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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Some Second Thoughts About Onshape and Magic Leap

October 18th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Last week I covered the new partnership between Onshape and Magic Leap with a 3D design app for Onshape’s spatial computing initiative. The new CAD app is being developed for the Magic Leap One Creator Edition, a lightweight, wearable computer and headset for a unique mixed reality user experience.

When wearing Magic Leap’s Lightwear headset, which allows users to see contextually aware digital objects in the real world, engineers will be able to bring life-size 3D CAD models into their physical surroundings and collaborate on design changes. “We’re excited to bring the many benefits of modern CAD to engineers in the Magicverse,” said Onshape CEO, Jon Hirschtick. “For more than a half-century, CAD users were confined to working on a flat screen. The Magic Leap One will push product design into a whole new stratosphere.”

It seems that Magic Leap’s focus with LeapCon was software over hardware. Given that the platform is in need of content, that’s probably a good idea.

All of this might be OK for developers (such as Onshape) and early adopters, but I don’t think it’s very consumer-friendly at this point for reasons I’ll discuss below. Having thought it over, I think healthy skepticism seems appropriate at this juncture.

As great as it initially sounded, I reflected on exactly what was meant by the announcement because it’s such a new development platform and few details were provided. With that in mind, I contacted Onshape about any enlightenment they could provide about the announcement.

Below are some responses to questions I posed to an Onshape spokesperson regarding the technology and partnership:

Can you provide any details on what the app will actually do?
Onshape: The vision is that this app will extend Onshape’s full capabilities to the Magic Leap platform, just like we have with our iOS and Android mobile apps for phones and tablets. This will NOT be a simple CAD-viewing tool. When this app is released, engineers will be able to model and edit within the Magic Leap mixed-reality universe – and collaborate with their design and manufacturing teams, and outside partners, just like they currently do with Onshape.
When will the app be available?
Onshape: We have not announced a release date. Jon Hirschtick’s presentation at Leap Con was an industry preview of the app and the first public announcement of the Onshape-Magic Leap partnership, which has been in stealth mode for many months.
What will the app be called?
Onshape: “Onshape for Magic Leap”
Approximately what will the app cost?
Onshape: This app is still in development and there has been no announcement about cost.
How does Onshape envision the app working for multi-party collaboration? 
Onshape: Collaboration through the “Onshape for Magic Leap” app would work exactly the same way as collaboration works with Onshape currently. Every member of a team would instantly see design changes in real time as they are made. The only difference is that Onshape users would be able to their life-size models in a richer, more immersive environment than they do on the flat screens of their laptops, phones, or tablets. 
How about a public demonstration on how this all works?
Any public demonstration will depend on our development cycle, which isn’t public.
So there you have it from the source. While my questions cleared up a couple things, I thought about the bigger picture and the implications of the partnership.
Needless to say, Onshape was not the only technology demonstrated at last week’s conference. In fact, the demonstrations were all over the place, ranging from Star Wars to porgs to controlling in-home devices, such as speakers and lamps.
Of course, if you buy in, you’ll have to lay down $2,295 for the privilege of wearing the computer and headset. Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of money for a product still in its early stages. Although corporations could afford this, much as the CAVE walls of the past, I don’t see this as affordable and accessible enough for the masses yet.
The announcement that Onshape made last week with Magic Leap  does indeed mark a real advancement for product design on what could be regarded as a new development platform that combines mixed reality and CAD. Onshape has been at the forefront of cloud-based design, but the announcement shows that they may really be on to something that truly sets them apart in a space that is becoming increasingly crowded with “me-toos,” but that remains to be seen.
Honestly, though, at this stage of development and price point, I’d consider the Magic Leap device experimental and out of step with reality (pardon the play on words). However, done right, this technology and those that will will follow, the possibilities for mixed reality experiences are almost endless.
Of course the company says that the technology could be used for just about everything, but from what I’ve seen, read, and heard, there is still a long way to go.

