Future of Design: CAD + AR

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CAD software has made product design and testing more realistic for engineers and designers over the last 20 years, however, a new wave of technology is expected to change the game and CAD software developers are starting to jump on it.

Augmented Reality (AR) technology, the superposition of computer graphics onto the real world, has gained steam early among the video gaming industry, but is now furthering its reach to other territories, including product development. According to a GrabCAD.com blog, integrating AR technology with CAD will allow designers and consumers to create, improve and even test products and parts in a virtual space before they get manufactured, which will save time and money.

Here is a list of CAD giants who are collaborating with AR companies or have expanded their brand to include AR integration:

Dassault Systèmes

Dassault Systemes, the software company behind the popular CAD systems SolidWorks and CATiA, announced earlier this year that SolidWorks’ applications will have AR integration with AR product maker, Meta. Meta is a Silicon Valley company that got its initial investment from crowdfunding. With their Meta 2 headgear, SolidWorks users will be able to grab, move, and scale photorealistic 3D CAD files in real space, enhancing the 3D design and presentation process.

“Collaboration through augmented reality is the next step in the natural evolution of 3D design authoring,” said Kishore Boyalakuntla, vice president, product portfolio management and SOLIDWORKS brand UX leader. “With Meta extending new AR features, designers across the product life cycle – from concept to prototype to manufacturing – will benefit significantly from this partnership.”

Autodesk

In 2015, prominent CAD developer Autodesk announced its CAD integration with Microsoft’s AR smartglasses, HoloLens. Through HoloLens, mechanical engineers can make their design come to life in a holographic image, and be able to inspect and test the product without having to make a prototype. Though this integration is still in its developmental phase and is limited to the Fusion 360 software, Autodesk envisions that this integration will change how many people design, collaborate and sell their products in the future.

PTC

Over the last 5 years, Creo CAD developer, PTC, had been acquiring companies that are big playmakers within the Internet of Things (IoT) and AR sector such as Thingworx, Vuforia and more recently, Waypoint Labs. These acquisition have already been incorporated in the latest version of Creo (4.0), where engineers are able to see an AR simulation of their design using their smartphone or tablet through the ThingWorx app. Unlike the other CAD developers, PTC is not limiting its AR simulation to their CAD systems. Through ThingWorx and Vuforia, PTC is able to provide AR integration for the full life cycle of the product development process and manufacturing operations.

The implementation of AR within these design tools will soon change the standards and operational workflow of how products are conceptualized and built. It will be interesting to see how this will affect the job requirements needed of engineers when employers also jump in on this bandwagon.

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