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DECEMBER 2020 | JANUARY 2021 | £6 | € 7 | $10 | DEVELOP3D.COM

SOUL SOOTHER Tom Lawton’s blueprint for practical positivity in 2021

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WELCOME EDITORIAL Editor-in-Chief Al Dean al@x3dmedia.com +44 (0)7525 701 541 Managing Editor Greg Corke greg@x3dmedia.com +44 (0)20 3355 7312 Digital Media Editor Stephen Holmes stephen@x3dmedia.com +44 (0)20 3384 5297 Consulting Editor Jessica Twentyman jtwentyman@gmail.com +44 (0)20 7913 0919 Consulting Editor Martyn Day martyn@x3dmedia.com +44 (0)7525 701 542

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ADVERTISING Group Media Director Tony Baksh tony@x3dmedia.com +44 (0)20 3355 7313 Deputy Advertising Manager Steve King steve@x3dmedia.com +44 (0)20 3355 7314 US Sales Director Denise Greaves denise@x3dmedia.com +1 857 400 7713

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D

epending on when you read this, it’s either mid-way through the festive season or you’re into the first days of a brand new year. 2021. It’s a date that has a certain ring to it, particularly to those of us who grew up on a steady diet of science fiction. Whether it was Buck Rogers, Blake 7, Star Trek in its various guises and, of course, Star Wars, the future always seemed so far away — way more than a jet-pack or teleportation machine away. This month’s cover story is something we’ve not done before — we’re returned to catch up with a gentleman that impressed us back in 2012 and continues to do so. Tom Lawton is one of those folks that, as you will know if you’ve ever come across him on twitter or on the TV, looks for the positive in everything. Whether that’s how to capture experiences in 360 degrees, how to keep runners or joggers safe at night without using batteries, or how to take industrial waste and turn it into beautiful objects that calm and sooth. Stephen’s cover story this month captures Tom’s enthusiasm, but also delves into how he takes those ideas to market. Over the years I’ve ‘spoken’ to Tom a lot, though we’ve never met. During a recent chat, we discovered that we probably used to frequent the same sweet shop when he visited his Gran up in Wolverhampton, the same place I used to buy my Matchbox cars and Sherbet Fountains as a kid. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we live in one another’s spheres more than we probably thought and that the world is, despite its apparent scale, a lot smaller than we imagined. We need to take better care of everything — of the environment and of each other, because we’re all dependent on each other’s well being more than perhaps we realised. Science fiction is often about a struggle to build a better world or to escape from the ravages of a world that’s not been cared for. Let’s do more of the former and less of the latter, eh?

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© 2020 Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. All rights reserved. AMD, the AMD Arrow logo, Radeon, and combinations thereof are trademarks of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. PTC and Creo are trademarks or registered trademarks of PTC Inc. or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and in other countries. Siemens and NX are trademarks or registered trademarks of Siemens Industry Software Inc., or its subsidiaries or affiliates, in the United States and in other countries. Other product names used in this publication are for identification purposes only and may be trademarks of their respective companies. 1

RPW-252: Testing as of May 30, 2019 by AMD Performance Labs on a test system comprising of an Intel® Xeon® 4-core W-2125, 32GB RAM, Windows® 10 Fall Creators Update Professional 64-bit, AMD Radeon™ Pro WX 3200, AMD Radeon™ Pro Software Enterprise Edition 19.Q2 and Nvidia Quadro P620, 430.39. The SPECviewperf® 13 benchmark measures graphics performance with a variety of applications. The performance presented in Radeon™ Pro WX 3200 graphics workstation is greater in comparison to the Nvidia Quadro P620 graphics workstation as follows: - creo-02 scored 73.65 on the Radeon™ Pro WX 3200 graphics system while the Nvidia Quadro P620 system scored 58.32 for a comparison of 73.65/58.32=1.26 - snx-03 scored 110.53 on the Radeon™ Pro WX 3200 graphics system while the Nvidia Quadro P620 system scored a 92.59 for a comparison of 110.53/92.59=1.19. PC manufacturers may vary configurations yielding different results. Performance may vary based on use of latest drivers. SPEC® and SPECviewperf® are registered trademarks of Standard Performance Testing Corporation. Additional information about the SPEC® benchmarks can be found at www.spec.org/gwpg RPW-252



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CONTENTS DECEMBER 2020 | JANUARY 2021 ISSUE NO. 123

NEWS Keyshot 10 takes rendering to the next level; Varjo ups the ante in high-end XR headsets; Rhino 7 launches with new Sub-D modelling tools; Chaos Vantage brings ray tracing to real-time, plus lots more...

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12 14 16 24 28 30 33 36

FEATURES Comment: Erin McDermott - don’t undervalue your skills Visual Design Guide: Porsche 911 Targa 4S COVER STORY - Tom Lawton serial inventor Swindon Powertrain: the electric Austin Mini Microfluidics at IotaSciences Can-Am Maverick off-road vehicle Simulating thermal impact on vehicle battery life Virtual workstations - Q&A with IMSCAD

REVIEWS 41 KeyShot 10 45 Blender 2.9 48 HDR Light Studio Xenon THE LAST WORD 50 Al Dean on why he never wants to hear the UK referred to as that “once great manufacturing nation” 51 DEVELOP3D SERVICES

2021

8 September 2021 The wood used to produce this magazine comes from Forest Stewardship Council certified well-managed forests, controlled sources and/or recycled material

University of Sheffield

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NEWS

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT TECHNOLOGY NEWS

KEYSHOT 10 INTRODUCES NEW LIGHTING AND ANIMATION TOOLS, PLUS SMART EXPORT » For Keyshot users, it looks like the festive season has arrived early, with the release of the latest update to Luxion's 3D rendering technology

I

f you’re a KeyShot user, you’ll already be aware that the last few releases have seen some pretty fundamental advances in the system. These include support for GPU-based rendering, advanced material editing with the Keyshot Material Graph, the introduction of RealCloth, plus new ways to interact with light in visualisations. All this work continues in KeyShot 10, along with some brand-new features. Animation looks to be a core focus in this release. For some years now, KeyShot has offered a keyframe-based animation tool. In Keyshot 10, new tools support greater flexibility when adding and adjusting keyframes, and users get the option to record sequences of keyframes for what Keyshot developer Luxion calls “fast, complex motion visual creation.” There are also a couple of new animation options. For example, users can quickly create a sun & sky day arc animation that includes

adjustments for date, as well as start and end times. They can also apply animation to an environment’s rotation value and to the twist value in a camera animation. Data interoperability and exchange is a focus, too, with the new Smart Export command. This uses sub-features, such as UV unwrapping and texture baking, for output to fullcolour 3D prints, VR/AR presentations and more, with GLB/gITF and USDz. There are also some interesting new tools for scene set-up, particularly around positioning and management

of lights and geometry. It seems that the new light management tools allow users to manage all of their scene’s lighting from a single location, including both their HDR environment and individual lights defined within the scene. “We couldn’t be more excited about the new features in the release of KeyShot 10,” said Claus Wann Jensen, co-founder and CEO of Luxion. “This release encapsulates a decade dedicated to providing 3D professionals with the absolute best real-time rendering experience possible and sets the stage for the decade of 3D visualisation to come.” keyshot.com

Top: KeyShot 10 is now available from keyshot.com and from certified resellers Above: Lights are now more centrally controlled and more easily manipulated on screen Left: Toon shading has been updated in order to better differentiate between edges and parts

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NEWS

VARJO LAUNCHES NEW HIGHER SPEC, LOWER COST HEADSETS

Castor Enterprise recommends parts for additive

C V

astor Technologies has unveiled Castor Enterprise, a new proprietary software designed to help manufacturers automatically reduce costs and gain benefits from industrial 3D printing. Castor Enterprise is an on-premise solution that automatically identifies cost reduction opportunities out of thousands of parts and assemblies at once, giving recommendations for parts that could be redesigned easiest to benefit from additive manufacturing processes. 3dcastor.com

arjo has launched its new XR-3 and VR-3 headsets, with promises of double the performance levels seen in predecessors and pricing aimed at accelerating workplace adoption. The two new professional-grade headsets continue Varjo’s mission to offer high levels of visual fidelity, particular to sectors where absolute precision is vital, including design and engineering. Featuring the brand’s human-eye resolution, a 115-degree field of view and integrated eye and hand tracking, the XR-3 also adds inside-out tracking and mixed reality depth awareness via combined LiDAR and RGB video. At over 70 pixels per degree, Varjo’s full-frame Bionic Display contains double the human-eye resolution area of earlier models. The headsets also support ultra-high resolution across the full frame, as well as improved colour accuracy. With a refresh rate of 90Hz, the XR-3 and VR-3 also offer 'incredibly fast and accurate' eye tracking, integrated in XR/VR headsets at up to 200Hz. Both models also feature integrated Ultraleap hand tracking for natural interactions. They retain the

three-point headband, but are 40% lighter than previous models. Already compatible with Unity and Unreal Engine, Varjo plans to add support for the OpenXR 1.0 open standard in early 2021. Elsewhere, many other applications, including Autodesk VRED, continue to be supported. Varjo has also revisited its own software offering and carried out some modernisation work. Varjo Subscriptions now replaces previous software and support services. Professional customers can also now buy Varjo software via a dedicated portal, which the company promises will make purchases easier and more flexible. The Varjo XR-3 is available for enterprise purchase for $5,495 (USD and Euros) together with Varjo Subscription, which starts at $1,495 (USD and Euros) for a required one-year base subscription. The Varjo VR-3 can be purchased for $3,195 (USD and Euros) along with a one-year subscription starting at $795. With a new price point for the headsets, Varjo is accelerating organisations’ ability to bring immersive technology into the workplace. varjo.com

Chaos Vantage adds ‘100% Ray Tracing’ to real-time 3D design visualisation tools

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haos Vantage, a new application that allows users to instantly explore 3D scenes in a fully ray traced, realtime environment, has been launched by Chaos Group, where it was formerly known as Project Lavina. Unlike typical real-time methods, the import process is simplified – just dragand-drop a V-Ray scene, or live link from Autodesk 3ds Max, to bring it into real-time. There’s no geometry to optimise, UVs to unwrap, or lighting to bake. To push the option, Chaos Vantage is available now and is compatible with all V-Ray Next and V-Ray 5 integrations. A one-year license is free until 2 June 2021, after which it will cost $389 annually, although the software does use DXR ray

ZG MarvelScan 3D laser scanner gets UK launch

T

he new MarvelScan 3D Laser scanner from ZG Technology has added marker-free abilities and an independent built-in photogrammetry system, with the Chinese-developed system now available in the UK. Available through reseller 3D Scanning Solutions, the new handheld scanner uses a blue laser source, works from 0.02mm 0.01mm, and can also be used wirelessly for greater reach and freedom of movement. 3dscanning-solutions.co.uk

Kubotek release Kosmos 3D Framework 3.0

K tracing and currently requires an Nvidia RTX series GPU to work. Chaos also released V-Ray 5 for Rhino, a powerful new update that brings real-time rendering into Rhino and Grasshopper. chaosgroup.com

Chaos Vantage brings raytracing to real-time 3D design viz

ubotek3D's Kosmos 3D Framework has been updated to version 3.0. The software component framework is intended to help maximize performance and the ability to work with complete engineering models and data from all major MCAD databases. The new update adds STEP AP 242 Modelbased Definition (MBD) data read and write for PMI/3D Drawing interoperability as well as .stpZ compressed STEP files. Modelling kernel updates also include feature recognition, booleans, facetting, and transformation of assemblies. kubotek3d.com

