General

Mr. DIY Goes to Washington: TechShop Members at White House Maker Faire

John Lawton used to go to the White House to pick up presidents, vice presidents, and various heads of states for chopper rides. He was also the White House liaison officer for the HMX-1, the marine helicopter squadron that provides presidential transport. But when he returned to the White House in mid-June, he did so as an exhibitor at the first-ever White House Maker Faire. A veteran with a custom-furniture business, he embodies the inventive, do-it-yourself (DIY) spirit the Maker Faire celebrates.

When his service in the presidential squadron ended in 2013, Lawton  relocated to Austin, Texas, a city that he’d longed to live in. “It’s an innovator-, inventor-friendly place,” he remarked. The city suited his tinkering tendencies, shaped equally by his welder father and artist mother. That’s also where he stumbled on TechShop, a membership-based personal manufacturing community with production and training facilities across eight cities (two more locations opening soon). TechShop provides one-year free membership to veterans like Lawton, who served three deployments, two years in Iraq. So he joined the build-and-play TechShop community. Continue reading

aPriori Rolls BI Capabilities Into its Product Costing Tool

Continuing its push to make cost a key variable of product design, aPriori released a new business intelligence capability intended to bring self-service analytics and enhanced visibility of product cost data to a wider range of stakeholders.

The new Cost Insight extends the aPriori product cost management suite with enterprise-class business intelligence capabilities. The idea is to allow engineers, designers, and manufacturing executives to generate dashboards, ad hoc reports, and production reports that will maximize visibility into the performance of cost management initiatives and drive more informed decision making, notes Julie Driscoll, aPriori’s vice president of product management and strategic marketing. Continue reading

Adding Cognition, Machine Learning, and Prediction to Products: a Far-Fetched Dream or Worthy Endeavor?

Every year, at Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES), industry leaders gather to discuss — and sometimes speculate on — characteristics and attributes of the tools and technologies next-generation engineers and designers might need. This year (COFES 2014, April 2014), in the track titled “Cognition?,” Engineering News Record‘s editor Tom Sawyer asked, “With the formation of the IBM Watson Group, we are at the early stages of deployment of what can thought of as applied cognition … What are the implications and opportunities for design and engineering?” Later, a roundtable discussion continued the talk: “[IBM] Watson’s combination of natural-language capabilities and an ability to generate hypotheses should be able to address big problems in fields such as customer relations, finance, healthcare, and R&D … What will machine cognition mean to engineering and design?”

In a room just a few doors down from Sawyer’s discussion group, Microsoft’s PLM Solutions director Simon Floyd hosted a track to discuss “Microsoft’s role in machine learning, predictive analytics, advanced decision-making, and the impact on design & engineering.” Another roundtable posed the possibility of “Swarms, Autonomous Devices, and Self-Programming Machines.” The summary read, “Design theory and concepts are emerging for these autonomous systems — particularly for swarms of multiple-specialty systems, and for systems that design systems. What types of tools will we need to do this? What’s our role once they have been set in motion? How do we build in safety? What don’t we know?” Continue reading

PTC: Not Your Father’s CAD Company

To be fair, PTC has been moving away from its mechanical engineering roots for quite some time, expanding into Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) with the 2011 acquisition of MSK Integrity and branching out even further with the Servigistics deal, which launched it into the service lifecycle management space.

With last December’s $112 million of ThingWorx, PTC set its sights on the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape, and if this week’s PTC Live 2014 event is any indication, it is it where PTC is directing its future. Beyond the launch of Creo 3.0 (details to follow later), the event was chock full of keynotes, customer presentations, and announcements in the SLM, embedded software, and IoT space, with very little talk of traditional CAD and PLM mechanical engineering software. Continue reading

Science Scores Big at FIFA World Cup 2014

With the World Cup 2014 games kicking off this week, the entire world is transfixed with all things soccer (or football-related, depending on where you hail). As we get ready to cheer on our favorite teams and marvel at the unbridled athleticism, it’s worth a look at the serious science and engineering at play behind all of that fancy footwork.

Physics plays a starring role in any sport, and soccer is no exception. The Magnus effect, a principle that explains the side-force on a sphere that is both rotating and moving forward, is used extensively to analyze the World Cup match balls used in this and previous years’ games. Continue reading