The theme of COFES 2019 was “Technology Convergence” with discussion on how IoT, the Cloud, Virtual/Augmented Reality (VR/AR), Digital Twins and human/machine cooperation will be combined with traditional CAx to influence product design and production. The keynote speaker expressed his opinion that “Digital Twins” is the top opportunity for engineering software vendors. He thinks engineering managers concern about having a Digital Twin strategy for their business and that engineering software vendors can provide a solution.
I’ve attended COFES since its inception 20 years ago. At that time, its primary focus was on 3D parametric modeling with a lot of discussions on how to make it easier to use and how to improve 3D data exchange. As COFES attendees got worn out discussing those topics year after year, COFES organizers shifted attention to PDM and PLM, which was accurately perceived as the new growth market for engineering software vendors. Eventually, endless discussions of PLM also got stale. Along the way, there were topics like Sustainable/Green Engineering, Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing), Visualization and the Cloud, but they did not provide an overarching and compelling theme for the conference.
This year, it is my impression that COFES has squarely turned its attention to physics-based simulation (CAE) and the technologies it underwrites such as IoT, VR, AR, IVR (Immersive Virtual Reality), Digital Twins and human/machine cooperation. As far as I am concerned, digital product simulation combined with smart sensors (IoT) and automatic controls lays the groundwork for the implementation of Digital Twins – where the digital model of a product interacts with its physical twin to improve performance, diagnose problems, avoid failure and optimize design. These topics also engendered discussions of enablers like AI, machine learning and new forms of data representation.
All of the above said to me that the application of CAE in product design and production is on the path to becoming broader, deeper and increasingly mainstreamed. Digital analysis and simulation using CAE in the design process can increase innovation and improve product quality while reducing risk, time and cost. It can decrease the amount of expensive and time-consuming physical prototyping required to create products.
But CAE, for the time being, is not that extensively applied. COFES has historically picked its key themes in advance of their wide implementation which has typically taken longer than forecast by vendors anxious to sell new technologies.
For ZWSOFT, I believe it has shown it can produce CAD/CAM software that is affordable, functional, integrated and easy to use. The question is, can we do the same with CAE? I say “yes”. Moreover, mainstreaming/democratizing CAE will not be accomplished until the technology is broadly used in SMB. ZWSOFT has a worldwide network of partners dialed into that market with products that suit it by being functional, friendly and affordable. As evidenced by COFES, ZWSOFT’s choice to develop and deploy all-in-one CAx is timely and bodes well for its future. The road to all-in-one CAx will not be without challenges, but I believe it is in the DNA of ZWSOFT to accomplish it.