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BIG M 2014: Advanced Modeling, Simulation and Visualization Transforming Manufacturing

Advanced Modeling, Simulation and Visualization Transforming Manufacturing

Patrick WaurzyniakBy Patrick Waurzyniak 
Senior Editor

New digital simulation, modeling and visualization technologies are enabling manufacturers to do things that weren’t possible that long ago. With new ultra-high-definition, 4K immersive virtual reality (VR) systems like the one at Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI), engineers can visualize new designs much more effectively by collaborating globally in real-time with the latest visualization technologies.

In a wide-ranging 90-minute discussion at the Big M conference at Cobo Hall in Detroit on Tuesday, simulation developers and users showed why advanced simulation and modeling is considered such a critical technology for the future, both from a competitive standpoint and also as a possible way to convince young people that manufacturing can be a cool career choice.

The panel discussion, “Modeling, Simulation, and Visualization (MSV): Revolutionizing What Industry Can See, Do and Create,” moderated by Matt Roush, director of communications for the Engineering Society of Detroit (Southfield, MI), hit upon key areas of MSV technology, with simulations used in applications including computer-aided engineering (CAE) for analyzing thermal stresses on engines, VR tools that help automakers refine body designs, to simulations used in a wide variety of military applications.

At Ford’s Immersion Lab, designers view data in a 4K display showing highly realistic scenes of vehicles with different colors, lighting, and background worlds, said Elizabeth Baron, Virtual Reality & Advanced Visualization Technical Specialist, Ford Motor Co. “We can evaluate the engine as we design, and the beauty of this is we can have many different reviews at the same time.”

US Navy simulationToday’s simulation tools are also migrating down from the power users to those that need the technology but aren’t necessarily experts using it. “What we’ve noticed in the past few years is there’s a gulf, where there’s been amazing equipment but people can’t leverage it,” said Matthew Johnston, director, Emerging Markets and Technology, Design Interactive (Oviedo, FL). “We need to take the technology and put it in the hands of the users.”

The scope of modeling and simulation tools today is very diverse, added Bill Waite, chairman, founder and chief technical officer for AEgis Technologies (Huntsville, AL), a developer of military simulation applications. “The techniques are very powerful,” Waite said of CAD/CAM and FEA simulation technology, while noting that the industry has a serious workforce problem that needs to be solved with more training in the technologies. “Modeling and simulation is a critical technology.”

Immersive VR tools today are so real that they call to mind the Holodeck of Star Trek: The Next Generation series, said Roush. “It’s here now,” added Johnston. The VR technology also offers a way for engineers to engage consumers, he noted. “It’s something that you can’t convey in any other way,” Johnston said.

Another panelist, James Dagg, chief technical officer, modeling and simulation, for Altair Engineering Inc. (Troy, MI) said about seven years ago, the company’s OptiStruct software and other offerings were used more to correct designs, whereas now they’re used by engineers to refine and shape designs. ‘People who are designing skyscrapers are using it as a sculpting tool,” he said.

One of the biggest issues in industry is addressing the talent gap, said Roush, adding “It can be fun—it’s not all calculus.” Pockets of the industry, like Automation Alley (Troy, MI), are bringing industry together with some progress, said Alan Lecz, director, Employer Strategies, Advanced Manufacturing, Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN) for Southeast Michigan (Detroit). “There are programs, but so many of them are unaware. We have to convince the parents that there are careers out there.”  IMG 03052

The emergence of gaming developers also has greatly influenced modeling, simulation and visualization development, and holds the potential to pull younger people into the industry, noted Waite, but much more work remains to be done to convince youth to enter the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs that are required to prepare them for the industry.

With Facebook’s $2-billion acquisition in March of Oculus VR (Irvine, CA), makers of the Oculus Rift VR headset gaming device, the impact of gaming companies on the market potentially could explode. “Social companies are investing in these technologies, and maybe in less than five years, we could see things like Oculus Rift on the desktop,” noted Johnston.

“The pace of change is so phenomenal,” Ford’s Baron added. “The lines will be more blurred between the virtual and the real world.”

Published Date : 6/11/2014

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