt to design not only the colorful box in which the Luminária RJ 21 will be sold, but also the assembly instructions to be enclosed as part of the packaging so the customer will know how to put it together. Santos tells us when developing those instructions, “I found that it was much easier to edit things in Cobalt than in Adobe Illustrator.”

Cobalt even makes traditional product photography more efficient. Santos says, “When I go into the studio I already know the angles, the lights and everything that I want because I’ve already made all the trials using Cobalt. So it’s easy to have a very good idea of the final result. We’ve reduced the time of development because of this.”

Even the business cards for Rio 21 are partially designed using Cobalt. Because the card uses a 3D image, Santos discovered it was easier to use Cobalt, do a model-to-sheet, edit any extra lines and then take it into other software to make the layout of the card.

Santos used Cobalt CAD and 3D modeling software to design not only the Luminária RJ 21 table lamp itself but to facilitate production, create packaging and illustrate customer assembly drawings.

In Loving Memory

Furniture designer Fred Puksta and his six brothers and sisters wanted something really special as a memorial to their parents, Lorraine and Charles Puksta. While both parents were still alive, Fred started working with them to design something that reflected both of their wishes. A black granite bench with a mosaic tile inlay was envisioned, but the pattern of the mosaic required several revisions until they hit upon using a replica of an actual stained glass window donated by Lorraine’s parents to the church her Polish immigrant grandparents help found in Claremont, New Hampshire.

Fred used Cobalt™ CAD and 3D modeling software to design the bench, then exported the 3D model in various formats to coordinate with four different artisans around the world in the actual manufacturing. For the Chinese stone fabricator Puksta produced full sized interlocking templates by outputting the model on a plotter, then spray-mounting the paper to plywood and using a band saw. He did similar templates for the mosaic artist in Florida, the ceramic artist who was hand painting the Madonna in Massachusetts, and the stone worker in Vermont. Because each of these pieces had to fit perfectly together with the others, accuracy was paramount.

Puksta always models in Cobalt because, as he puts it:

“If you pick up a tool like a paintbrush you want it to be an extension of your body, your mind and your heart. You don’t want to be slowed down because the tool does not function seamlessly. If I get stuck in the mechanics of the program verses the creation of the aesthetic, that is disheartening and shuts down the whole creative process.”

The Chinese fabricator, the mosaic artist and the ceramic painter all worked concurrently on the project over a year and a half. Once the stone bench finally reached the United States, the stone worker in Vermont did the final assembly and lettering. Because of Cobalt’s precision modeling and export capabilities, and Puksta’s attention to detail, everything fitted together perfectly. Throughout the entire process Puksta was able to keep all of his siblings across the country up to date with electronic drawings and photo-realistic renderings from Cobalt.

Puksta used Cobalt CAD and 3D modeling software to design the bench and create precision templates so the work of four artisans would fit together perfectly for this memorial.

Taking the Devil out of the Details with Cobalt™

Martin Brunt of Seattle Spiral builds 3D signs and environmental graphics that cost millions of dollars. Cobalt CAD and 3D modeling software is a success for Brunt, giving him the edge to become the industry pace setter.

Brunt started using Ashlar-Vellum™ CAD software in 1993 when it was known as Vellum 3D. Through the years he’s upgraded into Cobalt for 3D solid and surface modeling, citing it as a turning point in his business. Getting started in a three-day workshop, he then put the software to work in his design and fabrication business.

Cobalt gave Brunt the competitive edge from the start, designing 3-dimensional signs and environmental graphics with complex geometry, that required structural engineering and design interface for city permit approval. As a master craftsman, Brunt understood how to build things. He knew what the production shop required and what the engineers needed. He found Ashlar-Vellum CAD and 3D modeling software ideal for quickly creating complex geometry.

“After one year I was able to compete with the big companies and their CAD operators that used AutoCAD,” says Brunt. “When I started doing site surveys and permit drawings on-site using Cobalt 3D models on my laptop, my business started to build really quickly.” After spending a couple of hours of design time with the client sitting in their lunchroom, Brunt had the design and approval process completed.

“Cobalt’s precision detail and export features made production two to three times faster. In short, the project was ready for production before the big companies ever sent out the surveyor.”

The clients love it. As a small company, Brunt says he completes 10 to 20 times the work volume through innovations provided using Cobalt.

Cobalt helped Seattle Spiral move in a new company direction, completing international projects, including fabrication of metal atrium trees for Hong Kong’s elegant Langham Place. Brunt says, “Cobalt’s solid modeling was the reason for our success in Asia. Once the production model was un-folded and flattened, it became a production language that over 50 non-English speaking craftsmen in mainland China could understand.”

Brunt’s parting words of advice, “Detail it with Cobalt, pass it to production and have fun! Cobalt takes the devil out of the details.”

Brunt designed and fabricated 11 of these Chinese dragons using Cobalt 3D models for Seattle’s International District.

These metal atrium trees were designed in Cobalt and fabricated in China, using Cobalt CAD drawings and 3D models as a “production language” easily understood by non-English craftsmen.

Three-dimensional signs, like this one for Top Pot Doughnuts, are just some of the interesting things Brunt designs in Cobalt 3D modeling software.

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