MCAD

What Doesn’t Kill a Blender Makes It Stronger

If you’re a blender, you’d never want to see the inside of the testing lab in Blendtec‘s headquarter in Orem, Utah. This small room is the equivalent of The Tower of London for blenders. The products that go in don’t usually come out in one piece.

“We call [the test facility] ‘the Torture Chamber’ because we line up all of our blenders and brutally test them until they die,” said Reid Stout, a research and development engineer with Blendtec.

If you’re an automaker, conducting a destructive test on your product means crashing a fully built car rigged with dummies into a wall — a costly experiment you can’t undertake willy-nilly. If you’re an aerospace manufacturer, crash-testing a plane for every new model is certainly out of the question. (Boeing conducted one such test in 2012 with a remote-controlled 727. The rare incident was captured in a Discovery Channel documentary.)

To bypass these costly tests involving massive products (not to mention the cleanup required afterward), manufacturers now rely mostly on digital simulation and software-driven analysis to perform tests. But if you make blenders like Blendtec does, you can afford to sacrifice a few blenders every month for the good of your customers. Continue reading

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

EPA to Use ANSYS FORTE to Prove CAFE Standards Are Achievable

Are the upcoming Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards realistic or achievable? It’s something EPA has to first find out for itself. To do that, the Agency is using ANSYS FORTÉ, a package for simulating combustion engine activities.

According to the announcement released by ANSYS today, EPA plans to use FORTÉ software “to model in-cylinder combustion to develop an advanced test engine that will demonstrate fuel-saving and emissions-reducing technologies.”

ANSYS FORTÉ used to be a product of Reaction Design, based on San Diego, California. The product became part of the ANSYS portfolio when Reaction Design was acquired by ANSYS this January. Continue reading

Time for Manufacturing to Shed Old Image to Attract New Blood?

Bill Boswell, Siemens PLM Software’s senior director of partner strategy, thinks manufacturing has an image problem — one that poses a hindrance in attracting new blood.

“Dark, dirty, dangerous — that’s what most people’s perception of manufacturing is,” observed Boswell. “To convince students to go into manufacturing, we have to change that perception. That’s not what manufacturing is today.”

Boswell points to Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory in Dresden, Germany, designed by architect Gunter Henn. Complete with polished hardwood floor and curved glass surfaces, the building looks more like a modern art museum or a high-tech firm’s headquarter than an automotive plant. “Not every plant is going to look like this one,” Boswell acknowledged, “but that’s what the future of manufacturing is — certainly not dark, dirty, and dangerous.” 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