Onshape Teams Up With Magic Leap For New Spatial Computing CAD App and Hardware

October 11th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Onshape, developer of a 3D cloud-based CAD system also called Onshape, is partnering with  Magic Leap on a new 3D product design app for its spatial computing initiative. The new CAD app is being developed for the Magic Leap One Creator Edition, a lightweight, wearable computer that lets digital content step out of the screen and into the real world for a unique user experience.

Onshape CEO Jon Hirschtick previewed “Onshape for Magic Leap” at the L.E.A.P. Conference. Magic Leap
streamed its keynote addresses at

When wearing Magic Leap’s Lightwear headset, which allows users to see contextually aware digital objects in the real world, engineers will be able to bring life-size 3D CAD models into their physical surroundings and collaborate on design changes.“ We’re excited to bring the many benefits of modern CAD to engineers in the Magicverse,” says Onshape CEO Jon Hirschtick. “For more than a half-century, CAD users were confined to working on a flat screen. The Magic Leap One will push product design into a whole new stratosphere.”
Read the rest of Onshape Teams Up With Magic Leap For New Spatial Computing CAD App and Hardware

Frustum Generate: A New Take On Generative Design and Topology Optimization?

October 4th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

Frustum Inc., developer of what it calls the industry’s first interactive generative design solution, this week announced a new release of its Generate software. According to the company, Generate represents a new paradigm for design, interactive generative design, which fundamentally alters how products are modeled for manufacture by allowing engineers to interact and iterate in real time with generative design models. As a result, engineers can develop multiple well designed and optimized models to identify the best solution literally in minutes versus hours or days.

The origin of the company’s name was kind of intriguing to me because a frustum is a mathematical term and is the portion of a cone or pyramid that remains after its upper part has been cut off by a plane parallel to its base, or that is intercepted between two such planes. Frustum examples include:

  • On the back (the reverse) of a United States one-dollar bill, a pyramidal frustum appears on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, surmounted by the Eye of Providence.
  • The John Hancock Center in Chicago, Illinois is a frustum whose bases are rectangles.
  • The Washington Monument is a narrow square-based pyramidal frustum topped by a small pyramid.
  • Buckets, lampshades, and shot glasses are examples of conical frustums.
  • Rolo brand chocolates approximate a right circular conic frustum.

If all the edges are forced to be identical, a frustum becomes a uniform prism.

OK, enough of the fun with math, let’s get back to Frustum’s technology . . .

A General Electric Bracket With Frustum’s Generative Design and Topology Optimization Applied To It

Designed to meet the complex needs of design for manufacturing, Generate is a 3D design software that provides interactivity with generative design models. It combines the creativity of the engineer with artificial intelligence to significantly shorten the time of designing products – effectively delivering a near real-time interaction with a generative design model, generating designs by functional requirements and producing a result that is ready for manufacture. Parts and products designed through this process are [theoretically] lighter, stronger, and use less materials than those designed using traditional CAD software.

Read the rest of Frustum Generate: A New Take On Generative Design and Topology Optimization?

A Quick Look At SOLIDWORKS 2019

September 27th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

A couple of weeks ago Dassault Systèmes launched SOLIDWORKS 2019, and just before the launch I spoke with Manish Kumar, an R&D vice president at Dassault Systèmes, for a briefing on the 2019 product line. On the call, Manish provided me an overview of the new features and updates in SOLIDWORKS 2019, including enhanced performance, added depth to functionality, and opportunities to incorporate new technology and workflows into the design-to-manufacture process. With all of the ew features and enhancements, Manish said the pricing for SOLIDWORKS 2019 would remain the same from 2018.

This time around, SOLIDWORKS says its design-to-manufacturing process provides the tools needed to implement a comprehensive design-through-manufacturing strategy, all inside the SOLIDWORKS environment. These tools let you work without having to export and import data from one system to another. With IP embedded in a 3D design model, and at the center of the model-based definition (MBD) process, and thanks to associativity, changes from design or manufacturing are automatically reflected in all related CAD models, CAM programs, drawings, and documentation.
Read the rest of A Quick Look At SOLIDWORKS 2019

Autodesk Accelerating Its Way Back To Manufacturing

September 20th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

I spent most of the week in Toronto at Autodesk Accelerate, a conference that discussed Autodesk’s manufacturing strategy going forward. The theme of the conference was “The Future of Making Things” (at least according to Autodesk), and in large part Autodesk succeeded in getting this message across with its Fusion 360.

