Patent drawings, CAD-type drawings and Animations

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  07 July 2018
Patent drawings, CAD-type drawings and Animations


I have some questions for the CG community.
Background: I am not a CG person, so I'm looking for assistance in creating CG drawings and animations. I have some hand drawings of an invention which I want to have made into patent drawings, which will be acceptable to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I want the drawings to be created in some 3D CAD-type software program, with each part of the invention in its own "layer", and also be able to illustrate all parts/layers together, as a single assembly. Some parts of the invention will be moveable while others are static, but the entire assembly will be moveable so that will need to be illustrated. The software program will also need to illustrate all the dimensions as well, perhaps in their own layer. The CAD-type drawings should also be able to be used for CAM. After submitting a patent application, I will want to use the same saved drawing file(s) to have animations created to illustrate the various interactions of the moving parts and the moving assembly as a whole, as well as other aspects of the invention. I will eventually want to post the 3D drawings and the animations (videos) to a website.

1. What software program can be used to perform all these tasks, without having to redraw/recreate the drawings?

2. Do you know of a good CG individual who has experience doing all these tasks, who might be interested in creating the drawings and animations for me?

3. Does anyone have any comments/recommendations as to my approach to getting all these tasks accomplished?

Thank you,

Bill Cecil
President and Founder
OBER, LLC.[/table]
  07 July 2018
I have done this about 10 years ago for a patent I worked on at the time. The 2D patent drawings were created in 3D CAD software Moment Of Inspiration (although this particular low-cost software is not too great for stuff that needs to be actually manufactured later on).

Before you go any further - if you need your patent drawings to remain absolutely confidential until the application is approved, you should approach a patent law firm that employs technical CAD modelers and illustrators they have worked with before. These technical artists have a) very likely done multiple drawings like yours' before and will get it right the first time around b) are prepared to sign a legally binding Non-Disclosure Agreement that forbids them from showing your invention to anybody else.

Inventions do get stolen sometimes, and one of the ways they can get stolen is if the person producing the illustrations for you does not keep the CAD drawings and illustrations confidential. If you have some money, don't do this with a CAD/3D freelancer. Do it with patent illustrators (often called "technical artists") who work for a registered law firm that specializes in patents.

Now to explain how the patent drawings themselves can be created:

Basically, the 3D CAD drawing - especially if it is going to be used for Computer Aided Manufacturing later on - needs to be done in a solid modeling/NURBS modeling CAD software like SolidWorks. This is so the dimensions of all parts are accurate to the sub-millimeter, and you can later use 3D printers, CNC routers, laser cutters, injection-molding or similar to produce the physical parts with exact dimensions.

To get your 2D black-and-white drawings for the patent, the technique typically used today is "Non Photorealistic Rendering" or NPR, which many modern 3D softwares like Cinema4D for example use, and some CAD modeling packages can also do. I'm not in CAD today, so I don't know exactly which CAD softwares produce the best NPR/line-drawing renders these days.

Non Photorealistic Rendering allows you to take a 3D CAD drawing and render it not as a realistic 3D image, but rather like a draughtsman's perspective line-drawing with artist-controllable inked lines, inked edges, dashed/dotted lines, stylized black-and-white shading and similar. As I said, some CAD packages have settings where you can - at any time - see your 3D CAD model from any angle like a 2D line drawing. You can then take a screenshot of that and put that into your patent application, adding the number labels (e.g. 103, 106) and other 2D visual elements like text in a software like Adobe Illustrator.

One technique I used at the time was to display the 3D CAD drawing in Moment Of Inspiration, adjust the 3D angle, take a screenshot, and then produce the 2D line drawing using image filters in Photoshop.

Photoshot (or the free GIMP photo software) has image processing functions like "edge detect" and others that basically knock the realistic 3D shading and realism out of your 3D image and just leave a high-contrast black-and-white line drawing. This is a bit of a cheat that may not work well for all types of 3D CAD models however.

The people you need for this are basically:

1) A trained CAD modeling artist/engineer/technician who knows how to create dimensionally accurate 3D CAD drawings of inventions in CAD software like SolidWorks or Rhino. Many people who have an engineering degree in e.g. mechanical engineering should be able to pull this off. If the invention is very complex, or has parts/shapes that are difficult to draw in CAD, you may need a CAD modeler with a few years of CAD experience to get it done right.

2) That CAD artist may have all the knowledge needed to produce a non-photoreal 2D line drawing or illustration suitable for patent applications from the CAD file. If the CAD software he/she uses has the necessary functions for this, you may not need a second person for this at all.

3) If your CAD person does not know how to create a black-and-white 2D line drawing from a 3D CAD model, a 3D artist using Cinema4D (which has NPR rendering), LightWave, Max or Maya may be able to do this for you. A good 2D Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator artist with some 3D experience may be able to accomplish this feat for you as well. Sometimes you can take a CAD image and with some clever Photoshop processing or vector tracing, you can produce a patent-worthy 2D line drawing.

You will likely find plenty of people on this forum who can do the 3D-CAD-model-to-2D-drawing part for you.

For the Solid CAD modeling part, however, you should either find a forum where CAD software users hang out, or perhaps contact a university engineering department near you.

If you have some money, the most painless route may be to approach a small Patent Law Firm that has previously serviced clients just like you.

They typically have technical artists who know exactly what a patent illustration needs to look like - so the patent office doesn't reject it - and are also prepared to sign NDAs that forbid them to in any way share the drawings with people who shouldn't see them.

If confidentially and getting it just right is important to you - this will cost you some money - your best bet is to work with a Patent Law Firm and their technical artists.

Good Luck!
  07 July 2018
Skeebertus has posted some great info. Also check with Roberto Ortiz, one of the moderators here. He actually works at the patent office I believe.

I usually come in on patent work at the infringement stage. I usually work with IP law firms and patent agents. On that note, you can also work with a patent agent to get this work done as well.

Currently I work with a patent agent that is also an expert witness in IP litigation. We've been talking about branching out into creating the drawings for patent submissions so we can take our experience onto the front end, but haven't looked heavily at it from the CAM aspect. Correct me if I'm wrong (by anyone with experience), but as I understand the process, the drawings are typically done a specific way to be compliant with the USPTO standards. I know a few people that do the drawings, but don't do the CAM design work. From my understanding, the drawings come first to apply for the patent, then the CAM work is another process for production.

If that is the case, then you might get the process done quicker if you get the drawings produced first (without all the technical accuracy needed for manufacturing), then work through the design process. Both will be iterative, but the drawing phase may go quicker.

I've got capacity for both aspects and would be interested. For the solid modeling phase, I work with a couple of mechanical engineers as my expertise is in surface modeling.

Last edited by XLNT-3d : 07 July 2018 at 08:14 PM.
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