Video: Autodesk Opens New Technology Center
Matthew Greenwood posted on April 17, 2018 |
New facility bridges design and manufacturing disciplines, bringing ‘Art to Part’.

Autodesk’s new advanced manufacturing facility in Birmingham, England, looks much more like a manufacturing facility than a design facility. This is deliberate, according to Steve Hobbs, Autodesk vice president of Cam and Hybrid Manufacturing.

The innovative software and design company uses the facility as a laboratory for testing and validating design work it undertakes for clients in the manufacturing industry. The new facility handles prototyping, mock-ups and pre-staging for Autodesk’s paid consultancy assignments. By learning about pressure points and opportunities to refine tools in the manufacturing process, Autodesk hopes to provide improved designs that find real-world solutions to manufacturing problems.

“The reason we’re doing that is that it keeps us honest,” Hobbs said. “You can’t amend the design of an airplane just because it’s tough to make. If someone’s prepared to pay you for a solution, then it must be a real problem. So this facility will help make sure our focus is really on the things that matter to people.”

The objective of the Birmingham facility is to ensure the company’s designs are “manufacturing-aware,” so that “we’re not doing dumb things; we’re not doing things that are ridiculously expensive,” Hobbs said.

Bringing design engineers and manufacturing engineers together at the facility allows for increased collaboration between the two disciplines.

“We have to recognize that there are different skills at play [between design and manufacturing engineers],” Hobbs said.

By using computer technologies to bridge those disciplines—so engineers in either discipline are aware of what the other is going to prioritize—the more likely they’ll work harmoniously together to produce an effective result.

Hobbs predicts that it’s going to be easier to conceptualize a design and then rigorously test it. This means that it will be easier to cycle through ideas and come up with a concept that meets the functional or aesthetic objectives of the design. Engineers, whether in design or manufacturing, will need to adapt to the increasing complexity of designs—especially when aided by advanced technology.

“Expectations keep moving forward as fast as the technology does,” Hobbs said.

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