Engineering software companies that serve the manufacturing space are always aiming at a moving target.
To deliver relevant products to the market, they need to constantly ask themselves: where is manufacturing going? How are customers seeking to incorporate new technologies into their processes? What new use cases are emerging, and how can we support them?
A quick review of the manufacturing space reveals several new workflows that present engineering software companies with a golden opportunity to meet an evolving set of needs around how products get designed, manufactured, maintained, and more.
Use Case 1: Design Review
More and more companies are moving away from creating a great product and focusing on designing and delivering a great experience. This is particularly true in consumer goods, and it has been a key success factor in the automotive industry.
Validating an experience, however, requires more than just looking at the product specifications – and this is where augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can deliver tremendous benefits. Automotive designers, for example, can fully experience a car design using VR technology, which allows them to look at ergonomics, material quality, and high aesthetics.
This new design review workflow comes with some challenges, though, one of which is that CAD models are fairly basic in terms of colors and lighting. Put simply, they deliver a poor visual experience. Designers have to use sophisticated third-party animation or rendering software to rework their models and make them visually pleasing, which introduces a break in the workflow.
Physically based rendering (PBR) seeks to render graphics in a way that more accurately models the flow of light in the real world, producing photorealistic images. By ensuring their applications provide support for PBR, engineering software companies can remove any breaks in the workflow, ensuring a more seamless design review experience for customers.
HOOPS Visualize with PBR technology produces stunning visuals
Use Case 2: Digital-Assisted Operations
One of the most exciting new workflows that is gaining significant traction is the use of digital technology to optimize operations such as assembly, disassembly, maintenance, and repair.
Providing 2D and 3D contextual information through a mobile AR device allows these operations to be conducted safely and more effectively. For example, automakers can help first responders with AR applications that highlight areas of a vehicle – like the fuel line or the battery – that the first responders should steer clear of if they’re cutting into the vehicle to free trapped passengers. Another example of digital assisted operations might be a mobile AR inspection solution that detects and highlights missing components on an assembly.
There are many different ways that digital-assisted operations can be applied within the manufacturing space, making the market potential huge. Before widespread adoption can occur, though, there are a few technical challenges to resolve, mostly related to the user interface and to object tracking.
Fortunately, the ability to track 3D objects within AR applications is significantly enhanced if you’re able to access and fully leverage the entirety of the CAD data. For example, access to the boundary representation (BREP) information is valuable because it helps in calculating an accurate silhouette of the object, which – in turn – helps the tracking algorithm.
Overall, AR is a very exciting technology for improving various manufacturing processes, and with the right foundational components, engineering software companies will be able to effectively incorporate it to support digital-assisted operations.
Use Case 3: Manufacturing Services
Thanks to new web technologies, manufacturing services are becoming increasingly popular. The typical manufacturing-as-a-service workflow involves uploading a CAD model to a website which analyzes the part and then comes up with a quote for what it would cost to manufacture it. The customer can then approve the quote or adjust some of the manufacturing parameters – changing the materials, or the manufacturing method, for instance – and then place their order, receiving the final part in a matter of days.
Coming up with accurate pricing on the fly requires a deep understanding of the manufacturability of that part and what will actually be involved in turning it from a digital file into an actual physical object. Once again, access to the full details of the CAD data – from the BREP and the product manufacturing information (PMI), to the model tree and assorted metadata – proves critical here, allowing manufacturing-as-a-service companies to validate the manufacturability of the part and generate an accurate price quote.
Access to all the rich information contained within the model also assists with the creation of intelligent documentation, either in the form of a 3D PDF or a standalone HTML file. Being able to readily supply this type of detailed documentation for any part ordered is just one more way manufacturing-as-a-service companies can ensure they’re meeting customer needs.
Ripe for Innovation
There are many more manufacturing processes that are ripe for innovation – which means that clever new workflows will continue to crop up, evolving the manufacturing space. Those engineering software companies that have planned ahead will be ready to support these workflows with a new generation of manufacturing applications – allowing them to shape the future of manufacturing side-by-side with their customers.
About the Author
Lionel Vieilly is a Product Manager at Tech Soft 3D.