A Design Review with Virtually Real Prototypes

By Chris Mowatt on

Virtual prototyping is the simple concept of using photorealistic rendering tools to bring your 3D models to ‘life’ in the form of images, animations and immersive VR/AR formats. For many components in many industries, it is important to have a means of reviewing your design concepts before investing your time and money in physical prototypes. In the world of aftermarket car parts, it would be very useful to assess how components will look on the car in the early stages of design, before committing to any fabrication. The development of aftermarket parts, like custom sport car spoilers, is much more efficient when aesthetics can be confidently assessed using 3D models.

In this blog, we will produce virtual prototypes of various sports car spoilers in the form of photorealistic images to determine which style of spoiler looks best. This blog runs through the process of developing, organizing and producing the virtual prototypes using SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS Visualize Professional.

SOLIDWORKS Spoiler Prototype

Acquire a Reference Model

This is the initial step of acquiring a 3D model of the sports car that will be receiving the new spoiler design. There are loads of 3D car models available online that can be used. Just make sure it is a file type that can be opened in SOLIDWORKS. This 3D model will be used as a reference when modeling the spoilers.

The sports car 3D model below was imported to SOLIDWORKS as an .OBJ file. This is only a mesh file type, but it provides the ability to create reference planes and features, precisely where they are needed.

SOLIDWORKS Aquire a reference model

Set Up the Reference Model in SOLIDWORKS

For this design task, it was easiest to model the various spoilers as SOLIDWORKS configurations within a single part file. This helps to simplify file management and lends to conveniently exporting the configurations to Visualize all at once.

In this case, the .OBJ car model was opened directly and saved as a part file. At this point, the feature tree will display the mesh bodies of the car. These will be left alone, as they are only there for reference while modeling the spoiler variants.

With mesh files, vertices can still be selected and used to establish reference planes and sketch relations. In the case of this sports car, there are two existing mounting locations where each spoiler variant needs to be mounted. Through the use of vertices within the mounting holes, multiple reference planes were established that will be used when modeling the spoiler geometry.

Set up the reference model in SOLIDWORKS

Model Around the Reference Model

Each spoiler variant will exist as its own configuration in the part file. Each spoiler will share the same base features at its mounting location and the features unique to each spoiler will be configured.

Model around the reference model in SOLIDWORKS

>> Learn how to design more efficiently with ’15 Ways to Speed Up Your Design Process’

Import the Configuration to Visualize

In SOLIDWORKS 2021, multiple part or assembly configurations can be imported to Visualize. By default, Visualize will only import the active SOLIDWORKS configuration. However, ‘Display Data Markers’ can be assigned to each SOLIDWORKS configuration that you want to import to Visualize.

To add a Display Data Marker to a configuration in SOLIDWORKS, right-click a configuration and select ‘Add Display Data Marker.’ Perform this for each configuration of interest. A part icon with an eyeball will appear beside the configuration names.

Use the SOLIDWORKS Visualize Add-in to export the model and configurations to Visualize. In Visualize, each spoiler configuration can be accessed from the ‘Model Set’ dropdown list on the Models tab.

SOLIDWORKS Import configurations to Visualize

Import the Reference Model to Visualize 

With the spoiler configurations imported to Visualize, the final step is to merge the 3D sports car model into the Visualize project. This will allow us to see the spoilers mounted on the car.

To import the sports car model, click File > Import and select the 3d model.

Since the spoilers were modeled on the car within SOLIDWORKS, the relative locations of the car and spoiler models will match up correctly in Visualize. If it does not, you can always use the Move tools within Visualize to fine-tune their location.

SOLIDWORKS Import the reference model to Visualize

Render Configurations in Visualize

With all the 3D models now in Visualize, we can apply all the appearances and lighting effects as desired. Once that is complete, it is time to organize the car model and spoiler variants with cameras using ‘Visualize Configurations’ in Visualize Professional. These Visualize configurations are different from SOLIDWORKS in that they function more like how Display States do in SOLIDWORKS.

Visualize configurations allow you to assign combinations of hidden/shown models and specify the camera and environment used. With this front-end setup, Visualize Professional will be able to render out every spoiler mounted on the car.

When the Visualize configurations are finalized, the option for ‘Render all Configurations’ within Visualize Professional is used to process all the renderings with one click.

SOLIDWORKS Render Configurations in Visualize

>> Watch our video about creating multi-layered appearances in SOLIDWORKS Visualize

Choose Your Spoiler!

Performing these steps has yielded fantastic renderings of each spoiler variant to serve as ‘virtually real’ prototypes. These photorealistic, virtual, prototypes have served their purpose in enabling the designer to confidently assess how the new spoiler designs would look when installed on the car. Remember, all of this was possible before committing any resources to a physical prototype. Now, all that is left is to choose your favorite new spoiler for your beautiful sports car!

SOLIDWORKS Final Spoiler Renderings

Creating virtual prototypes of your CAD model is one way to save money by not creating physical prototypes. Watch the below on-demand webinar for the full walkthrough on how to create these virtual mockups for a new car spoiler. Get an immersive, virtual reality experience allowing and see how it would look mounted before anything has been produced!