If you believed everything you read on the internet, you’d think every garage builder had a million dollars of equipment in their shop, and digital manufacturing was the only way to build a custom motorcycle.
Well, none of that is true (mostly). Digital engineering is not essential for your build, especially if its your first time. However, digital engineering can be helpful for a variety of scenarios.
Digital engineering comes in handy when you want to:
- Draw something with precise dimensions to get an accurate visual representation
- Manufacture a component from your digital blueprints using fabrication methods like laser cutting, 3D printing or CNC machining
- Check a part’s fitment against a 3D scan of your bike.
Because digital engineering is largely out of scope for beginners, we only cover the basics here. You’ll get a sense of when it works, when it doesn’t, and whether you’d like to dive deep and learn more on your own.
Hand drawing is an important concept to understand before covering digital engineering processes. Analog methods of visual representation have been around for much longer than their digital counterparts and are an important prerequisite for modern processes.
Over time, different countries developed standards governing how hand drawings should be constructed. This is simply to ensure the communication “language” between the designer and manufacturer was consistent. No different to learning to speak a new language; if you aren’t accurate with your communication, the context of the message could be scrambled.
Drawing standards often deal with “conventions”, meaning, this is the standard method to represent a physical feature - such as a bolt - with a two-dimensional (2D) drawing.
While a working knowledge of these conventions isn’t essential, they carry across to digital two-dimensional drawings, and to 2D drawings generated from three-dimensional (3D) models.
When you hear the term “prints”, “drawings” or “blueprints”, these are all labels for 2D drawings, and 2D drawings are still the “de-facto” method of communicating between designers and manufacturers. In terms of the legal contracts between designers, buyers and manufacturers, blueprints are still essential, even in a mostly 3D design environment.
The ability to create 2D hand-drawings is useful for custom motorcycle projects. You don’t need to create “standards-compliant” drawings but making accurate mock-ups or templates for parts is enhanced by an ability to create good hand drawings.