Alias Design: Class A Surfacing for the Mainstream

When People Buy Your Products Because They Look Better.

A Class A Surface can be defined as one without physical imperfection. In the Automotive world, Class A Surfaces are mandatory as any reflection while highlight any imperfections, and have been used for Automotive surfaces for years, but what about consumer products, why doesn’t this market segment demand Class A Surfacing? There’s a couple of reasons, but one big factor was price, Class A Surfacing Software being unaffordable for the mainstream.

Autodesk’s Alias Design does Class A Surfacing and is marketed for Industrial Design. The Automotive tools have been stripped out and you can upgrade your AutoCAD (or another Autodesk) licence to Alias Design from AUD$2,500 or buy it outright on it’s own, in a Design Suite, or rent it. This is a massive breakthrough considering Automotive Class A Surfacing Software can cost upwards of $100,000.

Why Class A Surfaces Are Important

Class A Surfacing can be a massive selling point over your competitors. If your customer says I want your product because it looks and feels better, how can your competition argue with that? They can give their product away, it doesn’t change the fact that the consumer wants your product. It’s a decision made on an emotional level, something that the competition can’t match until they invest in the technology, time and resources and try and play catch up. By that time you’re already at the next level of product development. What’s even better, if they don’t have a clue about Class A and how you’re doing it, they be wasting 1000’s of man hours trying to come up with a sub-standard product using their sub-standard CAD software.

You can demand a higher price for a Class A Surfaced product because it shows a better quality product. Manufacturers can market products as luxury items and demand a higher price too; quality, luxury market products are status symbols and that mean higher margins. It means your not playing in the commodity space anymore having to cut margins to the bone.

Class A Surfacing Software V. MCAD Software

There are only a handful of Class A surfacing packages on the market; Dassault ICEM Surf, Siemens NX and Autodesk Alias. There are others that can do it with 3rd party add-ons or extensions too, but these 3 are the main ones. With the Automotive companies exiting Australia, it is a great time to get Alias and pick up this talent.

What are the benefits of Class A Surfacing Software over conventional MCAD Software like Autodesk’s Inventor, Fusion 360 & AutoCAD, PTC Creo, Dassault Solidworks & CATIA or Siemens SolidEdge? Or even other lower Surfacing Modellers like Rhino?

First and foremost, there is no workflow to take the idea from Concept to Design without losing intent or having to do rework. This factor alone saves time, when there is no time. MCAD Modellers are not conducive to conceptual design, especially parametric modellers, when you might have 10 different concepts and the eraser is your most used tool.

The surfacing tools in these CAD packages lack the key elements such as single span geometry and many others to achieve the continuity required, don’t have the necessary validation tools and the toolsets you have to work with take way too long to achieve a nice surface. Add to that the frustration of rework and fixing up surfaces because you have made a change and people just give up and go back to solid modelling or creating simple surfaces so they can knock out the job and reach the deadline.

This is why companies use Alias, you can get better surfaces in a shorter period of time. It has the workflow to take your ideas from concept to design, to tooling. It can surface using Bezier and NURBS, you have history or freeform surfacing and you can validate your surfaces while you work by layering your comb plots, highlight flows and gaussian deviation; all at the same time if you wish, features not even other Class A Surfacing tools have.

You can then bring in your surfaces into your MCAD package and put together the surface with the solid modelling or vice versa.

Alias is not just a surfacing package. As mentioned it has concept and annotation tools in the way of Sketchbook Designer where you can bring in your curves and create surfaces from your concepts, Alias also has visualisation tools for rendering too.

This is the type of feedback Autodesk get from Companies who use Alias:

“One customer said that our process is the best he’s ever seen. We are faster at modeling, we deliver higher-quality surfaces, and we visualize designs earlier in the process than our competition.”

In the Industrial Design or Consumer Product space, Alias comes in two flavours, Alias Design and Alias Surface. Alias Surface has more tools for advanced surfaces and control, has better evaluation tools and can bring in scanned data and blend surfaces with the scan in a hybrid modelling environment, however, Autodesk took out Sketchbook Designer which I don’t fully understand why and only offer it in Alias Design and Alias Automotive.

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If you have any queries, would like advice or more information, please contact me here, call on +61 3 9210 4428 or email me at