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RHINO 7 WITH SUB-D MODELLING ENTERS UNDER THE RADAR

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hino 7 has launched with its typical McNeel whisper campaign, although the brand has been quick to announce that the latest version is its ‘most significant upgrade’ in its history, over 2018’s Rhino 6. New Sub-D modelling tools are the big news, primed for users new and old to create freeform organic shapes with quick editing ability. McNeel & Associates states that unlike traditionally Sub-D objects, which are mesh-based and lend themselves well to more approximate types of modelling; Sub-D objects in Rhino 7 are ‘high precision’ spline-based surfaces that bring a new level of accuracy to the process of creating complex freeform shapes. Another new feature for Rhino 7 is Quadmesh, which allows the user to create a quad mesh from existing surfaces, solids, meshes, or the new Sub-Ds. Additionally, Rhino 7 has improved

its presentation tools, streamlining the workflow with a major update to the Rhino Render engine, meaning that the same look you get in your ray-traced viewport can be rendered without any changes. It has also added support for PhysicallyBased Rendering materials, a LayerBook command, and more. McNeel states that the latest release has fixed ‘hundreds of bugs’, but has also added workflow improvements like Named Selections, Mold Making tools, a single-line font for engraving, and improved interoperation with third-party file formats. While the UI remains practically identical, the display pipeline has been upgraded to match modern graphics hardware. In Rhino 7, some models will display significantly faster on both Windows and Mac, while several refinements to the Display Modes have been made. rhino3d.com

Rhino 7 brings a host of splinebased SubD modelling tools including QuadRemeshing

T

passwords to enable any editing of the 3D PDF output. V23.3 supports Model Based Definition and 3D annotations and dimensions (PMI) from Creo into the 3D PDF format. theorem.com

Volkswagen has invested in two Stratasys J850 multi-material 3D printers for teams working on its vehicle interiors and key exterior aspects such as headlights. The J850 can produce full-colour prototypes in up to seven different materials varying in opaqueness, rigidity, flexibility, and transparency stratasys.com

AMFG is to collaborate with HP to enable data streaming and connectivity for HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printers through AMFG’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software to solve one of the biggest barriers they see to unlocking the full potential of additive: The lack of connectivity across the AM workflow. amfg.com | hp.com

Protolabs has announced its new e-commerce platform for the UK, which allows management of prototyping or manufacturing through an updated UI which offers all three of the firm’s key services – 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding – in one place. protolabs.com

Theorem releases latest Creo-to-3D PDF v23.3 for interoperability and accessibility heorem Solutions has announced the release of its latest Creo to 3D PDF publisher, with V23.3 supports Creo 4.0, 6.0 and 7.0. Theorem’s 3D PDF products enable the publishing of 3D Creo data directly from within the design application into an interactive 3D PDF document format, or HTML5 output. The published PDF document (itself now an ISO standard) contains embedded interactive 3D representations of the native Creo data (within pre-defined templates), which promise greater levels of intellectual property protection. The latest release also offers support for separate passwords to control the access to the document, as well as separate

ROUND UP

PDF is fast becoming a favoured way to communicate PMI/MBD data

SkyReal has partnered with HP’s Independent Software Vendor programme, as a key VR partner to support the roll out of the HP Reverb G2 virtual reality headset. The HP Reverb G2 VR Headset, which is now being bundled with SkyReal skyreal.com

Coreform has acquired exclusive distribution rights to Sandia National Laboratories’ Cubit software. The developer of commercial spline-based simulation software, Coreform has worked closely with Sandia on the development of Cubit for more than 15 years. coreform.com

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COMMENT

In 2021, product developers thinking about the value of their skills need to accentuate the positive and embrace the negative. Here are some tips for doing just that, from our regular columnist, Erin McDermott

P

hysical product developers, I want you to know: “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.” This quote comes from an American comedy skit from the 90s on Saturday Night Live. The character speaks the line to a mirror, imitating the cloying self-help gurus of that age. And yet, even though this phrase originated as a joke, lately, I have urges to earnestly shout it down the microphone to whichever engineer I’m speaking to. Why? Well, technical specialists tend to sorely underestimate their expertise. In fact, it seems the more accomplished they are, the harder it is for them to see it. Over the past few months, I’ve interviewed other engineers working on hardware to learn more about what we need to be happy and financially stable in our work. Yet even though the calls initiate as a research project, I always end up giving these pros valuable perspective. At the end of each call, they are smiling and buzzing with optimism. They tell me they didn’t realise all the places their skills are sorely needed or how valuable their specific combinations of talents are. Here, I’ll try to help you reproduce the lines of thinking that inspired those much-needed ego bumps. This is my holiday gift to you. Merry Christmahanukwanzakah!

The disregard for ergonomics in the shape of that housing, the unacceptable size of that heat sink, the garish colour temperature of that LED, the surface finish on that button you see? Oh, the horror of it all! To compound the tragedy, you are nearly alone in feeling this agony. Go ahead and shake your fist at the sky. Now that you’re done with your tantrum, do you notice something else? The things that bug you about a design, because they seem obviously bad to you, are not obvious to the rest of the world. If they were plain to everyone, products that irk you would not have been made that way in the first place. Congratulations, you’ve found one of your superpower technical specialties. To others who

begging for the Class-A modeller’s feedback. This example overlaps with the other way I’d like you to think about your skills: through the lens of a different industry. Consumer electronics and sports cars are totally different leagues of products. In this case, average skills from one industry become jawdropping abilities when brought to another. In another call, I was talking to a fellow optical engineer who worked in high-end luminaire design. He was freshly laid-off and didn’t think his niche skills would be of use at any other company. That’s when I clued him into a surprising discovery that I’ve made in my own career: “There are start-ups that will pay just as much for you to help them design, and perfect, silly lit effects.” I showed him some of the projects I worked on in my postluminaire design career and he was elated. He then clearly saw how his skills would transfer to these other worlds and be highly valued. If you’ve trained for years on the job or at university, I promise a lot of tasks that are mundane to you are perplexing and intimidating to others! Look around. Instead of upwards, look down the org chart to the more junior engineer. Look across the aisle to the other silos that could use some cross-disciplinary explanations. Look down the street to totally different industries and smaller-sized companies that could benefit from your fresh perspective. Then, after you do that, consider offering a bit of free advice or a lesson. If you do, you won’t need anyone telling you that you’re good enough and smart enough. You’ll already feel how true it is.

You’ll notice that the closer the unacceptable engineering flaw falls toward your area of expertise, the more it irritates you. This is, in part, because there aren’t too many other people who will understand just how messed up it is.

EMBRACE YOUR NEGATIVITY Let’s start with something that comes easy to all of us: negativity. Are there things in your day-to-day life that are simply designed unacceptably? Do they disgust you, even? Of course there are! This is the Engineer’s Curse. We are all afflicted. You’ll notice that the closer the unacceptable engineering flaw falls toward your area of expertise, the more it irritates you. This is, in part, because there aren’t too many other people who will understand just how messed up it is.

 can’t see the world with this same X-ray vision, you can provide exceptional value.

OTHER PEOPLE, OTHER INDUSTRIES In one call with a Class-A modeller of race car CAD, the pro expressed disappointment in the limitations of his skills. Minutes later, he was describing a totally unrelated consumer electronic design that was modelled so poorly that it drove him into a fervour just explaining how bad it was. Imagine you were the guy leading the team that engineered that ugly device. Now imagine a person who polished the final look of gorgeous race cars wanting to give you some tips on making your V2 housing design aesthetically pleasing. Wouldn’t you be thrilled to hear what they had to say? I think so. In fact, I think that leader would be

GET IN TOUCH: Erin M. McDermott is Director of Optical Engineering at Spire Starter and a digital nomad (read: vagrant). She travels the world meeting hardware engineers who don’t know that things using light (cameras, LED illumination, LiDAR, laser processes etc) need competent design, optimisation, and tolerancing like the rest of their widget. Get in touch at spirestarter.com or @erinmmcdermott

12 DECEMBER 2020 | JANUARY 2021 DEVELOP3D.COM

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VISUAL DESIGN GUIDE PORSCHE 911 TARGA 4S HERITAGE DESIGN EDITION Porsche’s 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition is a state-of-the-art 911 with design elements from the 1950s and early 60s and the first of four collector’s pieces in its Heritage Design strategy

INTERIOR TAKES CUES FROM 356 The interior also pays tribute to the past, with the exclusive two-tone leather interior combining Bordeaux Red leather with OLEA club leather in Atacama Beige or Black leather with OLEA club leather in Atacama Beige. The use of corduroy on seats and door trims signals the return of a material used in the Porsche 356, reviving the zeitgeist and fashion of the 50s

HERITAGE COMBINES WITH POWER The first Heritage Design model is based on the new 992 generation 911 Targa. It is powered by a hightech 331 kW biturbo boxer engine which, in combination with the eightspeed, dual-clutch transmission, accelerates the 911 Targa (with Launch Control) from 0-100 km/h in less than 3.6 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 304 km/h

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BRIEFING FROM THE MAIN MAN AT PORSCHE “With the Heritage Design models, we are evoking memories of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s in customers and fans alike. No brand can translate these elements into the modern day as well as Porsche and, in this way, we are fulfilling the wishes of our customers. We are also establishing a new product line that represents the lifestyle dimension in our product strategy with these exclusive special editions,” said Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG

REAR GRILL BADGE The Porsche Heritage badge on the rear lid grille is a nod to one that was awarded when a Porsche 356 reached the 100,000km mark. This seal of quality from the past – with a modern twist – will grace the rear of all four Porsche Heritage Design models

PORSCHE ACTIVE SUSPENSION MANAGEMENT The electronically controlled variable damping system PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) is standard equipment on the new 911 Targa models. This system automatically adjusts the damping characteristics in terms of driving comfort and handling to each driving situation and has two manually adjustable maps, Normal and Sport. Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), which includes an electronic rear differential lock with fully variable torque distribution, is added as standard equipment for the Targa 4S and is available as an option on the Targa 4

CHERRY RED HOMAGE TO HISTORY Paintwork in Cherry Metallic, combined with gold logos, creates an authentic look in true 50s style. The exterior of the 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition features stylish livery in white, with a historical design. The spear-shaped graphic motorsports elements on the front wings are particularly striking, recalling the early days of Porsche competition history

NEXT STEPS

The Porsche 911 4S Heritage Design Edition is available to order now. Only 992 examples will be built porsche.com

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COVER STORY

UPWARD » With his latest project, Uplift, Tom Lawton is looking to soothe people’s souls in 2021. The serial inventor talks to Stephen Holmes about a life spent transforming his ideas into reality, the power of making your own decisions and the importance of standing up to the big guys

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RD FLOW 

I find it exciting and empowering. As much as it’s scary being so independent, it’s invigorating as well Tom Lawton

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1 om Lawton barely stops for breath during our interview. The conversation – darting off at tangents and racing through several of his projects – provides a whistlestop tour of what’s been keeping the designer, inventor and occasional TV star busy over the eight years since he last appeared on the cover of DEVELOP3D. There’s the Bubblescope, for example: a 360-degree camera, launched ahead of its time and well before virtual reality hit its mainstream stride. This design, Lawton claims, was later regurgitated, without credit, by a major brand that had previously turned down his idea. Then came the success of the Million Mile Light, a wearable light powered by movement that has become a favourite for safety-conscious runners. And along the way, there have been many more commissioned projects, including a television series in which he brought to life his young son’s fantastical designs for their house boat. With each project has come different lessons, he says. “In reality, every product, invention and business case is completely different. I must have done 10 commercial projects, and 20 experimental inventions that haven’t made it forward, in over 25 years. And every one of them was a different kind of thing,” he says, speaking from his workshop in the chocolate-box Cotswold town of Malmesbury, UK.