For a long time Autodesk has tried to be everything to a wide range of industries – from manufacturing to mapping to architecture to entertainment. Some forays have been successful, some not so much, but that hasn’t stopped the company from trying. I personally was glad to see manufacturing return as a focus of Autodesk recently, because for the past couple years a focus has been, in my opinion, AEC and rebuilding the world. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but this focus left a lot for mechanical design/manufacturing customers wondering how committed the company was to them for the long haul.

After making a big noise about its investments in manufacturing, the company has divested itself of some interesting manufacturing products and technologies for a variety of reasons. Previously, and I’m dating myself, but it wasn’t all that long ago that Autodesk had dedicated manufacturing products, such as Mechanical Desktop and AutoCAD Mechanical (I was a big fan of both at the time). Then came the late arrival of Inventor for 3D design, but that’s story for another time. Finally, Autodesk has said to me that IoT is definitely in the center of their radar screen but what is there to show for it? Sure, IoT has a mechanical component, but it’s a lot more than just that, and it will become more prominent in Fusion over time.

Read the rest of Autodesk Accelerating Its Way Back To Manufacturing

IMTS 2018: Survival Of The Fittest

September 13th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

IMTS 2018 is behind us and we survived it! With thousands of exhibitors spread over a million+ square feet and shoulder to shoulder with well over 100,000 attendees, it’s a challenge to see what’s the latest and greatest, but we did our best.

Walking the show floor, I personally checked out hundreds of products and services and talked with dozens of exhibitors trying to find what was most interesting and unique. Although tough to determine, below are the hardware and software products that I considered to be the best of the best with a close runner up.

Hardware Best of Show: Wazer Desktop Waterjet

Wazer is a relatively new company (it began as a Kickstarter project) that had a booth directly across the aisle from ours, and we were impressed with both the machine itself, its low functional requirements (110V and a little water), as well as the crowds it attracted throughout the week.

The result of a design project of a group of University of Pennsylvania graduates, WAZER is the first desktop waterjet that cuts a wide variety of hard or soft material with a high level of precision. Initially the team was looking for an easy-to-use tool that could make precision cuts in hard materials. Existing desktop digital tools like 3D printers and laser cutters work well for soft materials, but the only affordable method for cutting metal, glass and stone was to use hand operated tools, both of which are time consuming and inaccurate.

“We set out to create the very first desktop waterjet cutting machine. WAZER is not just a low-cost tool for hobbies and prototypes – we wanted to empower individuals to turn ideas into durable, finished goods,” said co-founder Nisan Lerea.

WAZER takes standard drawing files like .svg or .dxf and cuts out the digital profile with a high-velocity jet that uses a combination of high pressure water and sand-like abrasive particles to cut through the work piece.

WAZER is the only desktop machine that cuts virtually everything, including steel, titanium, aluminum, glass, stone, tile, and carbon fiber. The waterjet machine is compact, self contained, and fits in any small workshop. It’s fully enclosed, making operation safe, clean, and quiet.

Wazer’s cutting area is 12″ x 18″ and kerf (width of cut) is 0.044″

Price for the Wazer desktop waterjet starts at $7,500, a good price for a machine with this level of design and capabilities.

For More Information: Wazer

Hardware Honorable Mention: Velo3D Metal 3D Printer

I wrote about this new metal 3D printer a couple weeks ago (check out this link), and got to see it in action this week at IMTS, as well as some representative parts. The system actually consists of the following three parts:

Sapphire System: A laser powder bed metal additive 3D printing system designed for high-volume manufacturing and capable of building complex geometries including designs with overhangs that are less than five degrees and large inner diameters without supports. Sapphire’s integrated in-situ process metrology enables closed loop melt pool control.

