Historically, there have been many uses of curves in various designs because they contributed to structural integrity of designs, such as in Mycenaean Arkadiko Bridge in Greece, or the aqueducts of the Roman Empire. More recently, however, curves have been making their way into product design simply for their aesthetic appeal such as in architecture, furniture, art, glassware and many other applications.
Nowadays, curves embody all that is modern, as people are drawn to structures that are sleek, smooth, refined and polished looking. Mathematics has played an important role in the development of curves in product design, especially with the development of computer-aided design (CAD) technology. The following is a discussion as to how CAD has changed the face of product design in recent years.
Figuring Out Curves
Although curves had already been used a lot in design up to this point, it was in the 1940’s that comprehensive work was done in order to be able to describe curves mathematically. Much of this work had been started by Robert Isaac Newton, with many of his mathematical formulae and principles being built on by mathematicians since.
The Turning Point
It is argued that the turning point for curves used in designing was the development of the SKETCHPAD system at MIT. In 1963, Ivan Sutherland played an important role in developing this technology, with the key feature being that a designer could interact with his or her computer graphically. Basically, what was developed was the prototype of a graphical user interface, which would be instrumental in defining the features of the modern CAD.
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First Commercial Applications of CAD
The first commercial applications of CAD were in large companies that dealt with industrial design such as in the automotive, aerospace and electronics industries. At this point in the history of CAD, only large corporations could afford the computers that were capable of performing the necessary mathematical calculations of the curve.
CAD Becomes More Available
As computers became more affordable, the applications of the CAD technology expanded gradually. Development of CAD software for personal desktop computers was when it became an almost universal application in all areas of construction and product design. In the 1970’s, CAD was still limited to producing drawings that were similar to those that were hand-drafted. It was not until the 1980’s that advances in programming and computer hardware allowed more versatile applications of design activities.
Today, CAD systems exist for all major platforms – including Windows and Mac OS X – and doesn’t require any special hardware to run. It is a very effective modern design tool not only because it can create any image that is desired – including curves. It can also provide technical information about a particular design, and provide measurements such as tensile strength, yield strength, as well as the stress and strain of a design.
Thus, CAD has become extremely useful in all aspects of engineering design and architecture, not to mention for everyday objects such as electronics or other tools. The design opportunities are limitless, and because CAD is still a relatively new technology, this is the major reason why curves have become so popular in modern design.
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