1 The Uplift 2.0 ●

(left), sat alongside its predecessor (right), is designed to help stressed-out observers unwind and meditate

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COVER STORY In reality, ‘‘ every

product, invention and business case is completely different. I must have done 10 commercial projects, and 20 experimental inventions, in over 25 years, that haven’t made it forward

’’

GOOD VIBES His most recent undertaking has been the launch of Uplift 2.0, a never-ending spiral that pirouettes hypnotically, encased in a glass dome and sat on a wooden pedestal. It’s like something you’d find in a Victorian cabinet of curios; a small, brass mechanism, harnessing daylight to power the rotating helix. Made of a sea-blue material, the spiral glows in the sunlight. It’s extremely soothing to watch – which in fact, is the whole point, since Uplift 2.0 is intended to enable stressed-out observers to unwind and meditate. Lawton himself is a man you sense runs on a mix of good vibes and drive. “I’ve got very, very good spirit in my veins, whatever that means!” he smiles. “I don’t even need to think about being optimistic. It just happens.” He channels this energy into new ideas and inventions, taking inspiration from diverse sources – things he spots on his morning run, for example, or headline events dominating world news. Bubblescope, for example, was inspired by TV news footage of Saddam Hussein’s statue being toppled during the Iraq war. That got Lawton wondering what was happening out of shot. The focus for Million Mile Light was inspiring people to believe that renewable energy can be a beautiful thing. The original Uplift design, meanwhile, was a response to Brexit and influenced by Lawton’s previous work on a project involving spirals.

2

3

“Brexit came, and all the people I love just seemed to lock horns with one another. And I’m not political. I have my thoughts and opinions, but I just have to reel it in, otherwise I’d just end up barking up trees,” he says. “It really upset me that my friends were suddenly at each other’s throats. It was really depressing.” His instinct, rather than to be ground down by the situation, was to make something – and around the same time, his fellow inventor and collaborator Ben Jandrell brought him a new device that he was working on. “We’ve got a dual fascination in doing cool things with very small amounts of energy – that’s where the Million Mile Light came from,” Lawton explains. “Ben showed me the little kinetic arrangement for a solar engine and I was like, ‘That’s really cool’, and I thought about the spiral and whether I could combine the two things together.” At this point, Uplift was, in essence, an art project. Its spinning tower was made from laser-cut pieces of wood, arranged on the motorised shaft that spiralled upwards. But Lawton soon realised it was more than that, when he took his creation to visit his grandmother, Kitty, in her nursing home and saw its beneficial effects. “The effect [of the spiral] was to very genuinely ease her anxiety – and when you’ve got dementia, you can easily get on a stressful pathway,” he says. “It became a really nice relaxation tool for her, and I’d bring it every time I went to see her.” Sadly, Kitty passed away some time later, but his grief drove Lawton to take his design to the next level.

MOMENT OF CLARITY After some tweaks to the design, the first model was launched on Kickstarter, a place where, from previous positive experiences, Lawton feels comfortable launching his creations. “I’ve become pretty effective at starting Kickstarter campaigns,” he says. “I’ve done maybe six, and every time, we’ve raised £60,000 to £70,000. So that’s £250 to £300 grand on Kickstarter over the years.” Uplift was another great crowdfunding success for Lawton, and suddenly he was faced with the challenge of having to make and assemble 440 units. But 22,000 lasercut pieces of wood later (each hand-finished with a nail file), his labour of love paid off. “There’s this paradox there,” he reflects. “I’m in the pursuit of relaxation, but to get there, I’ve got to do these insanely hectic things!” Using Kickstarter not only verified that there was a market for Uplift, but it created a direct link for Lawton to communicate with customers. “Lots of people were telling me about how it helped their mental health, which I hadn’t really considered,” he says. Parents of children with autism got in touch, too, telling him how it aided calming. People whose mobility is restricted through illness found it soothed their frustrations.

4

2 Marine Nylon is produced ●

from recycled fishing nets in Cornwall

3 The blue plastic takes on a ●

‘glowing’ visual form under light 4 A finished Uplift 2.0 delivered ●

to a customer

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COVER STORY

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Off the back of this, Lawton asked his audience what they’d like to see next. Their response: something reminiscent of the ocean. With Uplift 2.0, the aim was to take the responsible production ethos a few steps further with regenerative design - taking waste material and putting it to use. Via Twitter, Lawton got in touch with Fishy Filaments, a company that recycles waste nets from Cornwall’s commercial fishing fleet. By using a proprietary washing process to remove salt and marine algae, the nets are then remelted at over 200°C to produce recycled marine nylon. “It’s Nylon-6 and it’s got this optical property to it,” says Lawton. “It’s genuinely been in the ocean, tumbling – and it somehow embodies part of that.” However, 3D printing the material in a layered FDM form obscured the light flow, so Lawton decided that the high heat and pressure of injection moulding would be a better way forward. This created two issues. First, injection moulding most commonly happens in China, and Lawton had hoped this part of the product could be manufactured in the UK – especially given Brexit, not to mention the close-tohome narrative around using reclaimed plastic from UK waters. Second, it stands to reason that very few companies operating a million-pound injection moulding machine will be keen to work with a material that potentially contains contaminants. Again, Lawton turned to Twitter for suggestions — not least from members of the DEVELOP3D readership, he adds: “A few names always come up and they’re clearly part of the community who just like solving problems. I was pointed to a company in Shropshire called Plastic-IT, a family-run ‘artisan’ injection-moulding company.” The owners of Plastic-IT responded well to Uplift 2.0. Despite the lack of a massive order or big-name backer, Lawton says his enthusiasm and what he was trying to achieve sealed the deal. The first thousand units of Uplift 2.0 were produced in Plastic-IT’s facility in Shrewsbury, using the Fishy Filaments Marine Nylon — “and it was a nightmare,” says Lawton, unexpectedly. “We did it, but it was so difficult to do,” he continues. Fishy Filaments, he admits, was brilliant, but while it was able to deep-clean nets and provide the homogenous, pelletised material for injection moulding, there were still contaminants in the material. That meant that, frequently, the injection moulding machine would just stop. Given that this was happening against the wider backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, he says, “we really had to dig deep to not just fuck it all off.” For the 1,000 units that came through the process perfectly, there was a scrap rate of around 800 units. But, Lawton adds, thanks to the experienced father-and-son team at Plastic-IT, another UK source of recycled fishing net material for the next line of products was identified.

There’s ‘‘ this

paradox: I’m in the pursuit of relaxation, but to get there, I’ve got to do these insanely hectic things!

’’

5 ● 6 ● 7 The original spiral design ●

was formed from lasercut pieces of wood, each one hand-finished

8

8 Lawton (right), with his fellow ●

inventor and collaborator Ben Jandrell

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9 OWN YOUR STRENGTHS Using experimental materials and insisting on UK-based manufacturing might be considered too risky by many business leaders – but Lawton explains it’s easier for him to make such decisions, thanks to the level of autonomy he has. “That’s what I find exciting and empowering. As much as it’s scary being so independent, it’s invigorating as well. You get to be a bit more free with the wind.” So while the production issues were a setback, they also provide yet another good learning experience. And it’s one that Lawton has tackled with typical creative flourish. As a result, Uplift 2.0 is a product built to exceptional quality standards, to become a sought-after limited edition. With over 25 years charting his own path in the commercial world, Lawton’s optimism makes it easy for him to recover from setbacks. And thanks to social media, Uplift has found its way into houses around the world, even garnering a celebrity following, with the likes of Sir David Attenborough, Jamie Oliver, illusionist Derren Brown and Radio 4 presenter Reverend Richard Coles all expressing their appreciation of it publicly, in one way or another. Lawton believes in being a positive force, and has given away products on occasion, even personally dropping off an Uplift on the Reverend Cole’s doorstep, following the death of his civil partner. “The way that people respond to it is just beautiful,” Lawton says.

9 A serial inventor ● In an age of social media influencers and corporate sponsorship, it’s easy to become cynical about these things. and innovator, Lawton has advice It’s not that Lawton isn’t aware of the impact of celebrity for others hoping to follow in his endorsements. But based in a whimsical little English footsteps town, and with his genuine enthusiasm for doing good, some of the goodwill is paying off. He’s keen to offer others the benefit of his own experience too, as we delve back into more pragmatic advice for designers. One area in which he has first-hand experience is knowing when to pursue an idea, and build a company around it; and when to use your skills instead to design the product, patent it, and then license it to a big brand. “Be careful about how much you disclose to any corporate entity, because they are not on your side until you’ve got something totally fab. So be really secretive about what you’re doing. You’re the one who’s got the clever thing. You’ve got the power, as they need new ideas,” he warns. “If you’re an innovator, it might not just be that single idea. Your genius was the fact that you could come up with it. Chances are, you could come up with a good idea for dispensing peanuts if you wanted to! There’s lots of times I pick myself up, but for good reason: because all of these reasons come together and you’re ready to go.” In Lawton’s case, like Uplift, this has definitely been with an upward flow.

beuplifted.co.uk

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PROFILE

BRIGHT SPARKS T Swindon Powertrain is taking a half-century of know-how in performance engine development and design and channelling it into a bold mission to conquer the electrification market, as Al Dean reports

1 Swindon ●

Powertrain’s E Classic Kit comprises a 80Kw HPD E drive unit mounted into a standard Mini subframe

he electric vehicle (EV) market is hotting up. From big-name OEMs and small start-ups with huge ambitions, to enthusiasts looking to breathe new life and power into classic motors, it seems everyone’s on the hunt for new approaches that sidestep the internal combustion engine (ICE) and the emissions that come with it. Take, for example, Swindon Powertrain. Established a half-century ago, it’s hoping to take a wealth of knowledge of the ICE environment and use it to build a reputation for itself in automotive electrification products. That’s a bold step for a company with such a formidable track record of work on more traditional engines, including

rebuilding and servicing Formula 1 engines such as the DFV from Cosworth. Its services range from remaking single components right up to full rebuilds, and it also manufactures its own powertrain products, such as the engine that powered Ash Sutton to victory in the 2020 British Touring Car Championships. The first step on the company’s journey into the brave new world of electrification was a conversation between its managing director and technical director about its future direction, says commercial director Gerry Hughes. “As a company that has all of our rich knowledge and experience in internal combustion engines, we wanted to know how we apply that to the future,” he explains. “So it wasn’t a sudden switch that was thrown, but there has been a move towards ensuring we stay ahead of the curve and move into the area of electrification.”

