Barsha Bhattacharya, 5 hours ago
What Will Engineering Design Look Like In The Near Future?
The world is changing, and engineering is at the heart of it. Evolving technology is transforming how engineers communicate with computers, which is changing how concepts are designed.
For example, Levent Burak Kara, a mechanical engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon, is working on a device—like a pen—that will one day replace the traditional mouse.
The aim is to enable design engineers to use the device and their computer screen as a pen on paper, drawing whatever they want in THREE DIMENSIONS. This, of course, is different from the pen graphic designers already use for their 2D sketches.
We can see how computer-aided designs have morphed over the years. Then, engineers had to make do with AutoCAD, which was in 2D. Today, designers barely have to draw a line at all.
CAD is more of a drag-and-drop in 3D than ever, making life easier and leading to more accurate designs. But technology has even gone beyond that.
Many add-ons are now deployed to enhance CAD drawings. Just like the NX CAD software, certain add-ons can easily help create and edit complex geometry using push-and-pull. Such technology reduces design times and positions engineers on a pedestal of limitless capabilities.
In 1963, an MIT student named Ivan Sutherland created the first sketchpad system. It made use of a light pen as an input device. The basis of the technology was that explaining mechanical objects and connections with words just don’t cut it. It needs to be visualized—sketched.
However, the tech didn’t go far because most people only needed to point and click, which the mouse was incredibly good at. They didn’t need to draw on the screen.
But we’re now trying to get back to that kind of technology. Jon Hirschtick, the founder of SolidWorks, is working on adding touch screens as a CAD interface. Engineers will not only be able to sketch designs on the screen but also grab and manipulate them through a haptic device.
Indeed, moving objects around is arguably the most frequently used command. So if design engineers can grab, move, and edit models on the screen, it would be nothing short of a phenomenal breakthrough.
Printing designs in 3-D is also something we might be seeing in the future. The technology isn’t entirely new, but it is becoming more affordable and accurate, increasing its adoption rate among small business owners.
The concept of the “digital twin” has been around for a while, but it’s an engineering design trend we hope to see more of in the future as it gets even more advanced. A digital twin is an exact digital replica of a physical object. The digital replica is obtained through sensors.
For example, sensors are placed around a beam, and the component is rendered digital. In the digital version, the performance of the beam can be instantly determined. This design trend will enable engineers to obtain unprecedented insights into product performance.
The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly opened our eyes to many possibilities we never knew existed. One critical area the outbreak influenced was remote work. This touched on structural engineering as well.
The industry has discovered that building inspections can be conducted virtually without the engineer ever physically arriving at the site. This will not only simplify the building process but also enhance speed. Obviously, this kind of practice would require cutting-edge technology such as 360-video devices and drones. They must be able to wirelessly transmit data for a long time.
Thankfully, such technology is becoming more possible. There is much improvement in circuit board capacity and wireless networks today. Metal core designs are also helping to make electronics more durable.
Engineering companies are now getting more comfortable relying on wireless networks and durable data-collecting devices for remote inspections. That being said, it seems we’re just in the early stages as there’s still a world of possibilities here.
Today, engineers usually have to be associated with a company to discharge their duties. However, the 3-D change that is evolving in the engineering world can potentially change how engineers do business.
Through such technology, they can work as freelance talent and draw on the screen for the design to be printed out in 3-D on-site. This would foster freelancing among mechanical engineers, positioning them for limitless job opportunities worldwide without moving an inch.
Mark Jakiela, a professor of mechanical design at Washington University, believes freelance engineers would be able to work together through an internet site. He is already on methods that would make that possible. He has developed a forum-type software for engineers where they can collaborate and discuss.
Would it be surprising that humans will never have to make any manual designs in the future? Of course not. AI and robotics are here to stay, and they’re doing wonders already in the engineering industry. And they are still advancing.
AI and Robotics can analyze projects, come up with solutions, and even execute physical projects that may take humans more time, effort, and caution. The job of an AI engineer is to communicate with the algorithm and instruct it on how to do certain tasks and it will come up just as desired.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see that these technologies that are merely assisting engineers now will redefine the industry in the future.
Why all of that is great and interesting, we may also take it that it will limit job opportunities – perhaps, there will be less need for design engineers. But it’s not that simple. It would be difficult for machines to entirely do it all without considerable input from experts. What we can say is that design as taught in schools will change, and more AI and robotics deployment will become the focus.
Technology undeniably opens up a world of opportunities. What was never thought possible 200 years ago is now a piece of cake these days. And it stands to reason that things we have never imagined will become our reality in the near future, engineering-wise.