Even though the 4th industrial revolution is just getting started, it is already having a profound impact on several professions – including industrial design. While the “rise of the machine” probably isn’t going to push most engineers out of a job, there is a definite need for professionals to become familiar with these technologies to remain competitive.
This not only means learning new product development, design, and engineering tools but becoming proficient to the point that even iterative advances are well understood. With that in mind, there is a look at five industrial design tools that will make you more productive in 2020.
- Digital Twinning
No, we are not talking about cloning. Rather the concept of digital twinning whereby you have the power to see something in a virtual setting before deploying the resources needed to build it in the physical world.
Yes, CAD/CAM has been around for decades, but digital twinning goes well beyond this as advances such as the Internet of Things (IoT) has made it more accessible and affordable for organizations at all ends of the value chain. This marriage of design tools, automated manufacturing, and other systems such as Octopart, streamlines design and development to the point that proof of concept can largely be proven even before a “prototype” is built.
The promise of this technology is so appealing that Gartner listed digital twinning as one of the Top 10 Strategic Technology trends for several years running. What makes it even more powerful is that it is already being deployed as several Formula 1 teams are relying on digital twins to measure the performance of designs and parts.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
There is no doubting that AI will change the world. The only question is how long it will take before machines are more intelligent than humans. While some futurists see this as a potential threat, there is also a massive collaborative opportunity – especially, in design and engineering.
While engineers are already using AI to build better, more reliable products, this only scratches the surface. Going forward engineers will have to adapt to accelerating changes that will spread to almost everything they do. This includes developments in robotics, manufacturing automation, and natural language processing among others.
- Generative Design
This is an approach that combines cloud computing with AI to develop and test solutions to everyday problems that many engineers didn’t even know existed – or if they did, how to figure out a solution.
How is this possible? It largely starts with algorithms which are programs to explore potential matches and then generate design options. From there, engineers can review these options to decide which ideas are the best fit.
While you might think this is the stuff of science fiction, it already being used by companies such as Airbus which relied on generative design to modernize the interiors of its A320 aircraft.
The promise of robotics is the productivity gains that producers can achieve from these machines. While industrial robots have been around for nearly 40-years, many of these were single-purpose robots that were expensive to buy and maintain.
However, this is changing as today’s robots can complement workers beyond brute force. This includes the automation of repetitive tasks and even help in quality control of design tasks. As such robots are becoming an indispensable part of the workforce.
- 3D Printing
Another technology that has been readily available for many years, advances in additive manufacturing is transforming a wide swathe of industries including electronics, aircraft and auto parts, medical devices, and even consumer products.
What makes this technology so exciting is how fast it has developed in recent years. In the past 3D printing was expensive, slow, and extremely limited in its capabilities. However, this has changed, and an increasing number of manufacturing companies are retooling all or part of their production capabilities to take advantage of advances in this technology.
But it is not just on the production floor where 3D printing is making its mark. Rapid prototyping – where the technology got its start – is also benefiting from advances in 3D printing. This not only includes the introduction of new materials, but also the cheaper, faster machines and the concept of resource sharing.
The latter is being used to maximize the return on capital for these machines. This can include co-locating production, fractional ownership, and even remote production, which allows products to be made outside of the “factory” and delivered to customers while they are waiting.
The 4th industrial revolution is being driven by these five advances in industrial design and the result is that manufacturing will never be the same.