FIRST FRUITS

1

The first fruits of Swindon’s explorations marked a radical departure for the company. Moving away from all things fourwheeled, the team instead turned its attention to the development of a hyper electric mountain bike, the EB-01. Packing an unbelievable 15kW of electric power into a hybrid aluminium/carbon frameset with regenerative braking, the company claims it’s the fastest, most powerful electric mountain bike available. “The EB-01 was an exercise in looking at how we embrace electrification and investigating what we wanted to produce as a brand-awareness tool and a flagship product for a number of electrification products going

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2 forward,” Hughes explains. The product continues to From there, they can determine what the shift from sell well, he says, and has been developed further since the former to the latter means in terms of acceleration, its launch, with new enhancements to both software and top-speed potential and other performance indicators, hardware – most notably the addition of high-density including driving range. battery cells. Alongside the EB-01, Swindon has also developed its first A NEW FLAGSHIP PRODUCT electrical drive product, the HPD, or High Power Density The development of the E Classic began with an unit. This is a compact, 80kW electric drive motor and outsourced 3D scan of the Mini’s body shell. Capturing gearbox, designed for quick and easy implementation. form in this way is no longer the ‘black art’ it once was, In order to test this product during development and Hughes insists: “It’s now a fairly well-known process for showcase its capabilities to would-be customers, the us. The whole process of 3D scanning has improved: the company decided to scanning equipment, incorporate the HPD the post-processing into the iconic Austin and the preparation Mini. Since then, it’s for moving data into At some point, we will look at the order taken the idea one CAD have become books and we’ll be able to say that step further, creating a lot less timea new commercial consuming and a lot electrification has now overtaken what offering that provides we’re doing as an ICE product manufacturer. less costly.” an entirely new Once the donor It will be interesting to see how quickly that body revenue stream. This was scanned, transition occurs is aimed at enthusiasts it was brought into looking to convert Catia V5. Then the their own Minis to team got to work with electrification. packaging not only Swindon’s HPD E electric motors were designed from the same electric motor and transmission, but also the the ground up, from a clean sheet of paper. That enabled battery pack. the team to scrutinise the physical elements of the motor, The Mini project includes a modified body shell – a along with its power and size requirements, says Hughes, deviation from the approach used by other companies and then perform “all sorts of design and simulation carrying out similar electrification work, which tends of the electric machine, before it was even built and to focus more on maintaining a level of authenticity assembled.” with a classic model, even sometimes ensuring that the At the other end of the scale, the engineering and conversion to electric is reversible, should the owner wish design teams can also perform simulations that compare to take that step. the differences between an original ICE system and its In Swindon’s case, however, the team wanted to make a electrified counterpart. statement. The Mini’s body shell was modified to include a

2 The E-Classic ●

which Swindon Powertrain built as its proof of concept

‘‘

’’

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3

3 The Classic Mini ●

Kit, showing the motor and gearbox on the Mini subframe and packaging model with battery pack on top 4 Swindon’s HPD ●

main motor and gearbox

24kW/hour battery pack to help achieve their goals in terms of both driving range and performance. Hughes explains that, once the body-in-white was available in CAD, the process of designing components to fit within that space could really start to take place. As he details, the team had a number of design specification points that it wanted to achieve. It needed something modular to build on, in terms of the power of the electric motor, and it wanted to give people a choice of drive ratios. The HPD was therefore designed to allow the fitting of different gear ratios, so the whole thing was conceived around modularity from the start. The team also wanted to ensure versatility, so while the goal with this particular project was to fit the HPD unit into a Mini, it could just as easily find a home inside a vintage Escort, an off-highway vehicle, a competition vehicle, or a road vehicle. Simulation tools were employed to explore possible mounting points for the HPD, as the concept of versatility really was key. “When you’re designing something that is going to be bought by a person in their garage, through to OEMs who might want to order them to slot into a sports car, van or other vehicle, it puts a little more emphasis on the design phase of the project,” Hughes explains. “It also influences how you come up with a product that needs to be light, well packaged, well designed, but will also fit into a multitude of different vehicles. That’s quite special.” That’s where Swindon Powertrain’s decades of experience in motorsport has stood it in good stead, using the latest materials, the latest techniques and the latest manufacturing procedures, he says. “It might be a slow shift in how that energy is taken and converted into mechanical power, but our experience is used in the same way.” The end result is the E Classic, an Austin Mini restored and retrofitted with an advanced electrification power train, boasting a brisk acceleration of 0-60mph in just 9.2 secs, 30-50mph in 4.3 secs and regenerative braking. The car’s lower centre of gravity compared to the original (reduced by 44mm) delivers enhanced performance and handling. It has a range of 125 miles,

and handily, removing the fossil-fuel tank has made the boot space larger, too. Alongside this flagship project, Swindon has also just released details of its E Classic Kit. At the heart of the kit is Swindon’s 80kW HPD E Powertrain system, mounted to an original classic Mini front subframe. This features brackets specifically designed for this installation, as well as purpose-designed inner CV joint housings, which allow the fitting of standard Mini driveshaft assemblies and comes complete with a standard differential. There are also optional limited slip differentials, as well as other Swindon Powertrain EV components, such as 12 kWh battery pack, motor controller, onboard charger and DC-DC converter.

THE ROAD AHEAD So what does the future hold for Swindon Powertrain, a company steeped in knowledge of and expertise in the performance ICE, but learning fast how to conquer the challenges presented by electrification? The company will probably keep a foot in both the ICE and electric camps, Hughes says, but the balance of focus is likely to shift over time to the latter. “I can’t see a point in the future where electrification is everything we do and we never touch an ICE project again, because there will always be opportunities for us to do one-off projects,” he says. “We’ve got an engine downstairs at the moment which is being reworked and rebuilt, tested and sent off to the owner. It’s a very specialist engine and we’re one of the only groups that can remake components for that engine. It’s hugely expensive and [customers] come to us because they know we’ve got the knowledge and expertise.” These types of vehicles, with these kinds of needs, will be around for a good while yet, he says, as will classic cars. “So I think there will always be a requirement for a specialist manufacturer, be it for camshafts or crankshafts, or for clean-sheet-of-paper, ground-up complete engines. But these will be more specialist applications going forward, rather than road-going vehicles.” What he expects to see is a gradual transition to EVfocused projects. “At some point, we will look at the order books and we’ll be able to say that electrification has now overtaken what we’re doing as an ICE product manufacturer. It will be interesting to see how quickly that transition occurs,” he says. “Electrification products are appearing on the market from the four corners of the globe. It would be really easy to flog the market with too many products, then lose focus. We are a small manufacturer of components, but ultimately, we want to ensure we can service the needs for the low-volume manufacturer and that’s where we’re ideally placed at the moment. That’s where our history has brought us to and where we feel comfortable.” Some customers may simply want one component; others may require a complete offering. “It’s entertaining and it keeps us on our toes,” he says. “Some people are continuing to embrace electrification, and there are others that haven’t even made a start, and it’s interesting to have those initial conversations.” Either way, he concludes, a revolution is certainly on its way – and Swindon Powertrain is here to help its customers navigate the road ahead, wherever it might lead. swindonpowertrain.com

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PROFILE

PUTTING

UP WALLS Microfluidics is opening new doors for research scientists. DEVELOP3D spoke to the team at IotaSciences, a start-up that has used iterative prototyping to bring to life a new, ground-breaking approach to this process

M

icrofluidics is one of the fastest moving areas of scientific research. As its name suggests, it focuses on the control and manipulation of fluids at very small scale, enabling scientists to perform molecular analysis, right down to single-cell levels. That’s valuable for single-cell cloning, for example, used in fields such as stem cell research, genome editing and drug development. But providing researchers with easy access to cells depends on confining tiny volumes of fluid to optically clear chambers – and building a good microfluidic environment is a complex endeavour in itself. That can often make the devices that provide this kind of environment expensive and acquiring them often involves long lead times. IotaSciences, an Oxford University spin-out company, is on a mission to solve the problem, and to make fabrication of microfluidic devices an in-house, low-cost and rapid process, comparable to 3D printing. Founded in 2016, the company builds instruments that use a proprietary technology to build what it calls ‘fluid walls’. Perhaps the easiest way to explain this is to imagine holding a glass of water, where the glass is made from immiscible fluorocarbon oil. IotaSciences’ technology is used to create both static structures and flowing circuits. In the latter, Laplace pressure is used to create a pump with no moving parts, with the pump itself a liquid. With this technology, IotaSciences’ devices can be used to create simple micro wells with fluid walls containing less than one microliter of fluid. To do so, a thin film of cell media (or stem-cell coatings) is reshaped using a microjet to create a grid of 256 chambers on a 60mm dish. This is currently used to isolate a single cell in the lab for downstream experiments. To make this work even more ground-breaking,

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2 IotaSciences has housed the technology in its IsoCell device, an easily transportable, 3.5kg system that is comparatively tiny compared to others of its kind.

ITERATIVE PROTOTYPES The concept was first stumbled upon when Professor Ed Walsh of the Oxford University Department of Engineering Science was looking to help Professor Peter Cook and Dr Feuerborn at the Oxford Dunn School of Pathology, who were collaborating on an unrelated technology to solve microfluidic problems encountered in microbiology research. From the initial idea, the development moved at pace based on iterative prototyping, with corporate and private investors backing the start-up. Sketches were mostly drawn on glass partition office walls to aid collaboration between engineers, while an adapted 3D printer was repurposed as an evolving prototype. Onshape was chosen from the outset as the preferred 3D CAD tool over Solidworks, despite the design team’s previous experiences with the latter. That was down to Onshape’s low cost of adoption, built-in version control and collaboration tools, according to the team. Printing the fluid walls presented an early challenge for the project. Initially, a stylus was used to ‘draw’ and shape the fluids. The problem was overcome by shifting away from this contact stylus-based process, to a non-contact microjetting process instead. In the latter part of 2018, the design team built a small number of the IsoCell systems instrument as field prototypes. Here, digital manufacturing was adopted, using machined aluminium components from ProtoLabs and 3D-printed polymer parts from bureaux 3DPrintUK and Malcolm Nichols. The systems were then assembled inhouse, by hand. Following successful trials, a pre-production prototype was developed, with design for mass manufacture introduced with the help of Norwich-based design

3 consultancy, Product Resolutions. In the later stages of development, issues relating to vibration and noise needed to be tackled. The design team solved this without simulation software, instead choosing to work from the ground up with calculations done by hand, based on how the physical prototypes were behaving under a given situation, and using Onshape to input all design changes. As a result of the proprietary IotaSciences technology, the IsoCell is considered to be gentler on cells, uses fewer reagents, adds automation to the cloning task and provides unmatched optical clarity for single-cell identification, therefore lowering the cost of experiments while improving the quality of results. The system boasts significantly better optical performance under a laboratory microscope, due to the small size and nature of the wells with fluid walls, while its user interface makes it simple to use for the operator. The simplicity and user-centred design built into the IsoCell has meant IotaSciences has successfully completed remote installations and training during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the device now ready to be put to use on helping to research a future Covid-19 vaccine.

