Italian Engineer Flaviano Crespi has been working with CAD since its very early days in the 80s, developing specialized CAD software for creating chemical reactor tanks. With his free time he has been imparting his wisdom and showing his CAD skills to everyone in GrabCAD. After seeing all of his submissions to the Figulo competition, we realized we had to get him in our next Engineer's Spotlight, which he graciously agreed to!
Flaviano studied drafting in the late 1970’s, before the development of these strange TV-like objects called ‘Personal Computers’. His concentration was Chemical Engineering. “I started working as manual drafting designer in a factory that produced and tested pressure-tanks, complete with agitators suitable for chemical process. I remained in this industry sector working for various manufacturing companies.” Interestingly, Flaviano chose to work with the Macintosh, when it was actually a common CAD tool “I remember the stunts taken to design mixers using MacDraft!” he remembers. Moving from there, he worked the HP ME10 Unix platform, starting with CoCreate and Creo since its inception. Over the past 6 years, he has been freelancing, designing Chemical and Pharmaceutical equipment, reactors, mixers, dryers and wet/dry filters.
We got talking about how Flaviano creates something. As an Engineer, everything he makes is on the basis of the functionality of the design. Whether or not it will explode matters more than beauty. But often, to the right eye, they seem the same. “In my field, production needs of functional wins over the aesthetic, but we must not forget that if a machine is beautiful, probably will also work as well." But with GrabCAD as a platform, Flaviano could express his desire for create purely aesthetic CAD outside of his work. “After years of using elementary solids, plates, rods, profiles and bolts and extruded solids, I discovered the boundless field of curved surfaces.”
I asked Flaviano about the Nested Trays, a bath or kitchen wall tile that features cupulas for small plants, one of many different variations on the concept.
I think the original idea would remember the basins of small waterfalls of a mountain stream. I must say that my creative process owes much to the free association of images that emerge from the mists of the alpha state in the early hours of dawn. In those moments objects or machines seem to me perfect! But with the revival begins the critical review. So I grab a sheet of recycled paper and start sketching. Fortunately I kept the sheet, confused among other sketches can also see the nested trays in their original form, which then evolved with the modeling.
Interestingly, all of it was created without NURBS but with Boolean functions (additive and subtractive CAD), with some fillet to smooth the edges. Here's an early sketch.
Flaviano is one of the few people we’ve ever met who has developed their own CAD program. Of this, he particularly proud. During the 1980s, there was no specific program that calculated the pressure vessels to meet Italian guidelines. Using BASIC, a Macintosh and a database manager FileMaker, he developed a rudimentary procedural CAD program which he named Agridraft and has been upgrading and improving over the years.
Various fields are filled with dimensions of a vessel which must be fitted with an agitator for liquids. With one click of a button, Agidraft instantly compiled a text containing the language code of vector drawing SVG, export it to disk so that it can be seen in a special mini FileMaker WebViewer using the webkit of system browser. The user can then draw real-time in scale arrangement of the tank with the agitator. A drawing can be saved in SVG format and edited with a free editors like "InkScape".
Here's a quick video to help visualize how it works.
We got talking about GrabCAD. Like every other Engineer out there, Flaviano appreciated having a place to show off one’s work, compare with others and best of all, expand productivity. However in his opinion the ability to search for exactly what he was looking for in the library was lacking, partly due to users not tagging their models correctly. The future of CAD seemed bright to Flaviano, although the back then it was expected that tactile modelling with “CAD gloves” was to be commonplace today.
Regarding the evolution of the CAD interface I expect to introduce the concept of tactility. To be honest I was expecting it to be applied already long ago at the first appearance of 'digital gloves', but I see that the process is not so easy, so I feel especially suggest to anyone involved in pure modeling not to lose contact with the manual…. A method for immediate tactile feedback is the technique of 3D printing, That is having an exceptional development, I hope that printers can become so cheap to have one on your desktop as a normal laser printer.
How about collaborating with people like they're almost next to you? We're working on that!