By Robert “Buzz” Kross
Senior Vice President of
the Manufacturing Division
San Rafael, CA

Innovation is a way of life at Autodesk. Since our introduction of AutoCAD software in 1982, Autodesk has developed the broadest portfolio of state-ofthe- art digital prototyping solutions to help customers experience their ideas before they are built.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this continual evolution of our product line is that innovation begets innovation. By encouraging innovation within our own walls and developing innovative products, we enable our customers to accomplish innovations of their own.

For a case in point, one need look no further than the Autodesk solution for Digital Prototyping. Digital Prototyping gives users the ability to virtually explore a complete product before it becomes real. This allows manufacturers to visualize and simulate the real-world performance of their product with less reliance on costly physical prototypes, ultimately reducing design and production costs — which helps drive greater innovation.

A close look at the Autodesk solution for Digital Prototyping reveals just how innovative a solution it is: for starters, it completely rethinks the manufacturing product development process.

Historically, the manufacturing product development process has been dominated by islands of competency. In the Conceptual Design phase, industrial designers and engineers often use paper-based methods or digital formats that are incompatible with the digital information used in the Engineering phase. In the Engineering phase, mechanical and electrical engineers use different systems and formats, and a lack of automation makes it difficult to capture and rapidly respond to change requests from manufacturing.

Manufacturing is at the downstream end of all the broken digital processes — the disconnection between the Conceptual Design phase, the Engineering components, electrical, and mechanical — and they receive this analog information in the form of drawings. The result is a heavy reliance on physical prototypes and the subsequent impacts on productivity.

The Autodesk solution for Digital Prototyping eliminates these kinds of roadblocks that can hamper innovation. The solution brings together design data from all phases of the product development process to create a single digital model that simulates the complete product and gives engineers the ability to better visualize, optimize, and manage their design before producing a physical prototype.

As a result, manufacturers are able to get their designs done easier, and get their products to market faster. According to an independent study by the Aberdeen Group, best-in-class manufacturers use Digital Prototyping to build half the number of physical prototypes as the average manufacturer, get to market 58 days faster than average, experience 48 percent lower prototyping costs, and ultimately drive greater innovation in their products.

Some of the fruits of innovation that Digital Prototyping enables can be seen on display in Autodesk’s recently opened Customer Briefing Center in Lake Oswego, OR. This state-of-the-art interactive facility provides a showcase for innovative customer work, from a wheelchair that is improving the quality of life for its users, to one of the world’s most advanced remote-controlled demolition robot arms.

These interactive exhibits educate and inspire in two important ways. First, they encourage Autodesk to continue providing the most advanced Digital Prototyping technology available. Just as importantly, they show customers in the automotive, consumer product, and industrial machinery markets the levels of innovation that they can now reach with Digital Prototyping.

For more information on Autodesk’s Digital Prototyping, click here .

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2008 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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