1 The IsoCell system ●

weighs a diminutive 3.5kg and is designed for ease of operation 2 The system ●

allows scientists to manipulate single cells, often for cloning in applications like stem cell research and drug development 3 Designers opted to ●

use Onshape for the 3D CAD, as its version control capabilities were a good fit with their iterative development process

iotasciences.com

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DIRT DEVIL

Built to tackle even the most arduous terrain, the Can-Am Maverick is capable of thrilling any driver with its speed and control. Stephen Holmes learns more about a design that combines rugged strength with cutting-edge technology 30 DECEMBER 2020 | JANUARY 2021 DEVELOP3D.COM

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PROFILE

W

hether skirting across sand dunes, jumping dirt banks, or ascending the steepest hills, the Can-Am Maverick is an off-road vehicle built to tackle almost any challenge. And thanks to its side-byside seating, the adventurous driver can have the pleasure of sharing these thrills with a passenger. It’s a design project that began life with a clean sheet of paper, according to Can-Am design director Matt Tandrup, speaking from the Canadian company’s headquarters in Valcourt, Quebec. “When the project was kicked off, we did not just want to create another performance side-by-side,” he says. “We wanted to push innovation and tech, to leapfrog the industry and create the new benchmark for years to come. Hence our efforts to start from the ground up and give zero limitations for our team.” The project took over 36 months from concept to production, passing through many iterations, both digitally and in physical prototypes. Can-Am, part of Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP), uses different workbenches from the Dassault Systèmes Catia suite, including Freestyle and Generative Shape Design for exterior surfaces. These are then passed through to the company’s engineering department, which processes them, along with mechanically designed components, using Catia Part Design, Assembly Design and other simulation environments. “Although BRP heavily relies on digital design, we also use some form research, by utilising traditional clay modelling and 3D milling of hard models,” adds Tandrup. “The process is quite seamless, as we tend to use CAD to generate the design and then validate it through physical models. With a host of resources like in-house 5-axis machining, [mixed with] 3D printing, models can be rapidly produced, giving us greater efficiency in our design process.” A common database is used to handle all the 3D model data, but daily communication in person, over the phone, or with the help of online meeting tools, are still key to the team’s efficient product development.

TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES The robust design of the Maverick is balanced with the latest technology, with experience gleaned from epic challenges in events like the Dakar Rally. All four corners of the Maverick Sport are equipped with double A-arms and sway bars. This solid frame forms the base for Can-Am’s latest Smart-Shox technology – fully self-adjustable suspension capable of controlling both compression and rebound for a superior ride and handling, no matter the terrain or conditions. Smart-Shox works through 9 sensors that feed real-time data into an onboard computer capable of making up to 200 shock valving adjustments per second. This allows the suspension to travel from full stiff to full soft in just 17 milliseconds. The result is flatter cornering, giving the driver more confidence. Bottom-out and topping-out protection is factored into the automatic calibration. To test such aspects of the vehicle as suspension performance, as well as everything from engines through to ergonomics, the design team relied on several full-scale

1

2 prototypes. These were camouflaged to protect the designs from prying rival eyes and sent out to test tracks. The results and feedback from drivers was then fed back into the CAD models. “At BRP, our prototyping and validation is extremely rigorous to ensure our end products exceed the customer’s expectations,” says Tandrup. This meticulous approach extends to choosing the best materials – extremely important in projects like the Maverick, where passenger safety and vehicle reliability are so important. For Tandrup, it’s about making sure Can-Am can deliver “the strongest vehicle that will endure whatever our demanding customers throw at it, while maintaining superior power to weight ratios.” Fit and finish quality is also an important staple of the Can-Am brand, he adds. “So we need not only the right materials, but intelligent design on how they are manufactured and assembled.” This extends to the interior, often neglected in off-road vehicles (ORVs). For the Maverick, the design team paid particular attention here to ergonomics and rider aids. Designed for all-day comfort with well-placed controls, occupants are secured in 4-way adjustable bucket seats with 4-point harnesses. Can-Am ORVs come with a wide range of optional extras, for a customised owner experience. These include a built-in, fully sealed waterproof audio system, and a 7.6 inch driver display built to be readable in even the most challenging conditions. Yet at its core, the Maverick is a vehicle designed for pure off-road thrills. The hardest decision may be who you choose to sit alongside you on your adventure.

Opposite page

The Can-Am Maverick has a host of technologies to keep you heading in the right direction, whatever the terrain 1 A full-size clay ●

model, pictured halfway through the development process 2 An interior sketch ●

drawn by Can-Am lead designer Alexei Mikhailov

can-am.brp.com

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PROFILE

FULLY CHARGED For automotive brands such as Peugeot, Citroen and Opel to achieve complete electrification by 2025, thermal impact on vehicle battery life needs to be optimised. DEVELOP3D speaks to Groupe PSA’s engineers about using multiphysics simulation to tackle cooling conundrums

W

ith the announcement in late 2020 that the UK government is to bring forward to 2030 rules banning the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles, the electric vehicle (EV) race is now running at full speed. Groupe PSA, the second largest car manufacturer in Europe, has already committed to a future of sustainable mobility for its brands, which include Peugeot, Citroen, Opel and Vauxhall. The company’s full range of vehicles is set to be completely electrified by 2025. But ‘range anxiety’ remains an important barrier to uptake, so for EVs to meet customer expectations, battery issues must be tackled. And since most EV batteries today come with an 8-year warranty or 160,000km (100,000 miles) drive limit, battery aging is high on the agenda. Temperature variation is one of the most important factors in battery aging. High temperatures may allow larger battery capacity, but they drastically shorten battery life. That makes thermal management critical in achieving the perfect balance between capacity and longevity. In this context, it is crucial for the battery cooling system to be designed in a way that balances other vehicle performance attributes. That system can’t be too big, as this would impact overall vehicle performance, due to being too heavy, complex, expensive and bad for aerodynamics. It can’t be too small, as this would put at risk vehicle performance and safety. And this is just one of the huge range of considerations involved in designing cars that successfully combine comfort, driving pleasure, performance and durability. With all this complexity in mind, leading OEMs have to adapt to new development priorities – and adopt

1

technologies that help them do so. At Groupe PSA, team leader of battery system modelling and design Angelo Greco has been leading the company’s work in the fields of functional design analysis and multiphysics modelling. “The main challenge is that we can’t make proper battery design analysis and evaluation without integrating it in the complete vehicle architecture,” he says. “It is very complex, because you have to take into account its multiphysics nature, including electrical, thermal, cooling and control parts in the same model. It is not an easy task and that’s why we chose Simcenter Amesim to work on that engineering challenge.” Multilevel modelling and multiphysics simulations have become pivotal in evaluating the impact of architecture design on key performance attributes and anticipating control strategies validation, he says. “On top of those engineering constraints, we have strict development time requirements to maintain a competitive time-to-market,” says Greco. “We have to be very agile.” Sometimes a component or model needs to be changed quickly to adapt to new requirements from the supplier It’s the versatility of multiphysics models that is key to assessing the impact of changes in performance levels.

1 Most electrical ●

vehicle batteries have an 8-year/100,000mile warranty, and thermal management is key to achieving the desired battery lifespan

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PROFILE

2 HOT STUFF To analyse battery thermal management, Greco has to understand how a battery is designed by PSA Peugeot Citroen suppliers. Tier suppliers usually size and develop the battery module by considering the worst use-case conditions to ensure that the EV works under any conditions and that the battery life range aligns with the 8-year warranty and meets regulation requirements. Nevertheless, the battery is often oversized and so is the cooling system. Consequently, it requires more development time, but also reduces overall vehicle performance. This can definitely be optimised, says Greco. “Having access to simulation enables PSA Peugeot Citroen to rapidly analyse battery performance and its thermal management. Further, it enables the firm to investigate alternative battery designs, validate them virtually and to make sure they meet the required levels of performance without compromising safety.” Greco explains that the only way to reach desired optimisation levels is to use multiphysics and dynamic models with the accuracy of 3D computation and the flexibility of 1D simulation. “It has been fundamental to find a way to transcribe a 3D thermal and hydraulic model into a 1D model with the addition of the electrical part, in order to evaluate the battery thermal management in a reliable way early in the development cycle.” To succeed, Greco developed a methodology to develop a 1D model of the battery from a 3D thermal model using a nodes network. He reached similar results to the 3D thermal-hydraulic modelling, but in shorter runtimes. “We used Simcenter Amesim to develop this approach that helped us not only save simulation run times, but also assess the dynamic thermal management of the battery

3

versus a static assessment that we usually achieved using 3D thermal model for the battery coupled to a 3D CFD (cooling plate) model.” By using the models built with Simcenter Amesim, Greco claims that his team has been able to run simulations twice as fast, on average, compared to the standard procedure. “From the battery model provided by the supplier using the 3D-to-1D simulation approach, I’ve been able to show the battery could have an overall thermal resistance of 0.9K/W (worst case), instead of the 1.8K/W proposed by the supplier.” This improved methodology enables the team to make decisions earlier in the development cycle, defining a battery architecture that will enable Groupe PSA to power forward in the race for electrification.

2 Groupe PSA is ●

aiming for all of its vehicles to be electrified by 2025 – just like the new Opel Corsa-E pictured 3 Analysis can ●

be fed back to suppliers quickly, enabling more agile development

groupe-psa.com | siemens.com

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Q&A: VIRTUAL WORKSTATIONS » Greg Corke talks virtual workstations with graphics virtualisation specialist Adam Jull, CEO of IMSCAD and IMSCAD Cloud, touching on hybrid deployments, software licensing, VR via the cloud and, of course, the ongoing impact of Covid-19 Greg Corke: Has the Covid-19 pandemic changed the attitudes of design and engineering firms towards virtual workstations? Adam Jull : Obviously, the Covid pandemic has sent everyone home to work, so there was a sudden need for remote working, so over the lockdown, many firms used their corporate VPNs to connect to their offices. Most firms have M365 [Microsoft 365], so Internet and email was always fine, but when it came to doing production design work, the VPN in most cases was found wanting. Opening and saving design data files and just general performance is slow. After a few months, we started getting enquiries about this specific issue and how maybe they could work remotely better with local workstation performance. Then you get asked about cloud, both public and private, as well as VDI on-premise. So, the answer is yes, I believe attitudes have changed and firms want to investigate both technically and what the financial impact could be to them. GC: As many offices have been shut during lockdown, have you seen an increase in interest towards cloud (both public and private cloud deployments)? AJ: Yes, for a number of reasons, not always about hosted desktops either, but [also] services such as data storage, offsite back-ups and disaster recovery for business continuity. The reason being that now that everyone generally works at home, losing access to your IT environment would cause a complete shutdown of your workforce. Most firms still have an on-premise set up at their core, so using the cloud for certain key services really makes sense. GC: Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, what challenges have you faced with sourcing and deploying hardware – for on-premise, private, and public cloud? AJ: For on-premise, delays from the main OEMs in shipping servers, which was completely understandable, taking double the time it usually took, but right now, things are improving and getting back to the four- to sixweek timeframe for a GPU-based server. For private cloud, there was a similar challenge, as our cloud partners purchase servers like you would on-premise to host in their data centres for customers. The work for us is the same though, deploying and supporting remotely.

 The cloud is the future, no doubt, but for the next five plus years I don’t see firms changing from the hybrid approach. There is a place for all of this in any enterprise and one size does not fit all  For public cloud, there were a number of stories of capacity issues during the initial lockdown, as many wanted something from the cloud – usually Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google Cloud – but, to be honest, every time we have deployed anything, there has always been capacity available. We recently did a 500-user deployment in Microsoft Azure, which when using the GPU-based NV series instances, is always a gamble to know you can acquire that many when you need them – but so far, so good. GC: We’re hearing a lot about hybrid deployments, where firms maintain their existing investment in hardware by giving some of their newer desktop workstations a remote capability, then supplementing them with virtual workstations. What are your experiences of this?

