Concepts Unlimited 1.2

When a new piece of 3D software with a price tag of almost £2,000 arrives on the market, it’s perhaps inevitable that you compare its feature set with those offered by rival software in a similar price bracket. In Concepts Unlimited’s case, however, it’s difficult to find other 3D software that fits the bill. With industry-standard packages such as Alias Maya, Maxon Cinema 4D, NewTek LightWave and Electric Image Universe barely scratching the one-and-a-half-grand mark, you’d be forgiven for expecting to find a feast of hitherto unheard of features in Concepts Unlimited. If this is the case, you may be in for something of a disappointment. But it quickly becomes apparent that Concepts Unlimited isn’t intended for the standard 3D audience. Marketed as a CCAD design application- the ‘C’ meaning ‘Conceptual’- Concepts Unlimited is aimed at professional product-designers, model-makers and CAD engineers; people who earn their living in the industry and need a fast, efficient and intuitive means of turning their ideas into something more tangible. For this reason, many of the features that come as standard in most mainstream 3D applications aren’t present in Concepts Unlimited. Cadsoft Solutions has abandoned bells and whistles in favour of solid, meaty modelling tools. Feature set
Let’s begin, then, with what you don’t get with Concepts Unlimited. Actually, the list is so long that it’s difficult to know where to start. In Concepts Unlimited you won’t, for example, find features such as radiosity, inverse kinematics, metaballs or caustics. Likewise, there are no physics engines, particles systems or fur generators. If you purchase Concepts Unlimited hoping to use the software to produce high-end animations featuring fully textured characters, you may find yourself demanding a refund. You can look at such omissions in one of two ways: either Concepts Unlimited is overpriced and under-featured, or the software has been pared down to the extreme- stripped of all bloatware and superfluous features so that it can concentrate on what it does best. I prefer to believe the latter. What Concepts Unlimited does best is create models. It does this via a truly staggering array of tools that designed to cater for almost every aspect of the design and modelling process. There are numerous solid-modelling tools that allow you to edit models in practically any way. In contrast to the vast majority of 3D design programs, which make users manipulate points and polygons to create and refine complex objects, Concepts Unlimited does the majority of its work with parametric objects (you can, however, choose to edit points if you so desire). For product designers anxious to commit ideas to the third dimension without being bogged down by lack of 3D technique, this has obvious implications. Users can, for example, easily create a solid object cube, apply chamfer or bevel to any or all of its sides in an very intuitive way, and then drill a countersunk hole into its body with a simple click of the mouse. The latter is a feature that I particularly like- in most modelling programs you might be forced use Booleans to create this effect, which tends to destroy the unity of the model (although Concepts Unlimited does feature Booleans). Modelling is both incredibly powerful and remarkable flexible. This isn’t to say that there’s no learning curve attached to the program: in fact, it’s definitely recommended that you have some knowledge of 3D design tools and techniques before using it. Without this, you should be prepared to burn the midnight oil with the manual for company. If, however, you can master the modelling tools in this program, the sky really is the limit. Working drawings
Aside from arguably the best, most fully featured and intuitive modelling toolset on the market, Concepts Unlimited offers a number of other features that are not found in other 3D programs. One of the most impressive of these is the ability to automatically create two-dimensional multiple-view drawings of the models you create. This means that having put together his creation in Concepts Unlimited, the designer can then send off working production drawings to the manufacturer. The program also creates QuickTime movies of walkthroughs and fly-bys of objects simply by assigning a camera path to a curve. As with all new software, Concepts Unlimited ships with a number of quirks, bugs and weaknesses that cry out for an upgrade. These include interface oversights such as the lack of a ‘redo’ key command (available only through the Edit menu) and more serious concerns such as screen redraw problems with imported 3ds files. More disappointing is the paucity of render options available: for a program of this size you would expect, for example, to be able to specify the resolution at which to output files. In practice, you can output to any size- so long as you’re prepared to do the maths.


Concepts Unlimited brings serious modelling power to the Mac. If you’re a product designer with a desire to bring creations to life with a degree of accuracy that’s difficult to achieve in other 3D tools, Concepts Unlimited could be for you. Seasoned 3D pros, however, may baulk at the price and ask if the superior modelling toolset is worth the trade-off in other key features that aren’t included.

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