Thursday, June 4, 2009

HyperShot on the Job: Product designers are putting real-time rendering to work within their processes—and the benefits are real

| Published May 31, 2009

HyperShot on the Job
The IBD Jet Elite, a nail curing lamp for use in salons, is one example of how LaunchPoint designers can speed up the entire design process through lightning-fast rendering with HyperShot.

After seeing the uncanny realism from Bunkspeed’s breakthrough rendering tool, HyperShot, one might assume its users are on the art-production side of the fence developing ads and sales catalogs. But it turns out that the sweet spot for HyperShot is actually product development.

Here’s how three separate product design firms have put the innovation of real-time rendering to effective everyday use.

Winning the Race to Market
LaunchPoint Inc., a Carlsbad, CA, product development company, finds success by getting new capabilities to market before the competition. LaunchPoint designers engineer new electronics and mechanics into durable, functional, and appealing packages. And they often do it with an added sense of urgency.

“Clients will pay a premium to have it done quicker, just to avoid lost opportunities in the market,” explains principal Chris Ross. “Sometimes they would rather have things done right now, and spend $50,000 on expediting materials, injection molds, and our staff time, rather than wait two weeks and save $50,000 in development costs.”

Ross says the fast processing in Bunkspeed’s ray-tracing means firms like LaunchPoint can beat their competition to market. There is no wait to see a fully rendered photorealistic 3D scene.

“If it took me six hours before, with HyperShot I can do it in an hour. That’s one-sixth of the time,” says Ross. “Multiply that if you want to show six concepts to a client, or if you do several iterations of the design in the course of development.”

Traditional rendering applications give only a fuzzy preview.

“With these other programs that do not have real-time rendering, you have to sit there and make all sorts of decisions of what you think the picture is going to look like. The materials, the lighting, the whole scene is approximated in the preview,” says Ross. “HyperShot shows me what it will look like right away.”

In short-timeline projects like the IBD Jet Elite nail-curing lamp or the SafteyMate Talking First Aid handheld, LaunchPoint shaved weeks off the launch dates. Besides cutting out the old processing-time bottlenecks, says Ross, LaunchPoint relied on fewer rounds of prototyping.

HyperShot on the Job
Cobra Golf designers “paint up” new club models to exacting detail in HyperShot; even the logo decals are covered with a clear coat finish as they would in the final product.

“Firms that don’t have the program are going to have to work a lot harder,” says Ross, “and spend a lot more time and money to compete with firms that do have it. Product development firms with HyperShot will have a huge edge, because they can offer more services, and execute a job much faster and cheaper.”

Material Confidence
For Peter Kossev, the industrial design expert at Pixel Mathematics of Palo Alto, CA, earning the trust of design clients is easier with tools like HyperShot. The biggest corporate brands of computer peripherals and cell phones have trusted Kossev and his two engineering partners to create products for the worldwide market. They also trust that Kossev keeps quiet about the fact. “Nobody wins if I’m going around the world saying, ‘Hey, nice new keyboard. I did that,’” laughs Kossev.

With years of master-level experience with Alias design tools, Kossev knows almost instinctually how to articulate a curve and which material accents to add on a product exterior. Adding HyperShot to his toolkit has elevated his trusted-advisor role to something closer to magician.

“HyperShot has really changed my life,” he says. “You really have to download the demo and see it with your own eyes. Words cannot do it justice.”

Now, when Kossev sits in meetings with corporate managers of a cell phone company and one of them throws out a suggestion for the look of a new product, Kossev is on his laptop and creates a 3D rendering with those exact attributes by the time the person is done speaking, and the program’s studio lighting creates an image worthy of hanging in a photo gallery.

Kossev’s magic is possible because of HyperShot’s palette of preprogrammed materials and a palette of 165 “shaders” (material, color, and finish combinations) that design professionals use all the time.

“Bunkspeed has just set everything up so it looks real,” says Kossev. The recipes for metals and paint finishes reflect the virtual light rays perfectly. Any shader in HyperShot—from ID standards like polished piano-black finishes and brushed metals to transparent elements like water and diamonds—looks like a photograph.

“Previously in rendering programs, if you wanted a specific material you had to adjust dozens of different scientific settings, which by itself could take hours,” Kossev says. “A good rendering guy would have to specialize in rendering for years, and develop his own library of materials.” HyperShot has reduced all this complexity into what is essentially an exercise in paint-by-numbers.

“A lot of times, if you just make the suggestion with words, like, let’s add an extra part over here, the client is immediately resistant, concerned with extra cost,” says Kossev. “Now with HyperShot, instead of explaining it, I just say, give me five minutes. I’ll show you what I mean.”

Getting a Grip on Golf Club Aesthetics
Designers for Acushnet Company of Fairhaven, MA, say that cosmetics are as critical a consideration as mathematics when considering a new golf club.

“The way the industry has been headed recently, aesthetics are becoming more and more important,” says Product Development Engineer Mike McDonnell. “If you look at any golf store these days, there are now many different styles of clubs. Some are pretty simple and classic, but others have an unusual shape or have extreme cosmetics.”

After the mathematics of a new Acushnet Cobra product are refined, for example, designers pick from more than 100 variations of colors, materials, and finishes, not including the compositional details. “Golf clubs are now going multi-material, too,” adds McDonnell. “We can throw in a carbon-fiber, titanium, painted or brushed-aluminum component. The cosmetic possibilities are endless.”

Previously, the only way to judge a color and material scheme was to build a batch of sample heads, pick up two, and compare the options side by side.

“If you really wanted to see the real look of the new product, you’d have the overseas manufacturer paint up 15 to 20 different heads and ship them back. That would take three or four days to paint, and then two or three days for shipping,” explains McDonnell. That’s about a week, just for the first round. Some new clubs might go through five or more rounds of cosmetic changes.”

Recently, however, Cobra Golf designers can see how a club will look in just five minutes with HyperShot. “The renderings have every detail that the final product will have,” says McDonnell. “It’s just like holding a club in your hand.”

Once a preview is rendered onscreen, the designer can essentially see the design from different angles or reposition the object in a scene as though it were a 3D environment. Normal renderers output a single flat view. If you wanted a view from a different angle, you have to go back to the original wireframe or solid model, re-position it, and re-render for another 2D output.

After the Final Product
In addition to gains in both quality and productivity within the product development process each of these companies has also used HyperShot for marketing tasks. LaunchPoint added product images for early-release marketing collateral to its list of services; Kossev’s final renderings of Eye2It are in the brochure Sextant Navigation pitches to large manufacturers, and Cobra Golf uses HyperShot images of clubs as a preview for domestic and international sales meetings.

It’s no surprise faster rendering makes for better product development. What is surprising is that one application has managed to create profitability on both sides of the fence.

More Info
Acushnet Company
Fairhaven, MA

LaunchPoint, Inc.
Carlsbad, CA

Pixel Mathematics
Palo Alto, CA

Sextant Navigation, Inc.
Santa Clara, CA