Generative design tools will make engineering jobs harder

Written by Adam Tank, Chief Customer Officer

Manual Engineering – CAD – Automation

Engineers historically designed products and systems using pen and paper. Drawings were done manually, with large teams of people completing drafts on big desks in giant rooms:

Room of engineers drafting on paper

The process was cumbersome, laborious, and often inconsistent – each draftsman or draftswoman would have his or her own process for designing and even basic designs took weeks or months to complete. If clients wanted edits or changes the process had to start from the beginning and required complete revisions of the hand drawn designs.

Computer Aided Design (CAD)

The computer revolution changed everything. Widespread adoption of computers in the workplace enabled engineers to draft, re-draft, and complete designs with relative ease compared to previous processes. The first version of drafting software, Sketchpad, was available in the mid 1960’s:

Computer Aided Drafting, CAD

Computer Aided Design (CAD) software that blossomed throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s forever changed how engineers interacted with their designs, their teams, and their clients. Designs became easier to create and reproduce, as well as share in a digital format. The benefits were quickly recognized and CAD software proliferated throughout universities and most every engineering firm around the world.

This proliferation also led to unintended consequences – clients and companies began expecting a greater volume of work to be done at lightning speed… leaving little time for engineers to innovate and analyze alternative options, or what is now referred to as ‘optioneering’.

Is modern engineering just copy pasting?

Even with incredible advances in modern CAD software too many engineers find themselves with an abundance of work and not enough time to do it. This leaves engineers feeling frustrated, rushed, unhappy, and unfulfilled in their day-to-day work.

Today’s engineers do too much of what should be done by software – drafting – and not enough of what they want to be doing – engineering.

Symptoms of this manifest in inconsistent design quality across divisions or regions, clients left feeling unimpressed and undervalued, and challenges in recruiting young engineering talent.

If economic growth continues there will be plenty of work for design engineering firms. Global investment in infrastructure necessitates complex, intricate design and requires mountains of capital. The challenges engineering firms face will continue to expand – unless a highly advanced form of design generation comes into fruition.

Generative Design and Automated Engineering Software

There is hope. Generative and parametric design is becoming mainstream and engineering firms are capitalizing on new advances in design automation technology. Specific forms of computational algorithms provide powerful means of creating and optimizing preliminary designs for most any environment, spanning industries and projects around the world.

By bringing design automation earlier in the project lifecycle, engineers can allow computers to swiftly assess and generate a multitude of optimized, error-free design options in the preliminary phases and shift expensive engineering hours to complex, higher-level work that engineers love to do.

Preliminary design automation allows firms to respond to optimize for a variety of options and parameters that they never had time to before, have complete CAD files generated without human input, and be able to respond to client requests more effectively. Firms that rely on billable hours can reduce their non-billable burden and complete more profitable, cost-recoverable work. And for firms that aren’t able to bill for services in the preliminary phases of projects, they can now allow computers to do the bulk of that work for them – permitting engineers to work on new or existing projects and create innovative solutions that help them win more work.

We want to make your job harder. We want you to spend time thinking about the most complex infrastructure problems in the world – not moving lines around on diagrams and working on routine, monotonous projects.

We look forward to sharing case studies and stories of how design automation is changing the way engineering firms do business. Send us a note here and check out our LinkedIn page to stay up to date with the latest in engineering automation trends.

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