Caterpillar

Modeling software used: PTC Creo
Website: cat.com

What inspired you to pursue Industrial Design?
When I entered college, I started in the fine arts program and was not even aware of Industrial Design. I had earned a Scholastics Art scholarship with my high school art portfolio but was not sure what I really wanted to do and I didn’t think art was my ticket. While in High school and into college, I worked for a local sign shop. During the summer after my freshman year, one of the graphic design interns at the sign shop informed me about the Industrial Design program just down the hall from the Graphic Design department. After having a conversation with the ID professor, I signed up!  I was very excited to see that there was a place for people like me, artistic yet technical at the same time and who loved to create and build things. How great it was to know that I could make my career in Industrial Design. What was not to like?

What’s unique about the design process for projects at Caterpillar?
Caterpillar Industrial Design (CID) starts with the machine operator in mind. It is all about operator empathy and the relationship that operator has with the job that needs to be done. Our products are very functional tools that move or manage earth. When properly operated, they allow humans to do a lot of work and make a living. As we respond to their needs through human-centered design, we ensure the final product will enable that operator to stay safe, efficient and comfortable. The cost of ownership and serviceability are also key considerations, as our machines have an average age of almost 20 years.

What is the primary 3d modeling software at Caterpillar?
PTC Creo is the enterprise-wide software for 3D modeling. CID uses PTC Creo for surface modeling to make file transition as seamless as possible. Alias is also used.

KeyShot is an integral tool used in the entire product design process.”

Where in your process is KeyShot used?KeyShot is an integral tool used in the entire product design process. In the beginning of the process, I often generate sketching underlays from KeyShot, where I bring in the existing geometry of current product and some basic forms from Creo. As I work through the design process, often I will update the KeyShot model with the latest geometry to get a better understanding of the design intent and direction. Depending on the focus of the design, KeyShot is used to evaluate the surfaces with and without texture. That ability alone makes KeyShot a great tool to have for virtual design audits. Generating images for internal design reviews within the design department as well as with the product group. It really helps to build a visual story for the engineering community of what the product should look like. KeyShot is also used for the end result to generating full machine component presentations that show the production-intent vision of the product to engineering and management.

By utilizing KeyShot, the Caterpillar Industrial Design team members are able to create convincing visuals to set that expectation for a machine’s vision, branding, and execution into production.”

Overall, how has KeyShot helped save time, money and/or improve quality?
The speed and quality of KeyShot is fantastic. I used to spend as much time generating renderings of my product as I did modeling the design in past software packages. Even then, the texture mapping, shading, and ambient occlusion were never just right. In a fast-paced environment, with few designers and a huge product portfolio, we do not have the luxury to spend time only generating “pretty pictures.” We have to communicate the design intent as best as we can in the time we have, and move on. Because of the sheer size of our products, it is very challenging to generate mockups to communicate the design intent. By utilizing KeyShot, the Caterpillar Industrial Design team members are able to create convincing visuals to set that expectation for a machine’s vision, branding, and execution into production. With KeyShot, it all happens seamlessly. Honestly, I still get giddy every time I bring a new surface model into KeyShot and start applying my textures and materials.

What advice do you have for someone interested in doing what you do?
Don’t skip the research early on or the hard work to get to know what your end user’s needs are. Put together a thorough design requirements document. “A well-defined problem is half-solved!” [Michael Osborne] Know your materials and processes. If you have a good understanding of how to make your design, you are more able to “sell it” to the engineering community that has to bring it to production.