Four Ways Your Design Software Discourages Good Ideas

As a developer, much of what you do falls under “design exploration.” You create a solution, evaluate your idea, and then repeat. The more the better.

“One cannot typically know that there is not a better design down some path that was not taken,” writes Karl Ulrich, vice dean of innovation at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “As a result, most designers will explore several paths, may backtrack, and may explore several different sequences of decisions.”

Post Its Ideas

In a world of napkins sketches, Post It notes, whiteboards, and brainstorming sessions, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Idea generation is easy and moves fast. But when it comes time to create variations, vault them, and share ideas, things slow down. And up until now, design software has only made the situation slightly better. In fact, there are several ways your design software may still be discouraging you and others from trying out and evaluating more ideas:

1. There’s no quick way to build idea variations. Once you’ve modeled a product, creating alternatives often means copying a file and modifying it. The more “paths” you wander down, the more files you have to create. Imagine for example that you’d like to try out a lighter weight material and a different fastener on a mounting bracket. You might create three different files to reflect each possible variant. It’s time consuming as you open a model, copy it, make modifications, and save it under a different name.

Of course you could save time and disk space by deleting rejected ideas. But that adds another barrier to good design exploration:

2. Unsaved design ideas are doomed to be repeated. Even on the smallest teams, eventually someone other than the creator works on a product. People move into management, they retire, and companies and product lines get bought out. When that new engineer looks at the bracket, she then wonders, “Why hasn’t anyone ever tried this fastener before….” She’s about to find out, but only after losing valuable time that could have been spent on an untraveled path. Too bad she didn’t know about the work you did last year.

3. There’s no quick way to review and compare variations. Even after you’ve created design alternatives, the process of comparing ideas becomes cumbersome. Imagine yourself in a design review bringing up the file with the new fastener, then the once with the new material, then the one with the new material and the new fastener.

The process moves along so slowly, that most designers spend time on screen captures and PowerPoints before presenting their ideas to others. That’s unfortunate because any suggestions must then be jotted down and integrated back into the model before exploration can continue.

4. Great ideas don’t emerge in the right part of the design cycle. For teams that develop concept designs with sketches and cardboard prototypes, most of the ideation takes place early. But as an engineer, your ideas matter even when prototyping wraps up. During detailed design, you may realize that a round on a strategic edge gives you more manufacturable surface. That’s an idea worth capturing and discussing! But with traditional CAD software, again, you’re on the path to more files and longer review meetings.

Meet PTC Creo Design Exploration Extension (DEX)

With PTC Creo 3.0, we hope to overcome these barriers and make exploring design ideas easier and even fun again. The PTC Creo Design Exploration Extension is dedicated tool that works within PTC Creo Parametric for capturing ideas all within your original model file.

Simply launch the tool and create a checkpoint (think of it as a bookmark). Make some design changes, and create another checkpoint.

You can create as many branches, modifications, and checkpoints as you like—all without ever overwriting the original design (remember, we’re just exploring at this point!).

When you’re ready to compare and review alternatives, just click on the checkpoints. No launching external files or creating PowerPoints. And since PTC Creo DEX is part of the original CAD file, you can accept any design alternative you like into the source design with a click.

Ed – to find out just where your ideas might lead with PTC Creo DEX, why not take a closer look at this new extension by joining a live webcast, it’s your opportunity to ask PTC experts your questions and see a live demonstration of the PTC Creo Design Exploration Extension.