Flow Print Preparation Software: The software includes support generation, process selection, slicing and simulation of complex part designs to validate execution feasibility before the build. Geometrical feature-driven processing enables low angles below 5 degrees.

Intelligent Fusion Technology: The technology that powers Flow software and the Sapphire system that optimizes the AM process by combining thermal process simulation, print prediction, and closed-loop control during print execution.

The parts produced were impressive in terms of size, density, and surface finish.

For More Information: Velo3D

Software Best of Show: nTopology

This company develops functional design and optimization software for additive manufacturing. The company has developed software with a unique combination of computational, procedural, and simulation-based design tools for creating lightweight and optimized parts that meet functional requirements. Its lattice design products include:

Element Free that provides a full set of lattice design tools for creating complex structures with variable properties.

Element Pro adds powerful editing, analysis, and data interchange features to Element Free’s structure design tools.

The heart of lattice design is the ability to create and use infinitely variable lattice topologies in your designs. With nTopology’s lattice rule builder you can do just that – select from a wide variety of predefined tessellations and units or create your own from scratch.

Element’s non-round thickening feature allows for lattice beams with non-round cross sections to be generated and thickened for improving printability or creating beams with specific directional properties, offset thickening promotes design freedom.

With the conformal structures tool, you can create lattices that follow the form of your part and support just the loads that you need them to.

The company gets it that STL files suck, and with its CAD interchange module, you can import and export native CAD data in a variety of formats including IGES, STEP, and Parasolid. Its Lattice Graph interchange file allows lattices to be imported and exported in a lightweight, open source, XML based file format,  providing analysis capabilities for complex structures using existing FEA toolsets and without having to deal with slow, heavy 3D meshes.

There are a number of lattice design optimization tools out there on the market, many of which promise more than they can actually deliver, but nTopology’s products look like the real deal. In the future, the company is hoping to include subtractive manufacturing process capabilities to its additive manufacturing ones.

Interestingly, nTopology has partnered with Velo 3D with some impressive results.

For More Information: nTopology

Software Honorable Mention: Artec 3D Studio 13

There is a lot of 3D scanning point cloud processing software out there, but Artec 3D Studio 13 really caught our eye at IMTS for its capabilities and ease of use.

On the capabilities side, for checking raw scans, X-Ray mode highlights high point density areas and makes the data semi-transparent. This is a good tool for checking complex geometry for possible holes or misalignments.

You can make DXF sections of 3D models in Artec Studio 13 and export non-closed contours to CAD software, such as SOLIDWORKS.

Global and fine registration performance have been significantly improved, for controlling scanning speed/quality balance by specifying the number of key frames, the feature type, and feature search radius.

On the ease of use side, the most significant feature is 3D Radar mode, a new distance-based prompt for easier 3D scanning. It helps you hold your scanner at the optimal distance from an object by visualizing the real-time data capture in green. If you hold the scanner too close, the color turns yellow, and then red if you get even closer. Moving the scanner too far away turns the color blue. 3D Radar mode is helpful for getting the best scanning results quickly.

For More Information: Artec 3D

And We Have A Winner!

Based on a drawing of business cards dropped off at our booth at IMTS 2018,honor  a third-party person randomly picked the winner of an Amazon Gift Card. And the winner is Gary Pribyl, Toolroom Machinist at QuickCable. Congratulations Gary!

We recorded over 30 video interviews during the course of IMTS 2018 and will post them to our website as soon as they are edited and ready for viewing. The interviews covered a range of the offerings from the show and represent a broad cross-section of what was presented and demonstrated at the show, so stay tuned! We also interviewed all of the Best of Show and Honorable Mention winners.

So you can start planning now, IMTS 2020 will be held in Chicago, September 14-19, 2020. It’s a manufacturing spectacle not to be missed! Just be sure and wear comfortable walking shoes.

