It’s easy to forget that the things we use every day like the coffee maker, TV, and car, all started as an idea that was brought to life through design. A concept created a picture, which was transformed into a model, which birthed the products we rely on. From conception to reality, products go through various stages of design and testing that ensure their durability and beauty.
The digital age, and the transformation that has accompanied it, has reshaped how products are designed and manufactured. The traditional siloed workflows no longer succeed in a world of connectivity. Design teams must take advantage of the innovative software available to keep up with the evolving relationship between design and manufacturing.
Collaboration is Key
In the past, design teams have had various engineers with different focus areas like software, mechanical, or electrical, that designed and tested a product on their own analyzing it with their specific toolsets, often using different model forms or drawings. Today’s teams are moving away from the siloed workflow to focus on collaboration from concept to product. With more complex products, file transferring and multiple handoffs not only extends the design cycle but leaves many opportunities for errors.
By next year, forecasters project there will be more than 20 billion connected devices throughout the world. Connected products like smart TVs or connected wind turbines, add an additional step to the design process. On top of the mechanical and electronic content, products contain sensors, control systems, and software that require advanced engineering and design tools that not only create a realistic model but offer cross-function collaboration for all team members – including manufacturers.
Making the Manufacturer Part of the Process
Digital Engineering polled its audience to determine how finished product designs are shared with manufacturers. Sixty percent are relying on 2d drawings, 48 percent provide the manufacturer with a 3d CAD model, and 23 percent use a 3d model-based definition (MBD). While it’s imperative that designers and engineers can collaborate on a design, it’s also important for the manufacturer. Sharing a prototype with a manufacturer can resolve issues before they happen – allowing the manufacturer to analyze the design and pinpoint problems that could occur while in production.
Cloud-based software allows multiple people – from designer to manufacturer – to collaborate on a project from anywhere. While single user licenses can cost more than $10,000, a subscription-based platform like Autodesk Collections, allows users to collaborate at any time. Subscription software licenses are a step towards breaking the workflow silos. With access to multiple design and engineering tools, it begins to bridge the gap between design and manufacturing.
Air Force Enlists Additive Manufacturing
There may not be a time more important for collaboration than in-arena manufacturing. Additive manufacturing offers deployed teams an advantage to adapt to their equipment needs, increasing flexibility and mission success.
Lt. Bradford Shields and Maria Meeks utilized Autodesk Fusion 360 cloud-based design software, as part of their civil engineering graduate project, to create a bracket to equip on the arm of a Remotec, an unnamed vehicle that investigates potential threats. The robot carries in sensors, infrared, chemical, or radiological, to identify a threat. However, the robot only has one arm and nowhere to affix the sensor, so troops use duct tape to attach them.
Shields and Meeks designed a bracket to fit the Remotec arm that can be used to attach all sensors without hindering its mobility. In simulations, the bracket saved 60 to 90 seconds during each sensor change.
“Each of these projects are in their infancy and have yet to see widespread adoption,” said Lt. Colonel Patrick Suermann, Chief of Emergency Services & Engineering. “But they’re just the beginning. With the way design technology is advancing so rapidly, we have the opportunity to find new and better solutions than were not possible in the past. As an engineer in the Air Force, that makes it an exciting time to serve.”
This bracket is just one example of the importance of manufacturing. When the time does come that 3d printing in-arena is a common reality, cloud-based design software can be used to collaborate between designers and manufactures no matter where they are.