Why Concept Design Matters So Much

Written By: Beverly Spaulding
  • 7/19/2016

We believe concept design is critical to creating a great product. That’s why we focus so much on providing the best capabilities to help turn your great ideas into great products.  In fact, we’ve developed several tools to support this stage of product development, and we frequently check in with customers to make sure we’re on track. Why does concept design software matter so much?

We recently asked Paul Sagar, Creo’s VP Product Management, to elaborate. Sagar, with 10 years of experience in project management at PTC, has worked as a design engineer and managing director at a design consultancy. He also worked at IBM for a number of years. 

First, how do you define concept design?

Concept design is the development phase in which engineers and designers attempt to fully understand a problem and come up with the best solution to it. Typically, it’s an iterative process that takes place early in the cycle.  And it usually involves quickly trying to come up with a number of different solutions (or subsets of solutions) and then narrowing in on the direction in which to take the design.

Sagar on Concept Design

Creo VP of Product Management, Paul Sagar

Why is it so important early in the design process?

It has to be the first thing because the results of concept design feed into the downstream detailed design and engineering process. The longer you wait to nail down your concept, the more expensive development becomes. In fact, the success of the product depends on getting the concept right in the beginning.

But it’s certainly not the only step in product development. Why does PTC focus so much on concept design?

While the engineering process itself is already fairly well defined, the concept design phase is still pretty much a bottleneck in a lot of companies. They come up with their initial concepts and then they spend a lot of time in the engineering process rebuilding all that geometry that they did in the concept design phase—because they did it in a different system.

concept design of a hose nozzle

An example of a concept that was created using Creo Sketch and Freestyle in Creo Parametric.

We see that as an area where we can offer a solution. We see designers and engineers creating a “document of truth.” They can come up with the concepts, they can iterate upon those concepts quickly, and then they can take the final chosen concept, and go straight into engineering with it. They haven't got to rebuild anything.

Creo offers a lot of different tools for concept design. How do users choose?

It really fundamentally depends upon what piece of concept design you're doing. If you're doing mechanical engineering concepts and you want to quickly try out different iterations of an existing design or come up with simple, new shapes, new ideas, you would probably choose a 2D application,  such as Creo Layout. If you're more in the industrial design area where you're thinking more about aesthetics and you're building free form surfaces, then you're probably going to look at Creo Parametric and use the freestyle capability that is in there.  Then, because it's part of Creo, they all work together so that you can go from one to the other as you need it.

And then there’s Creo Design Exploration Extension

Yes. Creo DEX was developed so you can take an existing design and iterate upon it, while storing each step of that iteration in what we call a checkpoint. Checkpoints allow users to iterate upon a design, get to a point, and say “I'm happy with that bit of the concept. Then they can to go back and quickly review all those different concepts, compare them, and then quickly figure out which are good, which are bad, which can be thrown away. Again, helping them come up with multiple concepts quickly and then helping them make the choices as to which are the ones that they want to take forward.

Chair in Creo Design Exploration Extension (DEX)

Concept under development in Creo DEX

How do you see 3D printing changing the nature of concept design?

3D printing has been changing concept design for a fairly long time, whether that’s mechanical design or aesthetic design. For an aesthetic design, I want to quickly prototype it because on the screen, you can't visualize it quite as well as if you've got it in your hands. With a printed prototype, you can check that it feels right, that the ergonomics are right.

For more mechanical idea, you can simulate it. You can try it out. You can come up with the concepts in CAD, but still users want to build a prototype of that concept just to proof it out and be able to iterate upon it quickly, and 3D printing offers that.

Does IoT impact concept design?

IoT is an area that's still emerging. One of the unique benefits of the technology is that it allows engineers to gather information from products that are already out in the world. So, as they begin working on new and updated products, their concepts are going to be better informed, and therefore much more on target.

In a world that’s increasingly competitive, that’s going to lead to a tremendous advantage for companies that use it.

[Ed. Find out how PTC’s concept design suite can help you. In this prerecorded webinar, we’ll show you how you can easily share data with colleagues and partners, eliminate the need to recreate drawings and models, and maintain design integrity throughout the product development process.]




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About the Author

Beverly Spaulding

Beverly Spaulding is a Director of Demand Generation for PTC’s Service and Retail divisions. She is a Boston University alumni with a background in digital marketing, demand generation and B2B marketing. She has a curiosity for technology, data and the science behind marketing.