Sponsored story: CAD and PLM – The next 30 years

Tom Shelley gets a horse's mouth insight into the shape of CAD and PLM in the years to come.

Bernard Charlès, CEO of Dassault Systèmes forsees a dramatic increase in 3D virtual reality in CAD, education and every day living, with 3D printing of products and many other major developments likely in the next ten years, let alone the next 30 years.

Looking back over how far CAD has come in the last 30 years, he expresses the opinion to us that presently, we are still in the "Stone age", compared to where we will be in years to come.

From crude beginnings in 1980 – Matra Datavision was founded that year and Dassault Systèmes the year following – he asks: "What were the things that made it possible to design a completely virtual aeroplane that would take off or a car that would crash exactly the way it had been modelled ?" "What has been achieved", he explains is the "Capability to represent, simulate and predict what will happen in real life." He predicted that this process will now continue further, with, "Not only the capacity to see" what can be expected to happen but, "The capacity to live in and go inside" a representation of a virtual world that will be so realistic that, "You will not be sure if it is a dream." He argued that this will be necessary in order to ensure better product design by achieving a "Fusion between virtual and real world, in which the product will be used."

His game plan in engineering, he summarised as: "Develop new collaborative platforms, using the power of 3D and print the product." He was of the opinion that within five years, 3D printing would be as routine as colour 2D printing is now.

When asked what route he thought the 3D experience would take, he replies that this might be achieved by wearing glasses, but the interface through which the virtual world would be experienced and worked in would not be a screen but "Just a thin piece of glass". "Why is the display on a desk? Why is it not wherever you are looking? 3D television is already with us. In future, this will change so much." He also argued that designers should begin their design in a realistic environment, to help them think about how products are going to be manufactured and assembled, as well as used, right from the beginning. He said that he asks: "Why are objects being designed floating in the air. If they are going to be made and used, they are going to be sitting on a chassis or on the ground."

He argues that design should be in a "Lifelike experience" as regards both using and making the product, and that "Product Lifecycle Management" is going to progress to "Product in Life", and that designers will greatly benefit from trying to use their virtual products in a realistic virtual environment before finalising their designs.

He specifically mentions the Infinite Z technology, where designers wearing glasses interact with models that appear to hang in front of them using a special stylus, as one example of the route the company might follow, and also the Tobii eye tracking technology, where users direct by looking, instead of using a mouse.

However, he clearly sees his company's 3D technology as being something that has wider application than just in the engineering design office. "All education and scientific research will use virtual worlds. Learning by experience is the most powerful way for humanity. This process will accelerate," he expanded. He suggested that great advances in merging real and virtual worlds are already being made in the film, television and games industries, and much of this is likely to ripple through into engineering design and manufacturing and research and education.

In all areas, he argues that, "Contribution of 3D to society is going to be very profound." The company is already making advances into the biotechnology and consumer arenas, where it expects its 3D businesses to grow substantially.

In biotech, Dassault Systèmes is coordinating the European Union 'BioIntelligence' research and development programme, which is receiving a grant of €46.3 million from the French government. The immediate aim is to promote the use of systemic modelling and simulation tools to exploit biomedical databases based on the PLM used by manufacturing, to enable life science industries to optimise research phases.

3D simulation is already being used in the design of drug molecules and studies of molecular processes in the human body, and the wheel comes full circle with the latest developments in tissue engineering, to create replacement living organs, using engineering methods. This arises because of the limitations of purely mechanical prosthetics and the way that growing new organs all the way from stem cells looks to be far in the future. Harvard Medical School, M. Charlès, said, is making extensive use of the Dassault Systèmes product, Simulia, for simulating human skeletal interactions with a view to developing innovative treatments for ailing bones. For this, Harvard researchers have teamed up with engineers from Foster-Miller, part of QinetiQ North America.

In the consumer arena, as we have long predicted in Eureka, M. Charlès believes that customers who wish to buy products using the Internet will increasingly demand a virtual experience before they purchase. This is likely to particularly apply to clothes, where potential purchasers can expect to be scanned in a booth or at home and then be able to see how garments will look on them as they move. However, the same capability also is likely to be demanded by customers seeking to buy almost any products, and the simulations will depend on the 3D and functional data produced during the design process.

M. Charlès said that investigative police in France already make use of Dassault Systèmes Virtools in an application called 'SiVIC' – Simulateur Virtuel d'Investigation Criminelle - to train officers in crime scene investigation. The simulation is projected onto the walls of a virtual reality cube and other rescue and safety scenarios.

As M. Charlès sums up, "We are now just at the beginning."

Dassault Systemes

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