Homage To A Great Man & Machinist

Finally, I’ve been attending IMTS for a long time, and for the past several events, I have made a pilgrimage to a special elevated vantage point in the middle of the Metal Cutting pavilion that overlooks a large number of big (and I mean BIG) machines that incredibly transform pieces of metal, some that weight tons, into a wide variety of amazingly finished parts. The reason I do does this every IMTS is to pay respect and special homage to my late father-in-law who was a machinist. He was a master in his craft and a wonderful person who instilled in me the honor of making things and the self respect of doing things well and seeing them through. I miss him and at every IMTS wish we could walk the show floor together and talk about how manufacturing has changed, but is still a very worthy endeavor.

We’ll See You At IMTS 2018!

September 6th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

We’re preparing for five exhausting but exhilarating days at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2018 in Chicago. This biennial, week-long exhibition and conference is by far the biggest manufacturing showcase in North America. As a matter of fact, it is expected to host over 115,000 registrants this time around.

IMTS 2018 is on pace to have the most exhibit space in the show’s 91-year history. Technology, product, conference and meeting areas will occupy all five levels of McCormick Place’s four buildings.

Changes for IMTS 2018 include portions of the Controls & CAD-CAM Pavilion and events associated with HANNOVER MESSE USA: four co-located shows, a Digital Factory and the Solutions Theater. IMTS has expanded the Tooling & Workholding Pavilion. Recognizing the pace of innovation, IMTS 2018 will feature not one but two AMT’s Emerging Technology Centers (ETC) in the North and West Buildings. The ETCs explore current and over-the-horizon technologies for digital connectivity and additive manufacturing, the industry’s most explosive growth areas.

“A myriad of factors are bolstering the manufacturing technology market, and IMTS 2018 has expanded its exhibit space to accommodate the increased interest,” says Peter R. Eelman, Vice President – Exhibitions & Business Development at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and produces IMTS.

“Factors include the exponential rate of technology advances, the need to use technology instead of manpower to boost productivity and the strongest manufacturing economy in a decade,” says Eelman. “Businesses have more money and will continue boosting their investment in capital equipment and R&D. Coupled with higher consumer confidence, manufacturers need to increase production to meet strong demand.”

Since IMTS occupies virtually all of the buildings at McCormick Place, covering well over a million square feet,  you have to strategize how to see everything you want to see. It showcases just about anything you can imagine for manufacturing – metal cutting, abrasives, additive processes, CAD/CAM, controls, inspection – you name it, and it’s probably at IMTS.

MCADCafe will be conducted several video interviews that will be available for viewing in the very near future after the show at The interviewees we’ve got lined up so far are a diverse group, everything from traditional CAD/CAM vendors, to software component suppliers, to metrology and machine manufacturers, and service providers.

Read the rest of We’ll See You At IMTS 2018!

PTC Named A Leader In IIoT With Thingworx Platform

August 29th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

PTC announced that it has been named a leader in the Industrial IoT software platforms market for its ThingWorx Industrial Innovation Platform, according to a new evaluation from Forrester Research. In the Forrester evaluation, entitled “The Forrester Wave: Industrial IoT Software Platforms, Q3 2018,” PTC was the among the top five highest ranked in the “Current Offering” category and among the top four in the “Strategy” category.

Forrester evaluated the current offering, strategy, and market presence of PTC and 14 other vendors. Each company was evaluated according to a comprehensive set of 24 criteria, grouped into three high-level categories: current offering, strategy, and market presence. Participating vendors all had a significant focus on the industrial domain and its use cases, native support for key industrial protocols, and a strong international presence. Within that context, PTC was named one of the leaders by Forrester.

With few exceptions, the leaders had a public cloud capability, analytics capabilities, and API-led integration. Some companies, such as C3 IoT are focusing on the analytics part of Industrial IoT, while leaving device connection to companies such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, although C3 IoT is a partner of both AWS and Azure.

