From Cave Art to 3D
Technical Illustration could be thought of as art with a purpose. A good illustrator focuses on the overall communication benefits that the graphics provide and the techniques required to create the graphics. In other words, what are the communication benefits of any new media and how easy it is to use.
28,000 BC - 3000 BC: Chalk, Charcoal and Minerals
Thirty-thousand years ago the urge to draw inspired our ancestors to discover new media. Chalk, charcoal and minerals were used to provide a way to communicate with imagery.
* Benefit - First communications with graphics
* Technique - Rub a stone on a cave wall - pretty tough to create good graphics
3000 BC-1982 AD: Pen and Paper
Historic records show that papyrus (an early form of paper) was being used as early as 3000 BC. This was a significant step forward and provided a way to communicate outside of the cave.
* Benefit - Share graphics across the world
* Technique - Use a pencil, protractor and T-square to hand-draw illustrations
This technique has been used for centuries but even the most stubborn illustrators are unable to deny the benefits of newer approaches any longer. I picked up an old text book titled "Technical Drawing" at Half-Price books (Ever tried to sell books here? Trust me... you're better off donating your books and writing them off for $0.50 each). The book was published in 1991 and out of 1000 pages of pen and paper instructions only a single chapter (35 pages) discussed computers.
1982-2004: Digital Graphics
Finally, with the invention of the internet and 2D graphic software, old pen and paper techniques started to become obsolete.
* Benefit - Share graphics with a global audience
* Technique - Use precise software tools to draw 2D illustrations
We have great book laying around the office that we use as a reference. "The Complete Technical Illustrator" by Jon Duff and Greg Maxson explores topics relevant to technical illustration and does a great job. It is a very practical, hands-on book and you can find the book on Amazon here. The first sentence in the "Introduction" describes the brave new world of technical illustration, according to the author:
"The increased availability of digital graphics tools has inexorably changed the way technical illustrations are made."
The focus of the book is really on how to use 2D based tools, such as Adobe Illustrator or Autocad, to create "3D looking" illustrations. This book does a great job describing some tedious strategies and obscure techniques that can be used to get from A to B, and by following these techniques you can end up with some pretty impressive illustrations. But, how long does it take to create a good illustration this way? Well, it's certainly easier than drawing on a cave wall but it does take a lot of time. Also, what happens when you products change? How do you update the illustrations? Let's just say "it's not going to happen".
Fortunately for you 3D Publishing Software can eliminate these multiple-step requirements and update deficiencies by letting you use the 3D model directly. Read on...
2004-Future: 3D Graphics
3D Publishing is the most beneficial new tool for technical writers and illustrators since the pen and paper. Am I exaggerating? For some, maybe. For many others, probably not.
* Benefit - Share 3D graphics globally
* Bonus Benefit - Update graphics automatically when designs change
* Technique - Reuse the 3D model directly to automatically create illustrations
When 3D publishing software is used, the 3D model can be imported directly. QuadriSpace's products provide a wide range of professional tools that you can use to get the precise viewpoint you desire, the graphical style that your illustration needs, the callouts and text to describe the product, and special tools for creating exploded views easily. The overall effect is that you can import a 3D model and in many cases you can create a whole library of detailed illustrations in a few minutes!
Oh, about updates to your illustrations... for many this is the best part. Since you are using the 3D model as the basis for your illustrations you can easily update entire documents or libraries of illustrations when designs change. It's very simple, just import the latest 3D model and everything is updated automatically.