Having attended the recent Develop3D live event on 31st March and held at the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry, there are clearly some trends happening in the Product Realisation and Engineering processes being driven by technology advances. I do not want to provide a comprehensive report on the Event, more to pick-out some areas I see as worthy of comment or recognition.
The auditorium was a great place for the presentations and I wish I could have spent more time attending these, but as always it’s a question of time and priority.
I thought it was a well-run Event and well attended by a selection of software and service companies involved in both well established and upcoming areas and technologies that affect the Product Realisation and Engineering process.
My view is the Event showed well; both by the number of companies offering software solutions and/or services in a specific area, as well as the interest they attracted from the attendees, what technologies have (or are) becoming accepted and mainstream, and those still needing some time before becoming mature and accepted, as well as adopted by industrial companies.
It’s been clear for some time that Rapid Prototyping and Manufacture is now embedded in many companies and there are now a large number of companies providing capability to service this sector. It seems any company involved in creating and developing new products use rapid manufacturing processes at some or many design points. The move to metallic is also becoming accepted and maturing. However there are still clearly some major areas that need to be resolved before the dream of pushing a button and producing products of the quality and material properties to be used in ‘real life’ are possible. Surface finish (especially on bearing or visible surfaces) still has some way to go. Material strength and stability are still not there yet and distortion in hot processes (additive manufacturing) are still to be resolved. However the ability to build quick prototypes, tooling or indeed actual hardware is now able to address many stages of the development process, removing past long lead manufacturing processes.
Capturing form and the existing environment by Scanning and collecting vast amounts of information quickly and with good accuracy is now very mature, as is managing and manipulating the resultant point-cloud information. Also the ability to take the point cloud data and reconstruct quickly into useable surface geometry as required by the associated processes (CAD, CAE, NC manufacture etc.) is also moving apace there is a clear growth in companies involved in this area.
Virtual Reality continues not to be fully embraced by industry and is still very much seen as academic or only for the big OEM’s. The cumbersome nature of either projected surface systems (Walls, CAVEs etc.) or the head mounted displays, along with the inability to easily share the experience in a design team environment continues to leave the technology a little isolated. The restrictions on the ‘Use Cases’ supported by VR impart on a business’ ability to use the technology effectively in the design process and constrains the technology so it continues to be defined as ‘niche’ and expensive by possible users. The rate of development in both hardware and software is relatively slow and systems are still relatively expensive when considered against the benefits they can give. I feel it will be a few more years before we V.R. becoming truly mainstream. When companies deliver solutions to address the need for teams to share the experience and interact together as in current design review practice, as well as at a cost of ownership acceptable to the community, then I believe VR will step into the mainstream. This needing to be coupled to a VR model ‘world’ that more closely represents the real world by including environmental behaviours (wind, water, rain, gravity) and models that have real life behaviour including; flexible objects, soft parts, objects in contact, haptic feedback, electro-mechanical function, and manufacturing process information. One area still very
much ignored is the unnatural sensation due to visible ‘motion’ with static position that frequently causes fatigue and nausea. Head mounted systems do address this better in some cases, but not all.
The world of photo-realism and using digital assets to create images, videos and film is now a key tool accepted by industry. The merging of gaming, film, CAD, and other related technologies and tools now means it is possible to exploit digital assets like CAD data, scan information, and merge these with images and video to render output the customer perceives to be real. This saving huge amounts of time to get the upcoming products into the hands of customers before any physical product is available. The IKEA presentation at the Event was brilliant at explaining the art of the possible and how IKEA has moved through the past 10 years to now be in a position to create digital brochures, web experience, advertising and film without needing physical environments or products to fill them. However there are still some areas the software companies need to address in order to enable industry to further accept the digital approach and to further accelerate its adoption. Standard agreed formats are needed by all in the sector to enable mobility of texture definitions, background scenes and image data as has taken place with CAD data industry.
For the CAD vendors, it’s clear that geometry creation and management is highly mature and there is little that is new to really excite us. It’s now a case of evolution and incremental change.
The ‘Cloud’ was very much being promoted at the Event with many CAD and CAE solutions offering ‘pay-as-you-go’ Cloud enabled offerings. I would expect to see this areas blossom in the coming years. However there is still some resistance from some industry sectors who voice concern over data integrity and security as well as how they protect their Intellectual Property (IP).
Finally there were some Simulation and Analysis solution being shown at the Event, these tended to be either ‘Cloud’ based solutions to enable companies to access as needed, external computing resources or in some way linked to Geometry creation in CAD based tools. These tend to be focused to specific processes like topology optimisation, casting simulation, injection mould filling and other. What is clear is that there is a real need for a capable, easy to use and low cost of ownership toolset in the analysis area that couples with the Product Realisation process at all stages. Covering concept studies, detail geometry creation, engineering validation, optimisation and others. As well as offering a wide span of capability to encompass linear problems, fatigue analysis, frequency and vibration tuning, non-linear events like abuse, drop and crash as well as simulating and validating flow, thermal and other tasks. This is the domain of tools such as midas NFX, a capable, accurate, fast solution that has a cost of ownership compatible with the needs of companies involved in the Product Realisation process.
The Develop3D live Event is definitely the place to be to understand the ‘art of the possible’, the maturity or otherwise of differing Product Realisation technologies and to learn from leaders in their sectors what they are doing and what can be done to accelerate getting best in class products to your markets more efficiently by exploiting the available tools, methods and technologies.
To read more about the Develop3D Live Event go to : http://develop3dlive.com/
To be exposed to more about midas NFX go to: http://www.metamidas.com/