My recent post about the design of Armstrong’s time trial bike reminded me to mention the importance that 3D modeling software plays in the field of product design. Though all of the bike concepts that I have posted on this blog have been quick hand sketches or 2D Photoshop renderings, I use 3D software daily as I design the products that I actually get paid for. Only in 3D can a designer manipulate the surface details that make up a complicated product like a carbon bike frame. Trek uses Alias Studio as part of the conceptual design process. A few images and an article about how Trek used the software to design the Madone can be found on Alias’ website. Until last year, I primarily used Alias for modeling and rendering as well. Recently, I have switched to Rhinoceros as my main computer-modeling program. Rhino has been used in the bicycle industry as well. A downloadable pdf file on the website explains how the design consulting firm IDE used Rhino to design the Kestrel KM40 airfoil frame. IDE also used Rhino to design the Kestrel Talon a few years earlier.
I am curious what programs some of the other big bike companies use for product design. I know that Solid Works and Pro-E are used throughout the industry for engineering, but if any of you know of other conceptual design software that is used, let me know.
On an unrelated note, thanks to Go Clipless for nominating Bicycle Design in the best bike blog of 2005 contest. Get your other nominations for the contest in here, but don’t forget to vote for Bicycle Design in the end.