Industrial design rendering refers to making drawings from design concepts, which can be used to determine if a product is ready for manufacturing. Drawings can be done by hand, or complex computer software can develop renderings in three dimensions. When a new product or an industrial process is developed, it becomes important at some point to show what the equipment orientation will be, or how a process will fit in a building.
Prior to development of electronic computers in the 20th century, industrial design rendering was done by hand, using artists that could envision what a product might look like from a list of dimensions or specifications. Although industrial design is artistic in form, the drawing is not the desired product, but rather whatever the drawing is showing, called the depiction. Accurate industrial design rendering can reduce costs, because accurate depictions of a process or equipment can show design errors or size limitations before anything is built.
With the increasing power of computer systems in the late 20th century, industrial design quickly became linked to computer software. Commercial design programs could create complex designs that could be viewed from any angle, rotated and even taken apart on a computer screen. Designers often worked with an electronic pad and stylus, transferring information directly to the computer without the need for traditional paper and pencil.
Paper sketches were still valued for early concept designs, but industrial design rendering became computer-based. This allowed designers much more freedom to experiment with a design and immediately see the result. Prototypes could be drawn, reviewed and rapidly changed without having to wait for an artist to develop them by hand.
In the 1990s, a major aircraft manufacturer used computer-aided design (CAD) to create a new aircraft without using models or small-scale prototypes. Aviation designers were networked electronically while working on different aspects of the aircraft design. If an interior cabin dimension changed to meet a specification, all designers immediately saw the impact on all other aircraft structures, weights and manufacturing requirements.
By the 21st century, industrial design rendering and CAD were closely linked, allowing designers to show visual models of equipment prototypes at every stage of development. Rendering of intermediate designs could be made at any point, because the design software maintained all changes entered into the program. Improvements in the software over time allowed images to be connected into virtual movies that could either show how a product was constructed or how it operated in an industrial setting.
As CAD systems became more complex, equipment manufacturers began to design equipment that could use the output of the CAD programs. This became known as computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), and the connected technology was known as CAD-CAM. Designers could develop a complete part design, test it in the computer, and send the result directly to a machine to create the part. This led to cost savings for manufacturers, greatly reduced product development times, and better parts quality.