Product Modeling Tools: Approach to a targeted Application in User-Centered Product Design
Since the focus on the user is becoming increasingly important, the requirements on product modeling tools to design user centered products increase in equal measure. The range of applicable tools is vast. However, the selection of appropriate tools is challenging and depends on a variety of interacting factors that have to be considered. In this paper, an approach to categorize and describe tools of Industrial Design Engineering based on the tasks and models in the design process is presented, aiming at optimizing the specific application in the design process and thus increasing effectivity and efficiency. The potential tools, identified by an extensive research, are initially clustered regarding the essential work on the model (shaping, visualization and transfer). Additionally, for a further categorization, the tools are described by means of parameters according to their characteristics. For a higher-level assignment between tools, models, users and tasks in the design process an evaluation of the tools by use of defined requirements is necessary. Therefore, a study was conducted to investigate the evaluation, exemplarily on 3D modeling tools (Clay Modeling and Polygon Modeling). At first, design processes using those tools were defined in order to derive criteria as basis for the evaluation. Secondly, the visualization and the informative content of the product models with regard to the later product properties were evaluated by conducting a survey with 25 subjects. The results of the study confirm the strong and weak points of the examined modeling tools in relation to the work on the product model in the design process. Considerable differences between the defined tools were observed in terms of complexity of the creation and adaptation process, which can lead to insufficient results by an incorrect application. In addition, the user with his prior knowledge and experience is crucial concerning the perception of the product model and thus the evaluability of the later product characteristics. The developed categorization and evaluation of the modeling tools and the product models provide a good groundwork to reach a targeted application of tools based on the tasks in the design process, the development objectives and environment, as well as the abilities and needs of the user.