Innovation is not just another buzz word. It is how organizations evolve to match external pressures in order to stay relevant to changing consumer behaviors and most importantly, to remain profitable. Innovation is personal to each organization and can be driven by several varying factors, including pressure to compete, customer preferences, new market entrants, and even technology. Technology is becoming an integral part of that innovation. Accenture completed a study on innovation and found the following:
Companies are recognizing that emerging technologies can influence the process of innovation as much as the products resulting from innovation:
85% use digital systems such as project management platforms to manage the innovation process
84% apply new solutions such as virtual prototyping to enhance product testing and simulation
83% use social media networks and analytics to generate and refine insights
86% use ideation platforms to support collaboration with internal and external stakeholders, with 91% noting that customers are a valuable source of new ideas.
The technology-fueled innovation is not just on the marketing and project management units of an organization, but is also important for engineering and manufacturing teams. For manufacturers and product designers, technology can improve the product development cycle and reduce time to market. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can start innovating your engineering and manufacturing processes.
1. Generative Design
Innovation, at its core, is thinking of a new way to do something. One such technology that is disrupting how engineers can design products is generative design. Generative design enables engineers to quickly and simultaneously generate multiple CAD-ready solutions depending on user-defined constraints. Generative design is unique because it gives you hundreds of viable, CAD-ready design solutions to choose from at the start of the product development process, which is beneficial to improving an organization’s ability to innovate and get to market faster.
Generative design goes beyond what the human mind can come up with by creating hundreds of options in a matter of minutes. Traditional processes start with a design and adjust that design based on criteria and known ways to improve. This process is time consuming and can result in delays if a product is deemed to not meet requirements later in the development cycle. Instead, by starting with the end goal and the constraints, technology can present multiple upfront solutions, some of which may have never been thought of by the engineer. Engineers can then choose and optimize based on their defined constraints, allowing them to shorten the development cycle and focus more of their time on innovation.
With Autodesk Fusion 360, generative design can help organizations explore a wider range of design options, make impossible designs possible, and optimize for materials and manufacturing methods, driving a shorter time to market. Fusion 360 eliminates disconnected product development processes and unifies design, engineering, electronics, and manufacturing into a single cloud-based platform.
Innovation only works if your product functions as it is intended. Simulation is the process of studying how a model will perform under certain parameters and constraints. Simulation can help to eliminate the need to create a full prototype and test it and then iterate on the process. Physical testing can be both costly and time consuming. Simulation earlier in the design process can help shorten your product design lifecycle and results in overall quicker time to market. Technology companies such as Ansys promote an idea of pervasive simulation that can help reduce time and cost across the entire organization. Ansys software integrates the latest simulation technologies into a unified platform capable of complex, multiphysics solutions.
Design automation is meant to help you and those around you get more things done in a lot less time. Automation enables repetitive tasks to be streamlined or in some cases completely eliminated. Automation can allow tasks to be done automatically based on triggers and rules customized to each organization. By investing in automation, time previously spent on non-value-added tasks can instead be reallocated to focusing on innovation. Automation can be applied across many parts of an organization including drafting, design, reporting, and overall process automation.
Autodesk technology enables automation with products like Inventor. iLogic within Inventor allows engineers to set rules to drive processes automatically. Since Inventor iLogic is built on Microsoft’s VB.NET language, you can use their extensive documentation to get a better understanding of what’s possible in driving your automation within Inventor. Learn more about using VB.NET to program within Inventor.
4. Workflow Process Improvements (All the Above)
Technology partnerships and integrations can help enable all the above to occur at once. One such example is the partnership between Autodesk and Ansys involving Fusion 360 and Ansys Mechanical. Fusion 360 leads with a generative design process followed by a leading simulation product in Ansys Mechanical, all with the push of a button between the two systems. Check out the workflow: How to Send a Fusion 360 Simulation File to ANSYS Mechanical.
Once you have created a series of generative design outcomes for your model, you can run a simulation study on your model with all the design requirements set up automatically, and save it as a .SDZ file which can be opened in Ansys Mechanical 2020R1. By enabling integrations like this, technology companies realize that they can offer customers better user experiences, simplified workflows, and upgraded toolsets.
Anything that can save an organization time can help to fuel innovation to keep you ahead of the competition. By reallocating time previously spent on other tasks, organizations can have their employees working to drive innovation and come up with newer and better products, faster.
Staci Mensen is a director at KETIV Technologies, a manufacturing solutions provider and partner of Autodesk. Staci’s six years of experience working as an engineering project manager, along with an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management give her industry expertise in manufacturing and engineering. In the two years she has worked at KETIV, Staci has provided direction, guidance, and thought leadership at events, webinars, and conferences.