Is MIT About to Change the Way We Use CAD?
Kyle Maxey posted on July 28, 2017 |
An MIT student test-drives the InstantCAD plug-in.

An MIT student test-drives the InstantCAD plug-in.

Just the other day,I made the remark that many of today’s popular CAD tools have become so mature that new releases lack dramatic feature updates. In fact, contemporary releases are heavily focused on tweaking and improving older features and adding new tools that can be shelved away in the “minor update” cubby.  So, it stands to reason that if CAD is going to see a dramatic leap forward in ability, somebody needs to bring a big idea to the table. And it just so happens that a team from MIT and Columbia University may have delivered an innovative idea that just might shake CAD out of its developmental doldrums.

Called InstantCAD, the prototype plug-in that can be integrated with existing CAD packages and “lets designers interactively edit, improve and optimize CAD models using a more streamlined and intuitive workflow.”

To achieve this dramatic result, researchers have combined the parametric workflows of CAD applications with the simulation workflow of a CAE program to reduce the time that it takes to improve a model.

According to MIT, “it can be difficult to determine the absolute best design for what you want your object to do, because there are many different options for modifying the design. On top of that, the process is time-consuming because changing a single property means having to wait to regenerate the new design, run a simulation, see the result, and then figure out what to do next. With InstantCAD, the process of improving and optimizing the design can be done in real-time, saving engineers days or weeks.”

Once a design has been created, InstantCAD can send a model to the cloud where a bevy of “geometric evaluations and simulations” can be run on the object simultaneously. Once these simulations are complete, designers will be able to evaluate the results using two different methods. The first, “interactive exploration,” provides users with a user interface where real-time feedback on how design changes will affect performance automatic optimization can be viewed. The second method that InstantCAD provides for design optimization, “automatic optimization,” gives drafters the chance to define design parameters and let the system come up with an ideal topology.

Through the use of these tools, InstantCAD’s engineers believe that they can save users days, if not weeks, of design time, making it easier to innovate. But there’s more.

“Our system doesn’t just save you time for changing designs, but has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of the products themselves,” said Wojciech Matusik, associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. “The more complex your design gets, the more important this kind of a tool can be.”

Maybe InstantCAD isn’t the big idea that the CAD industry needs to rejuvenate its development cycle. Maybe VR integration and haptic interfaces represent that new paradigm. Whatever the case may be, InstantCAD looks like an intriguing new direction for drafters and engineers.

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