- Thom Tremblay
Many years ago (shortly after electricity was harnessed) I left school and was immediately looked to as a resource to help companies move from the drafting board to 2D CAD. The same opportunity exists today and in the coming years for students with 3D CAD knowledge. Autodesk estimates that less than 20% of the companies that could (read should) be using 3D currently are. With your 3D experience you will be called upon to help move these companies to 3D. You can make your mark by not stopping with 3D CAD, but moving your future employers to Digital Prototyping.
3D is great but 3D CAD is purely geometry oriented. This means engineers can make bad or insufficient parts faster than ever if they’re not careful. This is true for all 3D CAD systems. Autodesk has recognized this and is working to change this. Phase 1 was ‘Functional Design’. One of the many ways that philosophy was expressed was the Design Accelerators in Inventor. The ability to put engineering calculations before geometry creation is a phenomenal step forward but we knew we could do better.
Below is a basic diagram of the typical modern engineering workflow. If you look closely you’ll notice there’s really no flow in the workflow. There are voids between the categories of Ideation, Engineering, and Manufacturing. When you talk to engineers ask them if they’ve ever heard the term “throw it over the wall”. Those gaps represent those walls. Exchange of information between those groups in all be the best companies is non-existent or at best inconsistent.
Ideation – This is where the ideas for new products or major product changes begin. One of the biggest changes in this field has been the addition of styling as a major consideration in product improvement. Try to buy a handtool or piece of lawn equipment that doesn’t look like it’s been aerodynamically tested for 300 m.p.h.! This has become the domain of the artist but many artists work outside of the digital domain. This means that their great work has to be recreated in the engineering phase by, well, Mechanical Engineers. Not good if you’re the Industrial Designer.
Engineering – Engineers understand how to create digital data. They make all sorts of it. Electrical Engineers make schematics in 2D. Mechanical Engineers make 2D and 3D data. Analysts recreate those designs in their specialized tools and if they find errors the Mechanical Engineers rework their data to correct the problems; hopefully.
Manufacturing – Manufacturing rarely works with digital data. Some would argue that they don’t need to but without their input for product improvement companies will create and recreate the same flawed designs over and over for years.
Obviously this could be better but is it possible? We looked at what the best companies in the world were doing. The best companies stopped making the time honored mistakes of the traditional design workflow by sharing digital data not just from point to point but in a constant flow of refining information. By testing, analyzing, verifying and reviewing designs in the digital domain the “Best in Class” manufacturers create half of the physical prototypes, build them cheaper, and are more innovative with them than average companies. Thier workflow is connected and based on a common platform like the image below.
Moving a company to 3D will help them become or remain average. Moving a company into a Digital Prototyping environment opens the door to a much higher level of performance. Take advantage of an opportunity to make a difference, a real difference that can not only change your career but the lives of everyone who works the company you’ve helped move to Best in Class.