November 19, 2019 Last updated November 18th, 2019 4,495 Reads share

Upcoming Trends in CAD/CAM: From an Automotive Industry Perspective

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CAD or Computer-aided design is an essential part of the automotive development process. CAD-based models don’t only serve for designing the overall appearance of a vehicle, but also as a basis for configuration and module systems. They’re used for simulation and verification processes. Such products include structure-related information and can be adopted for DMU (digital mock-up) investigations.

CAD systems aren’t new to the automotive industry; the first one was applied in the 1980s. Throughout 30 years of their existence, the design software has evolved into advanced CAD programs that provide countless possibilities for automotive development. Manufacturers will be making more and more use of them, and it’s expected that the global CAD market will reach $13,83 billion in 2028.

In this post, we’re going to dive into existing and upcoming technologies and look at their application in new, improved CAD programs, which will enhance the car manufacturing process. But first, let’s give a short introduction.

CAD in the Automotive Industry

In the mid-80s vehicles were characterized by hardware. The development processes were centered on prototype-based optimization cycles. Back then, car development had a duration of approximately 40 labor hours per car. For comparison, nowadays, it only takes 17-18 hours.

The implementation of computer-aided methods was revised. In the 80s, CAD took over hardware-based engineering tasks. In the late 90s, we already had network-based development. Virtual prototypes finally replaced physical ones for good. Their application brought together partners from all over the world in collaboration to reduce the full-vehicle development project to only three years

Upcoming Trends in CAD

3D-CAD programs fundamentally change applied design methods. Models evolve from static drawings to dynamic, three-dimensional geometric images. Besides that, they include additional data and characteristics. The 3D design allows the integration of production-related knowledge.

CAD has turned into something much more than just a design software. The specification of geometry data is a crucial step in the evolution of 3D-CAD processes. The parametric-associative software divided the administration of geometry and its controlling parameters. This control of geometry model characteristics opened up a field of problem-specific design applications. Such CAD programs now offer several functionalities, including the integration of catalog, data interference, and macro-based interfaces. 

To be more specific, we’re going to move on to listing some exciting future CAD trends and their advantages for the automotive industry.

Integrated Development Platforms

Automotive software development is heading towards integrated packages. It combines CAD and simulation software. The main advantage of this strategy is that it reduces data interference losses. 

The new intelligent geometric data exchange formats will be able to handle not only geometric data but enhanced product information as well. They’re set to increase the efficiency of virtual product development processes significantly. The development will become mostly virtual from the very first concept phase to the aftermarket. However, to make that possible, further integration of characteristics into 3D models is needed so that they can behave as in reality.

3D-CAD is currently dominating the market, reaching a revenue of $5,5 billion in 2018. 

There are already seven integrated development platforms available. Nevertheless, they are complex, which leads to disadvantages in efficiency and handling. They’re overloaded with tons of functionalities, and such platforms have turned into software giants that now offer more than ever.

To be more successful in the future, upcoming and improved development platforms should be smarter and provide integration of multiple disciplines to be easier to handle and more efficient. Furthermore, the module-oriented systems should move on to flexible accounting to consider individual software usage. 

Open-source CAD systems seem to be the best alternatives to traditional ones. An example of such is BRL-CAD. They still aren’t very widespread but are in high demand, due to their flexibility and simplicity. Just like Linux, these programs are based on open-source platforms like the Open CASCADE engine. They’ll provide the right amount of functionalities for product and system design.

The collaboration of environments and CAD systems is essential for the automotive industry. For that reason, CAD enables cloud-based development, so that engineers and designers can all work together. The compatibility of CAD platforms and data management will provide next-level interoperability.

3D Printing

Generally, 3D printing is the ability to create hardware models out of 3D-CAD virtual geometric data. Emerging technologies allowed the use of new materials, such as metal, plastic, textile, and ceramics for the instant generation of a model during the development process. What’s more, it’s characteristics are pretty close to the ones out of serial production. The enhancement of 3D printing technology can make it a part of the mass production process. The significant cost-reduction it enables prompted manufactures desire for deeper integration into development.

Combining hardware and virtual modeling into a single process will need new intelligent materials. For that reason, the Dynamic Physical Rendering (DPR) research project works on the development of flexible material based nanotechnology. It would be controlled by geometry information from 3D-CAD and manual manipulation. With its help, the 3D printing process will be able to form a hardware model, which can be reshaped by hand afterward. To handle those dynamic 3D forms, new approaches to robust software programs are needed.

This concept is also known as “Claytronics.” It opens up a wide range of applications in product design. When it becomes available for industrial use, it will allow for much more productive and creative work. 

Generic Programming

Advanced CAD systems provide functionalities that support the integration of automated computing routines, template models, and programs. All this cuts the development time while increasing product quality. However, CAD systems still show some drawbacks compared to already available scientific applications, such as MATLAB. Currently, applied programming languages aren’t up-to-date for efficient enough programming within CAD. They have several downsides when it comes to deployment and complicated programming. Moreover, they have restricted support for enhanced operations or collaborations.

That’s why upcoming CAD platforms will provide advanced object-oriented programming. They’ll come with integrated functions for efficient problem-solving. These new platforms will change the design processes, turning them into integrated development cycles, including dynamic simulation and layout. Specialized CAD automatisms will enable that. These will support designers by taking care of the management of software packages. 

Furthermore, the CAD systems of the future will use machine learning to provide engineers with optimized processes. That way, they will be able to use suggestions for design problems based on automated algorithms and databases. In other words, future CAD programs will provide advanced knowledge-based engineering.

The automotive industry consists of the development of complex components, modules, and systems. These often include the optimization of partially different aspects — high-quality design results in fewer modification cycles, improved development processes, and better overall product quality. The applied software plays an essential role in the quality of the end-product. That’s why the upcoming CAD systems will be able to assist engineers through the creation phases.

The implementation of generic programming into the CAD environment will use advanced algorithms to optimize the designing process. Generic programming provides new approaches and possibilities for sophisticated product design, which includes numerous components.

CAD – The Future of Automotive Manufacturing

The demand for new approaches and more efficient integration of geometry creation, reduced complexity, and functional development are the main factors influencing upcoming CAD trends.

Emerging technologies such as 3D printing are set to disrupt product modeling processes, which could bring a whole new product design and style to the industry. Machine learning and generic programming will make the development process much more efficient.

Sophie Zoria

Sophie Zoria

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