Understanding digital design in manufacturing

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Typically used in the modeling phase of research and development (R&D), “a digital design is the multidimensional graphical representation of a product, user interface (UI) or user experience (UX) in a software where it can be virtually tested using industry standards. graphic tools for function, user-friendliness, visual clarity and attractiveness before going into production ”, explains Dave Nowoswiat, Director of Corporate Marketing at Nokia.

Use such algorithms and modeling to facilitate the design, validation and testing of products, Maurice Liddell, Senior Director and Senior Client Manager, BDO Digital adds that “by applying algorithms and modeling to manufacturing, manufacturers can analyze processes, optimize planning and manufacture components.”

While this concept may sound new, Liddell wonders if it really is? “Concepts have been around for many years, starting with basic CAD capabilities and the ability to do 2D drawings, then moving on to 3D drawings and modeling; move from wireframe modeling to solid modeling. “

So what are the best use cases for manufacturers?

When asked this question, Liddell and Nowoswiat agree that digital design capabilities can help manufacturers optimize and reduce overall design times and new product launches. “In our factory in Oulu, where the 4G and 5G radio base stations are produced, new models are constantly being delivered to the production workshop. Digital designs of new models can be easily validated and tested for manufacturing before actual units are produced, ”Nowoswiat explains.

Adding to Nowoswiat’s comments, Liddell says, “I started my career in the auto industry, and if you take a look at the overall timeframe between concept and vehicle manufacture, it took about five years. This is because there were a lot of different manual processes unconnected and there was no digital thread of the whole design process. So now being able to design a 3D model of a component and perform a scenario analysis that can be fed back to make design changes even before committing to building a prototype for testing. This development reduced the duration of an element of the cycle that always took time. Now, we can shorten that a lot by designing digital concepts, as well as analyzing and modeling numerically before we move on to the first stage of the product.

Overall, many manufacturers in the automotive industry can benefit from digital design capabilities. Liddell points out that there are sectors where this concept will be imperative, for example – aerospace. “When manufacturing in the aerospace industry, tolerances are very tight, so for things like high performance jet engines where precision is required, that capability will be imperative to make these products and do so safely. I also see this ability being applied in more basic tasks like dentistry to model prosthetic teeth that are created with a 3D printer. I also see it being used to maximize the use of leaf based raw materials to optimize usage and minimize waste. “

Other benefits of digital design for manufacturers include productivity: “Digital design provides manufacturers with a ‘blueprint’ to help them reduce product lifecycle time, from R&D to prototypes and production complete. This allows them to bring a product to market in less time than their competitors, ”Nowoswiat explains – as well as to optimize processes and safety.

“By taking a look at the entire assembly line or plant layout, you can model and simulate the operations of that plant and determine the best positions to place your positions,” whether it’s welding or an additive station. Being able to simulate the movements or products from one process to another, as well as being able to design the factory to minimize the crossings of paths between artificial movement and human movement, it is a huge element of security. But it also provides the ability to look at potential product failures, for something that could be harmful in a product. I think it’s essential to be able to do this kind of simulation ahead of time, ”Liddell adds.

The technology behind digital design

“In digital manufacturing, digital twins – which are virtual representations in software of products or processes – are created using digital design as one of its inputs,” Nowoswiat explains. “This is essential for manufacturers, because digital twins allow for testing and optimization of proposed changes in the product or process before they are implemented. Digital twinning is not a one-off event, but an ongoing process to collect more data from multiple sources to further improve the virtual model. This translates into continuous improvement in quality and productivity.

As this concept evolves, Nowoswiat sees technologies such as private 4G / 5G metoworking, cloud computing, AR / VR and machine learning implemented as manufacturers digitize their operations on the way. of Industry 4.0. “In particular, private industrial grade wireless solutions are being implemented, giving manufacturers the ability to change machine layouts and increase productivity. The local edge provides computational power for advanced data analysis and machine learning, ”he adds.

Other innovations that Liddell sees in digital design include end-to-end digital wire and simulations. “So with this digital thread, being able to move from concept to design, modeling, manufacturing, and then to sales and customer feedback, this information can be fed back and be immediately usable in the digital design of a business. particular. making up. So I call it the full feedback loop in design, and this full lifecycle is something pretty new.

“But one of the other things that we’re seeing a lot of attention on is simulation and the ability to build that right into the design cycle. So being able to design a component and run simulations to see how it will perform in the real world helps identify flaws or shortcomings that can then be corrected in the design before you’ve ever manufactured a component. We see this simulation being used across sustainability. Manufacturers are one of the biggest producers of carbon, but being able to simulate and model the generation of carbon and not just the process but also the components, and then being able to feed that back into an organization’s ESG program to measuring that I think is something that will be amazing to see evolve, ”says Liddell.

Best practices for adopting digital design capabilities

As manufacturers digitally transform their organizations, Nowoswiat expects there to be challenges in implementing these changes and potential resistance. “Therefore, it is important to ensure that everyone from management to the workforce understands the reason for the changes, so that all the benefits of digital design and manufacturing can be realized.” , he said.

In addition to Nowoswiat’s comments, Liddell adds: “The only thing is ‘don’t try to boil the ocean’. You always have to start small, but think big. Being able to have the end goal in mind, but initially focus on optimizing a particular line or quality issue. Most of the time, organizations try to tackle too many things at once and they get caught up. Managing change is also important. This can be seen as a significant expense with no return on investment to build a business case. So starting small and using pilots helps move vision forward. “


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