Industrial Archeology - designers and engineers preserve history using CAD to recreate products that no longer exist
March 7, 2006 Museums and history buffs have begun using CAD software for an exciting new application - breathing life into centuries past. "Industrial archeology" is the study and re-creation of machines, parts, vehicles, and buildings that may have vanished, been destroyed, gone obsolete, or perhaps never existed at all. The practice combines art, history, craftsmanship, and, in a new twist, computer-aided design.
Industrial archeologists like Californian William L. Gould use SolidWorks software as an efficient, mechanically faithful way to illustrate, in three dimensions and myriad individual components, a piece of lost history.
Gould’s (pictured) full-color 3D CAD model of the 1879 Mason Bogie steam locomotive, is rendered in SolidWorks and PhotoWorks software, and exists only as a 3D CAD model with hundreds of discrete parts. It is available as a fine art lithographic print or a set of plans in exacting detail.
Built by the Mason Locomotive Works, the original Mason Bogie is considered one of the most beautiful locomotives ever built, often dubbed "the Swiss watch of trains." The largest single user of the colorful locomotives was the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad. Gould modeled the locomotive as it appeared early in service with an elegant color scheme based on consultation with historians. This is the first time it has been seen in color since its creation in 1879. The only existing real-world Mason Bogie - a much later, different style than the original 1879 - is maintained in mint condition and operated at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.
"Although the power of computer-aided design has redefined the notion of craftsmanship, CAD is a powerful tool to recreate objects that have disappeared or exist only in a would-be inventor's sketches," said Gould, also a medical device and consumer parts designer. "Using SolidWorks, we can create any form we want, whether it was conceived yesterday or 180 years ago. SolidWorks makes the reconstruction aspects of industrial archeology a piece of cake."
Gould's locomotive model was a prizewinner in the SolidWorks World 2006 Design Contest. He will tackle other industrial archeology projects in hopes of supplying documentation service and animations to museum curators and exhibit designers. His dream, however, is a "virtual museum" - i.e., an online museum filled with historically accurate cyber models and faithful recreations of artifacts that no longer exist.
"Museums are just beginning to use 3D CAD for industrial archeology, and SolidWorks is by far the best software for this purpose," Gould said. "For me, the whole concept is very important because in many instances museums have document collections but lack the corresponding artifact. You solve a mystery when you design products from an inventor's sketches to see if they would really have worked. To a historian that answer is gold."
For more information on industrial archaeology, listen to this podcast
Gould's company, Gould Studios, works with SolidWorks reseller GoEngineer for ongoing software training, implementation, and support. Gould started his own business in 1973, providing prototype modelmaking, injection molding, and design services to the medical device and consumer product industries. "One thing I have learned over the past 30 years is that all good design must flow from the past - an updating of the traditional, so to speak," he said. "It is really important to study and appreciate our industrial past to create even better products for today's consumer." His Mason Bogie is the fourth in a series of subjects from the history of transportation.