How teams armed with the right technology are transforming product design
By TParella – Siemens Experimenter
As a wave of new technologies continue to drive customer expectations, manufacturers, especially those in highly complex industries, such as automotive, aerospace and energy, are racing to adapt.
Customers are demanding products that are enabled by the new technologies—embedded electronics, Internet of Things connectivity/communication, and advanced materials—and they expect them to be delivered faster than ever before.
This trend will continue into the foreseeable future as other fast-maturing technologies, such as data analytics, augmented and virtual reality, and other disruptive innovations are embedded in products. The increased number and variation of new technologies means manufacturers must manage more data and processes hand-offs throughout the product development and management workflow.
To control process costs and ensure they can meet future demands, manufacturers themselves are turning to new technologies and work models that help them deliver increasingly complex products faster and in a more streamlined manner.
Topping the technology list is digitalization, a system in which digital technologies are integrated into all business processes, creating an end-to-end digital thread of product, production system and process data, from design through production. Available to anyone at any time, the digital thread allows product engineers and operators to work concurrently because they have immediate access to the information they need. An electronics engineer can work on components while a software engineer writes code, for example. One doesn’t have to wait for the other to finish.
Digitalization also makes it possible to incorporate new, innovating ways of working as a multi-disciplinary team, such as using generative design and Convergent Modeling.
Generative design and Convergent Modeling
Generative design is a breakthrough capability in product design. It leverages algorithms based on previous design knowledge and high-performance computing to autonomously deliver optimum designs based on specific shape and performance parameters. Mimicking nature—only faster—generative design can deliver more options than feasible with traditional design tools and, likely, many options that engineers wouldn’t have considered. This enables engineers to experiment more and yet determine a final design more quickly, compared with traditional approaches.
Convergent Modeling comes into play with the inevitable need to combine generative design models, which are faceted, with traditional models that are b-rep. Siemens’ Convergent Modeling solution allows designers to combine facets, surfaces and solids in one model without converting data, previously a time-consuming, error-prone process.
The benefits of a digitally empowered multi-disciplinary design team
Digitalization, generative design and Convergent Modeling are integral to effective multi-disciplinary design, which brings together engineers from different disciplines to work together on a product that encompasses multiple types of systems. By enabling mechanical, electrical, electronic and software engineers to work quickly and concurrently on a product design no matter the model source language, these technologies, combined with multi-disciplinary design, can shrink timelines and accelerate speed-to-market and customer responsiveness.
Further, such a model enables:
• Quality control, by reducing errors caused by redundant versions and missing information
• Visibility and accessibility to the data throughout the product life, which provides the foundation for standardization of processes, as well as incorporation of personalized user interfaces that provide guidance at each step
• A ready model for adding transformative technologies such as additive manufacturing, embedded sensors and data analytics to processes and products
• The ability for engineering teams to exploit the trade-offs between and among the disciplines to quickly identify the optimum design
Ultimately, the approach tames complexity by bridging the gap between design planning and execution by reducing the manual effort and cost of managing and tracking product data. With such a system, manufacturers can focus people on the right tasks, with the right data, to make the right decisions at the right time.
Companies that are adapting multi-disciplinary design by bringing together humans, high-performance computing and an end-to-end generative design thread, across the design lifecycle, are setting the pace of innovation. In the race toward the seamless integration of the cyber and physical systems, early adopters will not only deliver complex designs more quickly, they’ll upend industries as they perfect and accelerate speed-to-market for differentiating innovation.
The benefits of a multi-disciplinary approach was recently demonstrated at the Siemens test center for industrial gas turbines in Lincoln, England, where a global team collaborated to optimize gas turbine blades and their production. The project brought together engineers and materials experts from Lincoln, Berlin, and the Swedish municipality of Finspong.
“Within just 18 months, the international project team succeeded in developing the entire process chain from the design of individual components, to the development of materials, all the way to new methods of quality control and the simulation of component service life,” according to reports.
In addition, Siemens tested a new additively manufactured blade design with a fully revised and improved cooling geometry. Willi Meixner, CEO of Siemens Power and Gas Division, said by using additive manufacturing, “we can develop prototypes up to 90 percent faster.”
The power of people
As the rush of new technologies remakes how products are designed, produced, delivered and maintained, it’s easy to forget that people and their work processes remain a critical factor of manufacturing success. Indeed, in a world of constant technological change, people—or more specifically, teams of people—become more important. They are needed to access and apply the appropriate knowledge when and where it’s needed throughout a product’s lifecycle.
In today’s fast-paced marketplace, manufacturers must arm their teams with the right technology—with the digitalization of the product development and management process—and adapt new team-based workflows, such as multi-disciplinary design.
Because the future belongs to manufacturers that can manage their process knowledge, so they are able adapt to necessary changes while staying in control of processes and performance.
This concludes our introductory series on multi-disciplinary design and generative design.