Computers have changed product design and manufacturing methods. Not only are products designed using applications such as computer-aided design (CAD) and solid modelling, but much of the manufacturing is automated in contemporary industrial facilities. Solid modelling augments the process of manufacturing by constructing, analysing and testing a product design in the computer and facilitating the manufacture of the product using rapid prototyping.
Solid modelling produces a three-dimensional model of a design in the computer, and contemporary computers easily render the models to create lifelike images of the design. These three-dimensional images and models make it easier for laypeople, such as manufacturing facility's client, to understand the design, in comparison with traditional orthographic projections, such as elevations, sections and plans.
Solid modelling applications provide material and dimensional properties for the designed elements. For example, a solid model of a can of soda can provides the mass, dimensions, volume, density, centre of mass of the can as well as the structural properties of the aluminium can. These properties help the manufacturer determine the most efficient form of the design.
Because solid modelling provides material, dimensional and structural properties of a design, the product can be tested with loads and other environmental factors in the computer before the costly manufacturing process. For example, a bottle of detergent can undergo a test to ensure it will not break if dropped on a hard surface, or that the handle is located in the right position to pour liquid detergent into a washing machine.
3D Printing and Prototyping
Solid modelling applications can export three-dimensional formats, such as stereolithography files, to produce the model using rapid prototyping machines, such as three-dimensional printers and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines. Rapid prototyping provides quick production of designs to test in reality before the production of expensive moulds and mechanisation.