Industrial design students saw a significant change in the early '80s, when computer-aided design classes began to impact their curriculum. Most students still learn to draw with pens and markers, but computer-aided design programs are a more common tool for the serious professional, who must compete at the cutting edge of product and automotive design.

Recently we were introduced to Vizual Tech (;, a Swedish-based company and website. The small design firm specializes in computer-aided automotive and product design. The principal designer of the company is Bo Zolland. Bo tells us that Vizual Tech was founded in 1999, and that although his company is small, it works with a number of subcontractors for three-dimensional design and translation into other languages.

Bo is a seriously infected race fan and automotive enthusiast, but will take on almost any design project, including wooden boats and recreational watercraft. Yes, he continues to draw by hand, but admits that computer-generated renderings provide an entirely new dimension to the services he can offer his clients-clients who must be wholly confident of the product development direction before committing millions of dollars in tooling.

The computer-generated renderings are an important intermediate step in the product development process, allowing clients to thoroughly review a product design, graphic design, or vehicle concept before reaching the three-dimensional phase-before any decisions are cast in economic concrete. Bo can easily change the shape, color, or graphics of an object in the computer. He can also change the viewing angle, the lighting, and the entire surroundings by modifying the program input of 3DS and Rhino.

As an aside, there are a number of software programs available: CorelDraw, Xara, Dream 3D, 3DS Max, Rhino, Flamingo, Photo-Paint, and others. Some software allows manipulation of the object in an environment, providing a large number of viewing heights and angles in 360 degrees. For example, Flamingo brings the raytrace and radiosity rendering to Rhino. This plug-in includes rendering of photometrically accurate images with: reflections, refraction, diffusion, translucency, transparency, color bleeding, shadows, depth of field, depth attenuation, ClearFinish, and indirect lighting.

Another example is Bongo. Bongo brings professional animation into Rhino 3.0, using familiar keyframe tools found in most high-end animation packages. Objects and viewport animations are editable in the Rhino window, using simple drag-and-drop. They allow you to modify your objects and motion data without losing valuable time changing between programs. It's also possible to preview animations inside Rhino, in real time, in any shading mode, by scrubbing the timeline or playing the animation. Then you may render straight to an animation file using any Rhino renderer, including wireframe, openGL, render preview, TreeFrog, Flamingo, and Penguin.

Bongo is also great for demonstrating moving objects using real-time playback in the Rhino viewports. We discovered there are plenty of software programs for a variety of industries, the medical industry included. But we're interested in automotive rendering here.

We've also learned modern computer- rendering technology has a language of its own. It is one we're not completely familiar with. But as you can see from these sophisticated renderings, an object's compound surfaces and their reflections can be included and modified, creating a virtual reality. All this information adds to the viewing credibility of the image.

We hope you enjoy seeing what can be accomplished with modern computer software, and that it inspires some of our younger readers to look further into the educational possibilities of design engineering and industrial design. We feel, once a car and truck guy, always a car and truck guy! CCT

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