What is #TheFutureofMakingThings ?

inventor 2015 ray tracing Moving at the Speed of Business

Autodesk has launched The Future of Making Things. A vision of how they see future human and business interaction with technology when it comes to engineering, design, analysis and collaboration.

At the Autodesk University Keynote address in December, 2014,  Jeff Kowalski, Autodesk SVP and Chief Technology Officer, discussed how Autodesk is looking at technology and design through the lens of nature.

He said, “We’ve started to think of the design process as a living process, and to think of the things we create as living things. We can’t continue to use the same old processes to make the things we design significantly better, or even live sustainably on our own planet. The next breakthroughs will co­opt some of the actual processes of nature, bringing what works in the living world into the world of the things we create.”

Looking at their recent product releases and acquisitions, you can see Autodesk’s vision is tied around the cloud, incorporating that technology with current platforms and innovating their products to have an open, scalable, one platform utopia.

To get an insight to what The Future of Making Things actually is, take a look at this video from Autodesk:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K_3ajuc3qo?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]

After watching this video, my interpretation of The Future of Making Things is:

  • Innovative design that’s not only organic when it comes to design tools but organic in the way we use those tools.
  • Intuitive technology providing real time data.
  • Sustainable design and analysis.
  • Augmented reality of visualisation & project management.
  • An organic interconnected system that integrates the points above with social, news and business systems with CAD data that can deliver multiple results.

I then thought to myself, what about the people at the coalface using current technology? So I spoke to some contacts in manufacturing and asked what is The Future of Making Things?

iBulk Solutions make industrial machinery and are focused on bulk solid processing. When I spoke to Iggy Roszkowski, Senior Mechanical Engineer at iBulk about the Future of Making Things, he saw it as cloud based technology that makes it easier to interact with customers in a global market.

He commented that Australian manufacturers have a difficult time competing on price, so to demonstrate quality, it’s hard to win a job without proper presentations. He shared a recent job they won in Qatar where they were 20% more expensive but won because they were able to communicate in 3D and were seen as a more trusted supplier.

They use the 3D model and data to communicate to clients with presentations to win business and he sees cloud technology as a vessel to deliver and collaborate information more easily with clients globally.

Simon Blashki, Project Manager at Ace Wire Works, sees The Future of Making Things as a seamless link between the digital 3D model, information and machines.

Ace Wire Works are already using machines with cameras and optical sensors to inspect their wire forming and compare the physical with the digital model and sees the future as being able to use that technology with robotics to automatically assemble their wire forming, meshes and fabricated products on 3D modelling technology to achieve higher quality standards and volumes.

At Steelvision, they fabricate high-strength secure products for prisons and other industries. Managing Director, Dave Gooley also saw a link between the 3D model and machinery but also using that data downstream in scheduling and managing the project.

He saw the future in his industry of being able to design, develop and test new polycarbonate materials instead of traditional metal compositions and using 3D printing technology and robotics to pre-fabricate.

He sees the future as a place where you can take that same information that built the model to project management and linking it to other business systems.

Dave Kaylor, Director of DSine International works with leading automotive manufacturers and suppliers. They use Alias and Maya for technical surfacing and visualisation. He believes “Design is going to play the biggest part” in The Future of Making Things. He sees the development of N.U.R.B.S being more organic and easier to use along with virtual reality devices like Oculus Rift providing an augmented reality being the future “so before you make any decisions, you are 95% sure.”

At the consumer level, he pictures everyone having a 3D printer at home with people logging into their design website, going through a library or creating their own design and printing it out.

Planet Innovation is a consultancy firm in the bio-tech, medical and consumer product space. Product Design Engineer, Marco Sebastiani envisages integrating cloud technology and visualisation.

He explained how current technology barriers affects design cycles. Creating visualisations of complex 3D models with current technology is difficult, expensive and time consuming. Current platforms are bulky, clunky to use and need more fluidity.

When I asked him what his definition of The Future of Making Things, he said “Definitely the cloud. There must be a tighter integration with technical design and visualisation.”

With the exponential growth in computing power, Marco would like to see the ability to instantly render live models, animate scenes and simulate scenarios, then the ability to present those designs in an augmented reality environment is where we should be aiming at in the future and sees cloud computing as a way to achieve that.

The Present

The Future of Making Things although a vision, is already here. Existing cloud based applications from Autodesk are improving and new products are steadily hitting the market.

Organic modelling with T-Splines in Fusion 360 & Inventor for manufacturing inspires, Dynamo for Revit gives architects a new way to design buildings, existing applications such as Alias, 3ds Max and Maya already do amazing things and research projects like the Parametric Human are yet to hit the market.

Autodesk developed a plug-in for the LEAP Motion device, so you can 3D model with your hands and I would need a separate article to cover the simulation portfolio and sustainability analysis tools like Green Building Studio and the future research tools on the horizon.

There is a comprehensive visualisation portfolio with the ability to integrate visualisation with design, CAD data, project management and analysis.

While there are some great tools available, there are still capability gaps for further development of models, seamless coordination and integration. Hardware and infrastructure play a part too, the affordability of new technology and bandwidth requirements to deliver data are equally as important.

With many different design platforms, being able to have an open system where it doesn’t matter what application you used to design ‘it’ is a goal of Autodesk and is one of the main foundations when it comes to The Future of Making Things.

The augmented reality seems to be a few years away. You can blend your world with 3D models  and Turn photos into 3D models. I haven’t seen products out there that match the vision yet, but at the accelerated pace of technology, better augmented reality technology is just around the corner.