As an experienced engineer by trade, my focus with illustration has very much been towards illustrating technical content, as it is often much easier to communicate a principal, concept or information with a drawing than it is to describe it with words. Information portrayed as an illustration can overcome misinterpretation of the words used to describe the information, as people often interpret words in different ways.
Technical illustration can take many forms from the most simple of line drawings through to a complex three dimensional computer model rendered to bring almost photographic reality to the image. With the advancement of computers and website capabilities the illustration can also be represented as an interactive three dimensional model where the viewer can rotate or see the model from all angles. See my web graphics page for more information on illustration, graphics or animation tailored specifically for display on web pages.
The watch mechanism opposite is an example of the level of detail that can be generated as a 3D computer model, yet portrayed visually with almost photographic detail.
Styles of Schematic Drawings
The heating schematic above illustrates the different styles that can be used to portray a simple hydronic heating circuit. The left example is typical of the basic schematics used in standards and industry guidance documents. The centre image has added visual appeal giving the basic details of the schematic drawing but using colour to represent hot and cold flow pipes. The right image lays out the within a representation of the building it is designed to be installed in. As the drawings progress in complexity they can communicate an increasing amount of information to the user, yet retain the message of the simple schematic layout.
Exploded View of Vacuum Valve components
The vacuum valve detailed is a visualisation made up from details of several different valve parts. Construction of the 3D model therefore mimics a typical valve used in modern valve amplifiers. Creating the exploded view is simply a matter of rearranging the 3D components to their exploded layout position.
Exploded View of a Ball Valve
The exploded view for the ball valve above can be further enhanced by creating a video of the disassembly process as detailed in the ball valve video below.
An unlimited level of detail can be incorporated into the computer model, and when combined with careful image based lighting will allow the generation of near photographic representation of parts. The real benefit of creating a 3D model of a product comes when multiple images of the product are required from different angles and with different focal lenghts. With 2D drawing a view of the product from a different angle requires a complete redraw. With 3D modelling a vew from a different angle simply requires the virtual camera to be moved within the 3D space and a new render will automatically be created. The Exploded view is quickly created by separating and repositioning the internal components of the valve and re rendering the drawing.
Cutaway images can be created as a section of a single component, small assemblies of components through to large machinery or entire vehicles. They have an interest for many people who like to see just what is inside the things they admire or work with every day.
The benefit of cutaway images in training manuals is that the images clearly show how the individual components can be assembled. This can be further assisted by also showing an exploded view, or even an animation of the components being fitted in the right order to make the assembly.
An animated cutaway view also helps demonstrate the principal of an assemblies operation, such as the ball balve below opening and closing, or pistons and valves moving in an internal combustion engine. They can be extremely helpful in explainer animations.
Animated Cutaway and Exploded View of Ball Valve
Larger cutaway image showing a detailed view of the internal components of a Mk9 Spitfire.
Spitfire Mk9 Cutaway Image
Turntable Animation of the Spitfire Model
The spitfire model used for this cutaway image was also used for the explainer animations in Chalel 4's Inside the Spitfire Factory documentary series.
Spitfire Mk9 Model used by Channel 4's Inside the Spitfire Factory
The creation of multiple views of a virtual product also has benefits in the creation of training material. Not only can multiple images be created, but they can be combined to create informative animations of specific aspects of a components use or assembly. The video opposite shows how the bayonet fitting used on many stainless steel system chimneys are joined. This type of animation can add a significant amount of information when used in training presentations.
The information needed to show how the system chimney connection can be made, can also be portrayed as a line drawing for print, with the motion being displayed as direction arrows. As detailed below.