The following graphic shows how Forrester perceives the industrial IoT platform market based on its criteria:

Regarding PTC’s standing in the evaluation, Forrester noted: “PTC fuses device connectivity strength with augmented reality vision . . . and the company offers rich capabilities spanning design, manufacture, service, and operations, combining these in accessible end-user applications.”
Read the rest of PTC Named A Leader In IIoT With Thingworx Platform

Velo3D Releases Unique Metal Hardware & Software AM Solution With New Approach

August 23rd, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

The march of new metal AM machines continues as this week, Velo3D announced its comprehensive metal additive manufacturing (AM) solution comprised of the Sapphire system, Flow print preparation software, and Intelligent Fusion technology. According to the company, the solution solves some difficult AM challenges including product design limitations, part-to-part consistency, process control, and cost-effective manufacturing.

“Additive manufacturing has the potential to be revolutionary,” said Ashley Nichols, general manager at 3D Material Technologies (3DMT), a leading metal additive manufacturing services bureau. “Systems are getting bigger, but not delivering on the promises of metal additive manufacturing. Through a collaborative partnership, 3DMT and Velo3D are unlocking new applications, pushing the envelope of what is currently considered possible. We look forward to continued success, and to delivering on the promises of the potential of metal additive manufacturing.”

Sapphire System

The Sapphire system is a laser powder bed metal additive 3D printing system designed for high-volume manufacturing. Sapphire is capable of building complex geometries including designs with overhangs that are less than five degrees and large inner diameters without supports. To deliver part-to-part consistency, Sapphire’s integrated in-situ process metrology enables closed loop melt pool control. To maximize productivity, the Sapphire system contains a module that enables automated change-over with offline unpacking.

The Velo3D Sapphire automated system in action

Build envelope is 315 mm diameter, z-axis 400 mm. Build materials include IN718 and Ti6AlV with a typical throughput of >60 cm^3/hour of IN718.

Flow Print Preparation Software

Flow print preparation software includes support generation, process selection, slicing and simulation of complex part designs to validate execution feasibility before the build. Geometrical feature-driven processing enables low angles below 5 degrees. In addition, deformation correction technology enables the user to produce parts without the need for iterations, achieving a first print success rate of up to 90 percent. Flow minimizes the need for supports, reducing typical support volume by 3-5 times, which removes or at least reduces the labor intensive post processing necessary with conventional approaches.

Supporting a part may seem like a straightforward proposition, but there are significant hidden costs and complexities in this process. The first is in the design of the supports. Deciding where to put supports takes design time and effort during print preparation, because support shape and placement is not a simple process; it requires experience and judgement in order to get the best results.

A frequent outcome is that designers err on the side of over-supporting low-angle surfaces, in order to avoid build failure. This results in many supports that later need to be removed, and depending on the complexity of the supports, this can be a difficult proposition, requiring multiple set-ups on a CNC mill, or wire EDM, or a turning step. It takes time to print so many supports; this adds to the total build time, and build cost is primarily a function of build time.

The Velo3D Sapphire System is a 3D metal printer for high-volume manufacturing

Read the rest of Velo3D Releases Unique Metal Hardware & Software AM Solution With New Approach

ASSESS Initiative Presents Credible Arguments For Increased Engineering Simulation

August 16th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe

An innovative organization called ASSESS Initiative LLC was formed by Joe Walsh in mid-2016 for bringing together the key players for guiding and influencing the software development and implementation strategies related to model-based analysis, simulation, and systems engineering, with the primary objective of expanding the use and business benefit of the many forms of engineering simulation.

The changing role of engineering simulation is really about business benefits. However, achieving those benefits and associated growth of the engineering simulation market is tempered due to the lack of understanding regarding its true benefits. According to ASSESS Initiative, a simulation revolution needs to occur that will bring a whole new set of opportunities as well as challenges.

The ASSESS (Analysis, Simulation & Systems Engineering Software Strategies) Initiative is a broad reaching multi-industry initiative with a primary goal to facilitate a revolution of enablement that will vastly increase the availability and utility of Engineering Simulation, leading to significantly increased usage and business benefits across the full spectrum of industries, applications and users. The vision of the ASSESS Initiative is to bring together key players for guiding and influencing the software tool strategies for performing model-based analysis, simulation, and systems engineering. To achieve this vision the ASSESS Initiative will collaborate with multiple activities and organizations across the broad spectrum of engineering simulation.