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INTERVIEW AJ: There is no question a hybrid approach is required. You just cannot go full cloud in one go, let alone when running graphical applications and workflows where back-end resource is the key to success. As I mentioned, it is a journey to the cloud, which happens over years, not months, and much of the public cloud is just not geared up for the way AEC and manufacturing firms operate. There is still nervousness around IP and data security, general performance as well as cost. Although billed monthly, the cloud is still expensive versus an on-premise deployment. We have customers that invest in on-premise VDI with a view that, in four years, they can take that up to a private or public cloud. User adoption is so critical and, by starting now, they have users who are tech savvy in how to work in this new environment, so when they do decide to move to the cloud, it should be seamless. GC: What types and sizes of firms are you getting most interest from? Also, what are the smallest and largest deployments you have done? AJ: Smallest being six users in Microsoft Azure and largest being 850 VDIs in a private cloud across US and Europe. The largest onpremise VDI is 680 users. All using graphical applications such as Autodesk, SketchUp, Adobe, Solidworks, Catia, Siemens and so on. Citrix or VMware is used for on-premise and private cloud deployments. GC: Five years ago, there were many stories of proof of concepts (POCs) that went on forever. Now the technology has matured, and customers have more confidence in it, are deployments being rolled out faster? AJ: Yes, I believe the technology is more accepted now. For example, we have demo servers in the US and Europe, which we allow 48-hour access to, with your own datasets to test. Once that is completed, we generally get to doing a paid production deployment. GC: What’s the quickest deployment you did during the pandemic? AJ: Two days in Microsoft Azure. It was not complicated, but one of the benefits of the public cloud is that it is resource on demand. GC: What different types of endpoints do your customers use and has there been a shift over the last few years? AJ: Firms are still willing to spend on heavily resourced laptops to help users work remotely, but the same performance issues will still remain around data access speed and reliance on your home internet. We like Igel – they are great endpoint, thin-client devices and they have a software version too. I have even heard stories of workstations being taken home from the office. I guess people get by because they have to, but I do feel that through to the new year, firms should be really looking at this properly to find the most robust solutions for their users to work remotely, more effectively, with slick performance. Ultimately, you can work on any device you currently own; there’s no real need to buy new hardware if running VDI or from the cloud. GC: When we spoke a few years ago, you mentioned that it was not uncommon for firms to simply virtualise key CAD/BIM applications like Solidworks/Revit/AutoCAD, while other apps continue to run on local workstations. Has this changed now and are firms tending to run everything in the cloud/datacentre? AJ: I would say VDI is the go-to solution and the most popular, as you get a like-for-like resourced desktop with dedicated resource for each user. Application virtualisation is still a valid option, but more customers want all applications and, importantly, their data in the environment.

GC: The hardware requirements for CAD haven’t changed that much over the years. With CPUs getting more cores and GPUs getting faster, does this mean you are able to a get much better density of users in the datacentre, or are you finding firms are now demanding more powerful workstation instances, because their workflows have changed, maybe to support complementary applications for visualisation, simulation and so on? AJ: Yes, for sure. CPUs in servers are getting closer to local workstation speeds and they all tend to turbo up if required to handle more HPC-type workloads. Even using apps, such as Enscape or 3ds Max needs both GPU and CPU running at high speed. Normally, with Nvidia’s current crop of graphics cards, you can do it all on one card – desktops, rendering and visualisation, which is great. The density of users per GPU, as always, depends on the application mix and required resource. Sometimes it just makes sense to leave some applications on a workstation. GC: Software licensing was originally a big challenge for virtual workstations (on-premise and in the cloud). While software developers have become more flexible, some customers have told us that there can still be barriers in place. What are your experiences, specifically with the major players like Autodesk and Dassault Systèmes. Do firms have to get special types of licences and how readily are they made available? AJ: Traditionally, we have mainly deployed Autodesk customers, both on-premise and in the cloud, with Citrix and VMware. In fact, we helped Autodesk certify AutoCAD for Citrix back in the day, but the recent changes they particularly have made to moving licensing to ‘Named User’ really simplifies any deployment method you may want. This takes away any issues around virtualisation or cloud, as there can’t be any audit issue if there is one user per licence. This has really solved the issue with Autodesk deployments, but there are still a few ISVs that have been slow to adapt. In my experience, there is never a technical barrier to doing anything and normally ISVs will allow it if you ask nicely. GC: Have you had any experiences of (or requests for) streaming VR from the cloud or data centre using Nvidia CloudXR or other technologies? AJ: Not too many, as yet, although I am sure we will. I still think there are many new technologies that will take years to be properly adopted. As always, it is all about bandwidth but, once 5G gets there, many of these things could be possible. Many firms still have not taken on virtual or cloud desktops, so running VR from the cloud could be a while. GC: And last but not least, here’s the mandatory futures question. Where do you see the workstation landscape in five to 10 years? AJ: One thing I always think is new technology always takes longer than you think to get adopted into businesses. The cloud is the future, no doubt, but for the next five-plus years, I don’t see firms changing from the hybrid approach. There is a place for all of this in any enterprise and one size does not fit all. My view is more firms should be looking at ways to make remote and homeworking the best it can be and consider using the public cloud for HPC, storage and disaster recovery. One thing we must not forget is cost and still the most cost-effective way of doing a quality VDI solution is buying your own servers. Adam Jull is CEO of IMSCAD Global and IMSCAD Cloud, specialists in delivering public cloud and private cloud solutions for graphical desktops and applications, including CAD. imscadglobal.com | imscadcloud.com

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REVIEWS

SOFTWARE REVIEW

1

Luxion KeyShot 10 KeyShot has been around for over a decade now. But the system is undergoing a complete overhaul, from GPU support to new animation tools, plus an update to RealCloth and new export options. Al Dean reports on what’s new in release 10

K

eyShot’s shift from a system built for creating quick renders from your 3D CAD data to something far more mature and sophisticated has been underway for a couple of years now. While the system was initially intended to help you get to your final render in the quickest time possible, using CPUcomputed, physically-based progressive rendering technology (particularly compared to general purpose visualisation tools such as 3ds Max or Cinema4D), it can now do far much more for you. The core of CAD-integrated workflows and physically-based rendering remains, but you’ll also now find complex material graph definitions for materials; enhanced workflows for design variants and studio set-ups; animation tools; virtual reality; and, of course, recently added support for computation on the GPU as well as the CPU. So let’s take a look at what KeyShot 10 brings to the party. As ever, a good place to start is with the more general updates that are applicable to all users.

SOLO MODE, MOVE & LIGHTS WIDGETS Let’s kick things off with a look at updates to the ways users interact with KeyShot. There are a couple of points here that are worth detailing, as they’ll help when you

» Product: KeyShot 10 » Supplier: Luxion Price: From $995 keyshot.com

1 KeyShot 10 brings ●

a brand new set of tools to help lighting definition, from a lighting specific asset manager to new widgets for spot, point and AES lights

find yourself deep in your visualisation workflows. The first is Solo Mode – and this is one that I really like. Activating this mode from the right-click menu or using the S hotkey, the system isolates the part or selection of parts you have selected, without interfering with any other visibility/hide/show options you have defined. It then temporarily hides everything else, allowing you to focus on preparing that selection for rendering. Once you’re done, hit the Exit Solo Mode button at the top of the screen and everything returns to normal. Next up is a new set of tools for moving assets in your scene. While the position dialogue and move commands remain the same, there’s a new widget to help you move, rotate and scale assets more accurately. That’s particularly useful when combined with the reworked Move dialogue box, which splits out each transformation type. Similarly, there’s also a new widget available to help with the positioning of lights. While KeyShot initially supported lighting drawn from the HDR environment, the team added in the ability to add additional lights into a scene in KeyShot 4. These include omni-directional lights, spotlights and area lights, as well as measured lights using the IES format.

Initially, the issue here was that positioning these lights wasn’t the most joyous of experiences. Now, there’s a new widget for spotlights, omni-directional, point and IES lights. This gives you clear feedback about positioning, as well as settings (for fall-off, radius and so on). The positional aspects, in particular, are well thought-out. If you’re positioning a light in 3D space, there’s typically no immediate indicator of where that light is. Luxion has added a simple vertical vector that shows that position as it interacts with the ground plane.

REALCLOTH 2.0 RealCloth was introduced in KeyShot 9 as a new way to define and render fabrics. Rather than fudging fabrics using a combination of texture, transparency and bump/displacement maps, RealCloth is a new engine that allows you to directly simulate how a fabric is constructed, right down to the level of enabling you to control how each thread is not only rendering, but also weaved. For those users working on soft goods, as well as on products that incorporate some form of fabric or finer mesh (speaker systems, for example), this has been a godsend. The attention to detail when it comes to aspects such as fly-away and adding

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SOFTWARE REVIEW

2 loose fibres to material is commendable. For KeyShot 10, Luxion has introduced RealCloth 2.0, which takes things further still. There’s been a rework of the wave editing interface and to how you store and reuse presets. There are also new options for how weaved patterns are presented on screen. In its initial release, RealCloth focused on building a procedural material that accurately represented your fabric but in a very 2.5D manner. In all but the very closest inspections, it looked realistic enough – but if you were looking for ultra-realism to better represent looser materials or fabrics using single surfaces, you may have struggled. RealCloth 2.0 not only adds the ability to switch between single and two-sided materials (and the ability to swap normal on those forms), but also to include transparency. This gives you a much more flexible set of tools to define materials as you need them, rather than work around what the system can give you. The last update to RealCloth that we’ll cover here is truly mind-bending. Up until

this most recent release, the tools focused on that 2.5D representation - but you can now switch your definition to a 3D ply geometry-based representation. This means that, instead of performing smart tricks with displacement maps and such, you’re now working with a set of 3D geometry that represents each thread in your scene. Yup, that’s right. Each and every thread. This appears to use an age-old technique of using a relatively simple curve entity to represent a tubular form, then rendering that tube when needed, rather than holding individual geometry for each thread. Using this approach on anything but trivial datasets may well impact your workstation’s performance. And you could very quickly fill up your GPU’s memory if you push it too far. But, unlike GPU-only systems, you have the option here to snap back to CPU rendering. That said, if you’re working on closeups of products where fabric is placed over hard surfaces that you’d like to see through correctly, or rendering out those nice tight depth-of-field close-ups of

speaker grilles and the like, then this is going to take things to the next level.

ANIMATION Animation has been part of KeyShot since release 3 and has thus far taken a pretty simple approach, where parts (or groups) are selected and specific transformations applied to them, organised on a timeline. While this was a pretty solid basis for more simple animations, and could be pushed a little further with the smart use of structured animations, it wasn’t optimal for more complex animation work in the product visualisation space. This has now been supplemented with a keyframe-based approach. This introduces control of part and assembly position and motion anywhere along the timeline and will just apply to models (you can still use a path animation to control camera position/ motion). You set up keyframes and the system handles the job of interpolating the moves required. And it’s all done on the same timeline, so it’s extending your learning, rather than forcing you to learn a completely new approach.

2 RealCloth 2 ●

builds on the tools introduced in KeyShot 9 to add more realistic controls over how fabics are constructed and represented on screen

WORKFLOW: EXPLORING THE NEW REALCLOTH 2.0 ENGINE

1 Open up your data file. In this case, we're 2 Use the new lsolate tool to pair back ● ●

working with an imported OBJ file with UV mapping in place, which is particularly useful for assigning materials to the cushions

the dataset to just a single item. This will allow us to focus on defining the material correctly

3 Popping up the Material Graph shows ●

us that a standard texture map is already applied, but we’re going to take this and push things further

4 Grab a RealCloth material and drag/ ●

drop it onto your cushion. It’s immediately obvious that the scale is wrong, so define it more accurate using the Weave edit dialog

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3 3 The new animation ●

environment reworks the existing tools and makes it easier to build up keyframe animations using a wide set of assets (such as the environment map)

Of course, the system still has that set of wizards to enable you to quickly set up a number of standard animations, such as turntables (where the product rotates) and camera orbits (where the camera rotates around the product). In addition to the keyframing tools, KeyShot 10 also brings the ability to add animation to your environments. This can be performed in two ways. First, by rotating the environment map, as a defined speed and time around your object. Or, by creating an animation of the sun and sky, so you’ll see shadows move as you would in a time-lapsed animation.

