Typically used in the modeling phase of research and development (R&D), “a digital design is the multi-dimensional graphical representation of a product, user interface (UI), or user experience (UX) in a software where it can be tested virtually using industry standard graphical tools for function, usability, visual clarity and attractiveness before going into production,” explains Dave Nowoswiat, Corporate Marketing Manager at Nokia.
Use such algorithms and modeling to aid in the design, validation and testing of products, Maurice Liddell, Principal and Senior Client Executive, BDO Digital adds that by “applying algorithms and modeling to manufacturing, manufacturers can analyze processes, optimize planning, and fabricate components.”
While this concept may seem new, Liddell wonders if it really is? “The 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; switch 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 introduction. “At our factory in Oulu where 4G and 5G radio base stations are produced, new models are constantly being delivered to the production floor. Digital designs of new models can be easily validated and tested for manufacturing before actual units are produced,” says Nowoswiat.
In addition to Nowoswiat’s comments, Liddell says, “I started my career in the automotive industry, and if you look back at the overall time from concept to manufacturing of the vehicle, it took about five years. This is because there were a lot of different unconnected manual processes and there was no digital thread of the whole design process. Whereas now, being able to design a 3D model of a component and perform scenario analysis that can be fed back to make design changes even before committing to building a prototype for testing. This evolution has reduced the duration of an element of the cycle which always took a lot of time. Now we can shorten a lot of that by designing digital concepts, as well as digitally analyzing and modeling before getting 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 aerospace, the tolerances are very tight, so for things like high performance jet engines where precision is required, that ability will be imperative to making these products and doing it safely. I see also this ability be applied during 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 use 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 to full production. This allows them to bring a product to market in less time than their competitors,” explains Nowoswiat, while optimizing processes and safety.
“By looking at the overall assembly line or the layout of a factory, you can go through the modeling and simulation of that factory’s operations and determine the best locations to place your stations, whether it’s a soldering station or additive station. Being able to simulate movement or products from one process to another, as well as being able to design the plant to minimize the crossing of paths between artificial movement and human movement, is a huge safety feature. But it also provides the opportunity to look into a potential product failure, for something that could be harmful in a product. I think it’s essential to be able to do this type of simulation in advance,” adds Liddell.
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 critical for manufacturers, as digital twins allow proposed changes in the product or process to be tested and optimized before they are implemented. Digital twinning is not a singular event, but an ongoing process to collect more data from multiple sources to further improve the virtual model. This results in continuous improvement in quality and productivity.
As this concept evolves, Nowoswiat sees technologies such as 4G/5G private mobility, cloud computing, augmented reality/virtual reality and machine learning being implemented as manufacturers digitize their operations on the way to Industry 4.0. “In particular, private, industrial-grade wireless solutions are being implemented that provide manufacturers with the flexibility to change machine layouts and increase productivity. The local edge provides computing power for advanced data analysis and machine learning,” he adds.
Other innovations Liddell sees in digital design include end-to-end digital thread and simulations. “So that digital thread, which can go from concept to design, to modeling, to manufacturing, and then to sales and customer feedback, that information can be fed back and be immediately usable in the digital design of a particular component. So I call that the full feedback loop in design, and that full lifecycle is something pretty new.
“But one of the other things that we’re seeing a lot of focus on is simulation and the ability to bring that right into the design cycle. So being able to design a component and run simulations for seeing how it will perform in the real world helps identify any flaws or shortcomings which can then be fixed in the design before you’ve even made a component.We see this simulation being used throughout durability.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 measure 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 will 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 the full benefits of digital design and digital manufacturing can be realized. he says.
Adding to Nowoswiat’s comments, Liddell adds, “The only thing is ‘don’t try to boil the ocean.’ Always start small, but think big. Be able to have the end goal in mind, but focus on optimizing a particular line or quality issue first. Most of the time, organizations try to tackle too many things at once, and they get caught. Change management is also important. This can be perceived as a significant expense without having a return on investment to build a business case. So starting small and using pilots helps drive the vision forward.”