ASSESS Initiative has been organized around a key set of themes associated with expanding the usage and benefit of engineering simulation that include:

Align – Alignment of Commercial, Research and Government Efforts
Business – Business Challenges
Credibility– Engineering Simulation Credibility

DoES – Democratization of Engineering Simulation
Generative – Generative Design
Integration – Integration of Systems and Detailed Sub-System Simulations

ASSESS Initiative is planning on publishing a series of positioning papers and Strategic Insight papers related to each of these themes.  The positioning papers will be publicly available from the ASSESS Initiative website, however, ASSESS Strategic Insight papers will be made available on a “members only” basis.

As part of this effort, the ASSESS Initiative recently released the first two positioning papers related to its themes above:

Alignment of Commercial, Research and Government Efforts (Align) Positioning Paper

Like a debate, position papers (sometimes called point of view papers) present one side of an arguable opinion about an issue; in this case engineering simulation. The goal of any position paper is to convince the audience that your opinion is valid and defensible. However, it is very important to ensure that you are addressing all sides of the issue and presenting it in a manner that is easy for your audience to understand – not always an easy case with engineering simulation. The biggest job is to take one side of the argument and persuade your audience that you have well-founded knowledge of the topic being presented. It is important to support your argument with evidence to ensure the validity of your claims, as well as to refute the counterclaims to show that you are well informed about both sides. ASSESS has succeeded on all counts with the publication of the first two papers.

The second paper is particularly interesting because the Democratization of Engineering Simulation is implemented in many forms. While there are many common characteristics, issues and opportunities across them all, there are also critical differences that need to be identified and explained, to enable a path to achievable solutions.

The first aspect of any form of implementation of DoES is whether or not it is driven by customers or providers of Engineering Simulation.  The second aspect in any form of implementation of DoES is the type of customer that this form of implementation is intended to be used by (Large Enterprise, Small-Medium Business (SMB), Industry Consortium, mixture of customer types).  The third aspect in any form of implementation of DoES is the “level” of democratization desired, that include:

Product/Project-level democratization – Democratization within a company, at a project level.

Product Development Process-level democratization – Democratization within a company, at a product level; crosses various departments involved in the development of a product; could be distributed globally.

Corporate Enterprise-level democratization – Democratization as a standard practice across an entire enterprise; the company has standardized simulation practices, wishes to enforce them globally, and has committed to putting simulation in the hands of everyone who needs it globally.

Industry-level democratization – Democratization across a particular industry; solution providers create applications that are targeted towards the particular needs of an industry and its products and promote democratization; these applications become widely used across the industry.

The ASSESS Initiative working group related to the Democratization of Engineering Simulation has established the following initial goals for the ASSESS activities related to this theme:

1. Highlight the issues, impediments, and opportunities related to Democratization of Engineering Simulation

2. Advocate for all people who could benefit from using engineering simulation to be able to use it appropriately

3. Advocate for getting engineering simulation safely into the hands of current non-users

4. Advocate for addressing engineering simulation ease of use and required expertise issues that are limiting its broader usage

5. Collaborate with other organizations (e.g. NAFEMS, Revolution in Simulation, …) to support the Democratization of Engineering Simulation

6. Advocate for and support growth in the use of engineering simulation by 10x in 5 years

The paper surmises that the Democratization of Engineering Simulation, not too surprisingly, is likely to require significant changes to current business models for engineering simulation software and computing infrastructures. The current business models for Engineering Simulation software is based on a small number of expert users that run simulations as their primary task. Democratization of Engineering Simulation requires that the use of engineering simulation is broadened to a large number of part-time users with the objective of having more technical personnel being able to make informed design decisions when needed.

This paper reinforces what we have witnessed over the past several years. Namely, engineering simulation being conducted earlier and more often in the product development process by “non-specialists,” such as designers and engineers.

These two papers bring some interesting insights into the present and future direction of engineering simulation on several different levels and I’m looking forward to reading more as they become available.

For more information:

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