The conduit for that is the 3MF format which holds not only geometry, but also correctly placed materials definitions. While there are some limitations in what can be done, this will be a benefit to those using such machines (and the J55 isn’t the only option available). The addition of GLB/glTF format means that data from KeyShot can be reused on the web using the pretty standard format. Finally, USDz is also now available as an export option if you’re looking to transfer data from KeyShot to other systems, and in particular, augmented reality tools such as Apple’s ARkit or Adobe Aero.

DOWNSTREAM DATA REUSE

IN CONCLUSION

The last thing I want to talk about regarding KeyShot 10 relates not to the system itself, but instead, taking data from it and doing more with that data using other technologies and tools. As we discussed in the last issue, there has been a ton of work done to ensure that output from KeyShot can be taken into the Stratasys ecosystem for full colour prints using the Stratasys J55 colour 3D printer.

KeyShot’s shift from a super-efficient renderer for product shots into something way more sophisticated continues apace with this release. There’s something here for everyone and the enhancements show that the KeyShot team isn’t content to just sit on fundamentals. Instead, it’s actively looking for ways to make the system more usable, even for the old hands. Good ‘tells’ for this are the new Move

dialogue and the widgets for light definition in your scene. They’re subtle changes, but ones that will make jobs easier and more efficient. The overhaul of the animation interface also shows that you can rework how things are done to benefit everyone, without disrupting existing knowledge. Then you get into the more advanced tools, such as the updates to RealCloth. I realise that this might not be high on every designer or engineer’s priority list, but the number of folks integrating soft components into previously rigid products or adding new functionality that requires their use will benefit hugely. They can now render these materials realistically, without having to rely on workarounds and hacks. I’ve never hidden my enthusiasm for what the Luxion team does with KeyShot. This system has built a glowing reputation for taking complex visualisation workflows and distilling them down for everyone to use. What’s interesting now is how the team is applying that same principle to more complex tasks and workflows, while retaining that all-important ease of use. keyshot.com

TO CREATE ULTRAREALISTIC FABRIC MATERIAL DEFINITIONS

5 Once scaled properly, you can see that ●

the material is better defined. This is where you've get to with RealCloth 1.0. Let's push things further

6 You can now explore the 3D geometry ●

options in RealCloth 2.0. This gives you ability to define real 3D geometry for each thread and define any transparency needed

7 Once you’ve got your material dialled in, ●

you can then exit Isolate mode and you can see the overall look. It’s worth noting that performance will take a real hit

8 If you’re working on close-ups, then ●

RealCloth 2.0’s 3D thread builder will pay real dividends in terms of how realistic your products look

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12/11/2020 13:05


SOFTWARE REVIEW

1

Blender 2.9 It’s time professionals took Blender seriously. With Version 2.9, this open source product, which supports a huge range of 3D creation needs, is truly ready for business, writes Mindaugas Petrikas

T

o some people, Blender is just “that nerdy little open source application for kids who use Linux.” They should look a little harder, because this mesh modelling software actually represents a one-stop-shop for a huge range of 3D creation needs: modelling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing and 2D animation. In short, it’s a product that professionals across many different industry sectors can’t afford to ignore. That’s down, in part, to Blender’s fast-paced development cycle. With the mid-2019 release of version 2.8, the Blender Foundation, home of the Blender project, made it clear that Blender means business. And that message has been heard, loud and clear, by recent corporate recruits to the Blender Development Fund, including Microsoft, Intel, Unity, Nvidia, AMD and EPIC. Big-name supporters aside, the new version 2.9 takes serious steps to make sure Blender is no longer a crazy maze of

» Product: Blender 2.9 » Supplier: Blender Price: Free blender.org

1 Blender’s Cycles ●

working its magic

user interface (UI) elements, riddled with bugs and cryptic functions. Its brand-new UI is simpler to understand. Most bugs get swatted in pre-release versions. Overall stellar stability is now one of the software’s main selling points – or would be, if the product was for sale. As with other open source products, it’s free for anyone to download and use. (That said, donations and support are highly encouraged, not least to pay the team of 24 full-time professionals working at the Blender Institute to further improve the product.) A free tool that provides a complete 3D pipeline inevitably attracts comparisons to very expensive, proprietary software products that do the same job. But once you look beyond cost (or lack of cost), what really defines Blender is its modularity, flexibility, fluidity and adaptivity. It has already adopted cutting-edge formats that look set to become industry-standard: OpenColorIO for colour management; OpenEXR for image storing; and the Open Shading Language, OSL. The list expands constantly, as people from the Blender user community around the world share

their knowledge and their workflows. These people are frequently experts in sometimes quite niche fields. They have the ability to look at Blender’s code, with specific jobs in mind, and say, ‘Hey, this can be improved.’ Thanks to their efforts, Blender has moved beyond a ‘does the job’ mentality often seen in software, in a quest to become ‘the only tool that does the job right.’ On a personal level, I’ve been a big supporter of Blender Cycles, its RGB ray tracing rendering engine. Those involved with developing Cycles have always been strong proponents for GPU rendering – and, as it turns out, they were right. GPU rendering is faster, easier to scale and more mobile than CPU rendering, especially on a budget. Purchasing a couple of graphics cards and just plugging them in can yield results at speeds that were previously only possible in render farms. It’s also worth noting that even current gaming laptops come with desktop-grade graphics cards that can render up to four times faster than their built-in CPUs. That’s why I would never stray away from Cycles. I have tried many, many rendering

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SOFTWARE REVIEW

There is no number to phone, no email address to contact. You can shake your fist at the sky or send out an angry tweet – but all problems and issues will either need to be fixed by yourself, or by kindhearted developers in the Blender community

 2 solutions, but none of them have matched my particular needs. It’s especially difficult to turn away from Cycles when new features surface on an almost weekly basis, thanks to a developer community made up of professionals from many different industries, all committed to chipping in and pushing it even further. One gigantic step towards photorealism is Troy Sobotka’s Filmic Blender, a high dynamic range transform function with intensity gamut mapping. This makes scene-referred workflow a breeze, supports great, intuitive post-processing flexibility and, above all, delivers stunningly photorealistic results. A group of stubborn developers and colourists are now determined to turn

Cycles into a spectral renderer – a project that’s already reaping promising results. The feature list goes on and on, literally, as new plug-ins and tools are introduced daily. It would take a weekly article to cover them all and stay up to date.

NEW RENDERER: EEVEE Another exciting Blender tool in development is the real-time render engine Eevee. This has already drawn a huge following from the CGI community, where members are already using it to produce jaw-dropping short films. But it’s also great news for the humble product designer. Being able to create product animation renders in 10 seconds rather than 10 hours is nothing short of amazing.

Working with Eevee, however, may be somewhat different to what they’re accustomed to. As it’s not a ray tracing engine, you can’t fully trust it to do its own thing. In other words, the results you’ll get will be closely related to the settings you input. The grass on the other side is definitely green, but crossing the fence is not as easy as it might look. First of all, Blender provides no assisted support. So if you get an error, if things just do not add up, if you lose your work or your machine catches on fire, you should be prepared to do some Googling, in order to get answers. There is no number to phone, no email address to contact. You can shake your fist at the sky or send out an angry tweet – but

2 The Blender ●

interface has seen some work recently, but there’s still a learning curve for users to conquer 3 Pre-filmic era with ●

sRGB view transform (left) and Filmic view transform (right)

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all problems and issues will either need to be fixed by yourself, or by kind-hearted developers in the Blender community. That said, Blender is incredibly stable, not to mention widely discussed. Most user-error problems are covered in detail on forums, on Youtube, and on many other platforms. There is also a bright side to this. If you find a bug and file a bug report, depending on the severity of the problem, it could well have been fixed by the time you next turn on your computer. I’ve been using Blender since 2010, a few years before my interest in product design peaked. I initially started with poly modelling, but as I began to explore the world of product design, I quickly came to realise that it was far from the ideal workflow. Enter solid modelling, the worst enemy of any poly-based software. Anyl solid object imported into a poly modeller needs to be tessellated. That happens either on export (for example, exporting STL from Autodesk Fusion 360) or on import (importing STEP into Keyshot). Neither is ideal, since deliberately hand-sculpted geometry gets remeshed, according to what the software believes to be right. And while many software packages provide easy-to-use tools for fixing minor issues, it’s always a bit of a lottery. Does your object show up correctly in the renderer – or are you looking at another evening spent painstakingly selecting edges and vertices and specifying their purpose? This can be especially painful for a concept designer, who needs to view their designs quickly and often. This is a battle I have been fighting for some time now. Companies keen to keep their customers tied to their ecosystems are pretty reluctant to develop good export tools, for obvious reasons. But it means that designers and other creatives are left to develop tools and workflows themselves. I have also been introduced to another hidden gem of an application called Moment of Inspiration, or MoI. This can read solid modelling objects (STEP, IGES, and so on) and export them as meshes (OBJ, FBX, etc). These file formats are superior to STL, in the sense that they can carry over more information, such as UV maps, sharp edges, even basic materials. But wait, it gets better! MoI has a unique (to my knowledge) tessellation feature able to export N-gons. The resulting mesh is much cleaner, has all sharp edges marked and can be UV-unwrapped with ease. The Export-Import-Export-Import workflow is tedious, but from my personal experience, is well worth the effort involved.

IN CONCLUSION Now that we know how to push a square peg through a triangular hole, we can enjoy a full spectrum of features that would enable any creative to express themselves fully. For product design, I am a big fan of automation. Need five different camera angles, each with five different colour schemes? Set a few animation keys for

4 camera switching and a few keys for material colour. Click render and enjoy a nice cup of tea while the export folder is populated with 25 different renders. Got an old scene that you were really happy with and want to use again on a current project? Open two Blender windows and simply copy-paste the objects, complete with all information such as material nodes, animations and so on. Pushing rendering for product design further, video editing and compositing tools in Blender are very handy as well. Capturing a real-life scene with a camera and using that video footage as an environment in which to place your object is no longer a team effort. Environment preparation and lighting set-up, footage stabilisation, motion tracking, shadow-capturing, matching and post-processing are all done in Blender, too. And it can all be learnt from a 20-minute Youtube tutorial, if you already know your way around Blender’s user interface (UI). Ah yes, the infamous Blender UI: buttons without icons; scrolling windows within scrolling windows; tabs within tabs within tabs. Opening a file saved by your colleague and getting a completely different UI. While some of these criticisms still hold up, the situation is improving. Version 2.80 has seen a lot of focus on helping very new

users feel a little less daunted and, in turn, the whole UI got a revamp. It is now a lot more intuitive and user-friendly. Once the UI ‘clicks’, it is difficult to look back. But in the end, it’s modularity that makes Blender so good. Its flexibility and the fact that it is open source makes it easy for software developers to write plug-ins. This, in turn, means that many thirdparty applications play nicely with Blender. They include Adobe Substance Painter and Substance Designer, Unity, Unreal Engine, fSpy, and more recently, HDR Light Studio, to name just a few. If endless github pages of plug-ins, extra tools and unlimited potential to push your renders further is not what you are after, then Blender might not be the right tool for your toolbox. Many product designers I know, for example, are very happy with Keyshot, and I completely understand why. It is as close to a ‘one-click’ solution as it currently gets and delivers rather impressive results. However, if you’re someone whose computer is their virtual shed, if you enjoy tinkering and honing your skills in your time off, then there’s a whole world of possibilities waiting, packaged in a swirly orange icon.

