August 2, 2013

High end applications

I have been watching a number of tutorials on Youtube on a high end 3D program - Solid Edge - and became stunned by its complexity that was paired with a user friendliness that I was unaware of. This seems to be a contradiction, but in fact it just requires the user to adapt a different frame of mind when modeling parts. What this means, is that many relations between (sub) parts exists - similar to what we encounter in every day life - that we take for grated without actually being aware of it. The complex functionality was made to serve user comfort and increase construction options dramatically, which are features never seen in the over the counter commercial apps most people have installed on their computer.

These relations are automatically controlled by the high end program. A relation can be that if you change the size of one part or sub part the related parts also change, relatively to the nature and size of the change. A 1 inch diameter axle that is scaled up to a foot, no longer fits into the hub that it was originally positioned in, so the program changes the size of the hub while the size of the axle is changed.

Relations can also be the distance and definition of the freedom of movement (direction, path and travel length) between parts. Just like your head can not rotate 720 degrees (assuming you're not in the Exorcist movie) without killing you or your knee can only bend the shinbone and foot backwards relative to your femur.

Apart from size, position and motion tags, parts also are made of certain materials. Most of the high end programs instantly give a parts physical properties when a material is assigned to it. Other relations can also be defined, like color, hatch pattern, texture and interactive measurement indicators. If you make something out of steel, it weighs so much, has this appearance, costs approximately so much and is rigid. If you make the same part of carbon fiber it weighs less, looks less, has a different appearance and is also rigid, where as rubber would it flexible and glass would make it breakable.

All of these features are lacking for the most part in less powerful applications that can achieve / simulate some of the functions of the high end programs with great effort and often enough not at all. On the other hand those 'common' programs will actually run on the average computer, while the high end application have high hardware requirements that most consumer machines at home do not have.

It made me think of what an insane, ruthless, filthy asshole once said (go figure out who that was yourself on Google): 

There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know.

I found out that there were things I did not know I did not know when watching the features of these high end apps. Finally such things tend to amend ones output, as they change the program's out put in the sense that they are fit to direct a 3D printer properly. Personally I found that my mode of thought in general was extended by learning about the capabilities of these wonderful programs.