Nature is a great source of inspiration for product design. As is using existing product images to re-create geometry. The problem is that although there are billions of photos in the world, they don’t often come with a scale bar for reference.

However If you Have SolidWorks you are able to use a feature called “Sketch Picture” to insert an image or photo into a 2D sketch. The inserted image can then scaled and rotated relative to construction geometry within the same sketch. This is a very useful tool when taking inspiration from nature, or from any other photo or image. Before you start you either have to have an idea of the sizes you would like to work to, or an exact dimension from an existing product to work from.

Step 1: Creating your reference Geometry.

The first thing we need to do is create some reference geometry in a sketch that is representative of the size of the component we want to design. In this instance, I want a 25Ø shaft with a hollow dish on the end, taking inspiration from the fungi above.

This basic sketch gives us the basic diameter and length of the part I want to design.

Step 2: Insert the Sketch Picture

Still working in the same sketch as above we need to insert our image… On the file menu use.. Tools… Sketch Tools… Sketch Picture, and select the image you would like to work from. Once the image is loaded into SolidWorks it needs to be scaled and rotated around the fully constrained sketch.

The image I used here needed to be scaled and rotated to fit the geometry as closely as possible. Transparency was set at 0.44 so that the picture did not hide the existing geometry. Once you are happy with the placement of the image relative to your geometry, click the tick and then exit the sketch.

Step 3: Create a new sketch on the same plain to re-create the geometry.

Using the first sketch as a reference, the required geometry can be built up in a new sketch around the inserted image, as shown below…

Remember, I am only using this fungi as a very quick example to demonstrate the principle and possibilities of recreating geometry using a picture.

Sketch Picture is a very useful tool that can help with many aspects of design. Including recreating geometry from clients sketch’s and reverse engineering complex components and geometries. However, the quality of the output is only as good as the quality of the original image and the time taken to re-create that geometry in SolidWorks.

For best results ensure all photos used are taken exactly parallel to the component, with a ruler in shot to help the scale process.

Once you are happy with the sketch, create your feature. in this instance, a revolve….

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