Prelude to COFES 2014: Time to Break the Code To Rebuild It?

The iPhone’s Siri and Windows’ upcoming Cortana may not be as intrusive as the fictional AI Samantha from the Sci-fi rom-com Her, but, with every new incarnation, they would get more personal, more intelligent, more AI-like. (You can bet they’ll remember your appointments better than you do.) Game consoles like Xbox Kinect can now “see” you, in a manner of speaking; using camera view, they can process, remember, and respond to your gestures and expressions. Yet, most engineering and design software still seems entrenched in the mouse-and-keyboard paradigm. Will Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES) yield an inspiring outlook for the state of CAD, CAM, CAE? Continue reading

Battling Robots Help MathWorks Get Aspiring Engineers in its Corner

An epic battle. Access to one of the country’s largest makerspaces and the latest in design tools and fabrication technologies. A mere two weeks to build and design an autonomous robot that will take down the competition.

No, this is not a Discovery Channel TV competition, but rather a local, in-person event sponsored by MathWorks, Autodesk, Artisan’s Asylum, and SparkFun Electronics. The Autonomous Robot Design Challenge, set to kick off this week in Somerville, MA, is the latest in MathWorks’ on-going efforts to court up-and-coming engineers with a variety of in-school and out-of-school learning initiatives. Continue reading

NVIDIA GTC 2014: The Dawn of Pascal; the Rise of the Machines

At NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference (GTC, March 24-27, San Jose, California), the self-driving Audi Connect upstaged even NVIDIA’s enigmatic CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. The autonomous vehicle drove itself onto the stage, providing the big finish to Huang’s keynote. But the Audi’s presence may have a purpose greater than the Wow factor. Huang suggests the GPU would play a crucial role in machine learning.

As he stepped up to deliver his keynote address to the GPU faithfuls in San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center, Huang quipped, “A good friend said [GTC] is like the Woodstock of computational mathematicians. I hope it turns out the same way.”

For the past several years, NVIDIA has worked to redefine the GPU’s identity. The company’s message: The graphics processor is not just for fueling the blood, gore, and explosions in video games and movies. When bunched together, they have sufficient firepower to tackle large-scale problems that affect humanity — from accurate weather simulation to DNA sequencing. For the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), that means automated parsing of visual cues to make decisions. Continue reading

Autodesk Releases Inventor HSM, a CAD-Integrated CAM Product

For a long time, HSMWorks for SolidWorks was the envy of Autodesk Inventor users. The computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) program was best known for its tight integration with SolidWorks’ CAD program. Even the “-Works” in HSMWorks, I suspect, might have been the creators’ deliberate tie to SolidWorks in branding. The only way the SolidWorks-HSMWorks integration could have been tighter was for Dassault Systemes, SolidWorks’ parent company, to acquire HSMWorks.

HSMWorks eventually did get bought, but not by Dassault. It was by Autodesk, which owns SolidWorks’ CAD rival Autodesk Inventor. The fierce competition between SolidWorks and Inventor notwithstanding, the new owner vows to keep HSMWorks interoperable with SolidWorks. At the same time, the lack of an Inventor-integrated HSMWorks became an imbalance that needs to be corrected. This week, the correction comes in the form of Autodesk Inventor HSM, a CAD-CAM bundle that includes both Autodesk Inventor design software and CAM features. Continue reading

Battling the Spreadsheet Loyalists: A User Story for the ACE 2014 Conference

When he assumed the role of a project traffic cop at CNH Industrial Parts & Service, Collin Fagan didn’t realize the tangled web he was stepping into. He had a rude awakening when someone showed him the company’s project-tracking method. It was “a 165-column spreadsheet with more than 70 pivot tables, with thousands and thousands of rows,” he recalled.

Despite its complex setup, the spreadsheet wasn’t accurate either, because it relied on more than 20 users to input departmental statistics. Fagan recalled a colleague spending days fixing data errors resulting from input. Just to check on the status of certain parts in development, it took rounds of communication from senior staff. “These were talented engineers hired at fairly expensive rates,” Fagan noted, “and we were wasting their time — at least 20-25 hours a week — just on data gathering.”

It quickly became clear to Fagan that, instead of managing product launches, he risked becoming a clerical person. So he decided to take a stand. “I went to my boss, and I said, ‘Fire me if you have to, but I won’t take over that spreadsheet.’ ” Fortunately, Fagan’s boss agreed the business had outgrown the spreadsheet. Fagan, responsible for product development & platform integration, is a much happier man now that project activities are flowing through Aras PLM, implemented a year ago. Continue reading

 

 

 

 

 

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