4 Blender Cycles, ●

with render time at 7m47s (top), versus EEVEE, with render time at 9 seconds

blender.org

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SOFTWARE REVIEW

HDR Light Studio Xenon Physically based renderers were supposed to make lighting a scene easy, but often just dumb down the process. If you want more control, you need a better set of tools. Al Dean takes a look at HDR Light Studio, which really makes your project sing

W

hen it comes to design visualisation projects, we need to consider three fundamental factors: geometry, material and light. Given accurate representations of all three, any good visualisation system should be able to conjure up a useful representation of your design. With a little bit of knowledge and attention, it can become breathtaking. But more often than not, the visualisation field focuses heavily on geometry and materials, at the expense of light. The reason might be that the advent of physically based rendering systems made lighting a scene quick and easy. Back in the old days, when you had to create each light source manually, things took time and understanding. Today, throw in a HDR environment map and you’re done, right? Not exactly. Whether you’re creating lights from scratch or using the benefits of PBR rendering based on HDR environment maps, controlling lighting is fundamental to creating good, impactful images and animations that convey what you want them to. This is where HDR Light Studio comes into play. It began life as a tool for both creating and editing HDR environment maps, developed by a team who also ran a visualisation studio. Since its debut, the team behind HDR Light Studio has grown the system way beyond performing that relatively simple task. Today, the system is a fully fledged lighting definition and editing tool, which integrates with all of the leading systems out there. Given that we’re also looking at Blender in this issue of DEVELOP3D, I thought it would be good to link the two together, as they represent a pretty low-cost, but solid tools combination. So shall we explore it?

1 » Product: HDR Light Studio Xenon » Supplier: Lightmap Price: £295 lightmap.co.uk

1 The HDR LIght ●

Studio is clear, concise and logically laid out, so you can focus on the task at hand

GETTING STARTED Once set up, you’ll effectively have your geometry in your Blender window, with your materials applied, and you’re ready to go. To make the connection live, it’s a simple case of hitting the Start button. This connects the two systems, so you’re driving the appearance of the Blender render window with HDR Light Studio. You can now start to explore HDR Light Studio’s capabilities. At its most basic, the system allows you to build up your environment map, adding in and adjusting images, adding gradients and colours to define your lighting basics. If you’ve worked on product photo shoots, consider this part the equivalent of selecting your backdrop sheet. You’ll see the environment map flattened out at the middle bottom of Figure 1 and 2. Into this window, you can start to add in larger elements to build up that background.

HDR Light Studio includes all manner of assets that can be added to your scene, from photo studio backdrops with accurate colour and light definitions, to colour gradients and image-based representations of real lights as you’ve seen in a studio, with bounce sheets, spot lights and so on. There are currently over 400 preset lights built by the Lightmap team, either manually or using real-world measurement and capture techniques. Each is adjustable for size, colour, and more. As you position these in your environment map, you’ll see the Blender window update and show the influence those edits have on your scene. Entities can be adjusted as you see fit, since they’re much more than simple images. Instead, they hold the dynamic range of data you need for accurate lighting. While positioning these in your environment map is a good start, the real fun starts with HDR Light Studio when you

WORKFLOW: FROM A STANDARD BLENDER SCENE TO...

1 Open the Blender project you want to ●

light with the materials and camera set-up. You are now ready to get busy on the task of lighting your scene

2 All you need to do next is to press the ●

Start button in order to open up HDR Studio, which is working in a live connection with Blender

3 HDR Light Studio now starts and its live ●

HDR canvas is now lighting the Blender scene. The interactive render in Blender updates with all changes in HDR Light Studio

4 Decide on ambient lighting for your shot ●

and adjust the gradient, or choose one of the included HDRI maps from the Presets library. Here, we have added a HDRI map

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have your 3D model ready and your basic scene and lighting in place, but want to fine-tune your highlights (or indeed, your low-lights and shadows). Here, the concept of LightPaint comes into play. Rather than trying to work out the arbitrary position of a light source on a spherical environment map to get the highlights where you want them, HDR Light Studio allows you to paint the light on the model, then work backwards to position the light in the environment map to achieve the desired highlight. To do this, you need to bring your render scene into HDR Light Studio Render View window, which is accomplished with a few clicks. (When using Blender, it transfers the data using the Alembic format.) Now you can add additional lights from the asset browser, but position them by dragging your cursor on your scene, directly to where you want the highlight to be. This will instantly show how things look and allow the fine-tuning of a light’s controls in the Light Properties window to the right.

AREA LIGHTS Everything that we’ve detailed so far relates to the creation of light sources that are resident in the environment map for your scene and are linked to specific highlights positioned on the surface of your model. As such, they are inherently external to your scene, emitting light into the environment. But what if you want to add lights that are in amongst the model, that are used to highlight specific features that can’t be accessed from the ‘exterior’ environment map? This is where 3D Area Lights come into play. Area lights provide the same realism and adjustability as the lights in your environment map, but can be placed in 3D space. They are controlled in real time in your 3D software and mapped with a live HDR texture from HDR Light Studio that represents the appearance of the light. This means that where geometry occludes the light from those sources, you’ll get realistic lighting conditions and the effects that you want. Normally, you’d need to dive in and start adding in physical 3D lights, but with HDR Light Studio, you’ve got the ability to turn all of the product’s measured, accurate and controllable lights.

2

IN CONCLUSION While we’ve talked here about the work done in the Xenon release to integrate HDR Light Studio with Blender, it’s worth discussing which other systems with which it pairs. That list is extensive and broad. It includes 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, Maya, Modo, Houdini, Vred, Octane, Rhino, Solidworks Visualize, Maxwell Studio, Lightwave3D and Deltagen. All of these options create a live connection between HDR LIght Studio and the visualisation system, so that any edits made to the lighting design in HDR Light Studio immediately show up in the host render system. It’s also worth talking about pricing at this point. HDR Light Studio is not expensive, by any stretch of the imagination, particularly given the highly specialised nature of the software. Its developer Lightmap recently introduced a tiered pricing scheme. If you’re a small startup, with annual revenue under $100,000 and you don’t want integration into Vred, DeltaGen or Patchwork 3D, and are OK with email-only support, it’ll cost you £95 a year. If your annual revenue is over $100,000 and you want a subscription and email support, then you’re looking at £295 per year. If you want the more costly integrations, along with email, phone and web-meeting based support, then an annual subscription will cost you just under £1,000. There are other options available for floating licences and

permanent licenses, but these tiers cover the basics. While we’ve barely scratched the depth of functionality in HDR Light Studio, it should be clear that this is a system that’s built for a single purpose. That purpose is not to help you edit a HDR environment map. It’s not to help you define lights in a 3D space. Instead, its purpose is to help you create the exact lighting scheme your visualisation project needs. The mechanics of how that is achieved, meanwhile, change with time and focus. So yes, you can build environment maps from scratch with this product. And yes, you can paint light and shadow onto your model, to achieve the focus and appearance that will show off your product to best advantage. At the same time, you can also define 3D lights, based on real-world, measured assets more quickly than using traditional light definition methods. And, yes, the system helps you manage your visualisation assets more clearly than just having a Dropbox folder called ‘HDRI maps’. HDR Light Studio certainly does all of these things and more. But above all, where it really excels is with helping designers, engineers and digital artists to solve that final riddle in the visualisation process: How can I use light to maximise impact and really make my project sing? lightmap.co.uk

2 The wealth of ●

knowledge and capability in the system is its real strength

...A BEAUTIFULLY LIT SCENE WITH HDR LIGHT STUDIO & BLENDER

5 Press play on HDR Light Studio’s internal ●

Render View in order to load the Blender scene. This view is then used to position the lighting

6 Now you can drag and drop your choice ●

from hundreds of preset lights onto the Render View. Lights are automatically positioned where needed

7 Render the final high-resolution HDRI ●

lighting design in HDR Light Studio. Blender will then be updated to use these highquality HDRI files on disk

8 You can then render your final image in ●

Blender, lit perfectly with high-quality HDRI imagery provided by HDR Light Studio, to achieve top-quality results

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THE LAST WORD

After Covid, the UK is facing its second greatest challenge, Brexit, and as a result, the phrase “once great manufacturing nation” is coming up a lot more. Al Dean has some serious beef with those that repeat it

I

don’t think I’ve hidden my disgust over how we’re turning away from the European Union — it seems to have been a decision that’s based on a raging streak of nationalism that in turn is based on a mythology for a period in our collective history where facts, lived experience, has long been replaced with a pervasive glorification and sanitisation of war via celluloid and the television. Politics aside, Brexit is likely to be a mess. Whether you’re all for it, dead set against it or really couldn’t give a shit either way. Just as we’re seeing light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we’ve got this next mess to clean up along with the fall out of 60,000+ deaths in the UK alone. While all of this is going on, I’ve noticed that I keep hearing one phrase that truly boils my piss and it is when the UK is described as a “Once great nation of manufacturers. Typically by someone in a poorly fitted double breasted suit and flushed red face from the subsidised bar, jumping up and down in the commons. Yes, the UK has had a decline in its manufacturing output compared to the

2

1 halycon days of old, where everyone had a job for life, the masses trooped into work everyday on bicycle and doffed their cap to the foreman and died at 60 due to overwork and poor health. Things have moved on. And to say that manufacturing in the UK doesn’t exist anymore is complete and utter nonsense. Just this month, I’ve interviewed the folks at Swindon Motorsport — half a century of experience at the cutting edge of internal combustion engine design — and now they’re looking to electrification as a new revenue stream. If I look back over the last twenty years, there are companies that have blown me away and they’re in this country. If you live in the West Midlands, you could thrown a stone to companies that build custom wheelchairs for everyone from the kid with complex disabilities to the lunatics that compete internationally in wheelchair basketball. There’s a company that design, makes, sells and exports expresso machines across the globe. Another that’s developing robots, medical devices, computing for harsh environments, the list literally goes on and on. Across the country these companies are

striving and thriving hard in challenging times, making it work and we should celebrate them properly. Not by adopting the cliches of the nondom tax evading millionaires (I’m looking directly at you, Mr Branson), and draping them in the Union Flag, but showing off what they can do on the world stage — properly. Not tell the world that we “still manufacture things”, but that we haven’t stopped and those things are important, desirable and wonderful. Show them how in the large, shiny new factories on business parks down to the small trading estates that you’d probably be terrified to leave your car parked in over night, across the country, companies small and large are manufacturing things, selling things, things that go into other things, things that change people’s lives, things that give people pleasure. To say that we don’t manufacture things is a nonsense and disrespectful to those folks that run these outfits, to their design and engineering teams, to their shopfloor wizards that bring things to life. Don’t agree? I’ll see you in the car park.

1 Arrival Mobility ●

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Octane Sub4 - 4kg titanium wheelchair

GET IN TOUCH: email on al@x3dmedia.com or on the twitter @ alistardean — Are you developing and building products? We want to tell your story. Talk to us!

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