Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Model-Based Enterprise Summit at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD. This was the 10th annual MBE Summit and was focused on highlighting the practical implementations of MBE in the world, with the main theme being Democratizing the Implementation of MBE.
This event was possibly the most in-depth technical summit I have ever been to. The amount of applications for model-based engineering is amazing and getting to see how people are leveraging this technology is truly eye-opening. The list of speakers was staggering and humbling. It was truly exceptional to see so many experts in their field speak to how digital engineering has been completely transforming their businesses. As a mechanical-minded person focused on technology and interconnected systems, I believe there are certainly some exciting leaps coming in the future.
The summit was five days of full learning, sharing and getting a preview into some of the most cutting-edge technology that Model-Based Design (MBD) is being used for in the workforce. This included digital manufacturing, inspection, systems engineering, digital twin design and even a glimpse into some Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning applications. It was a great way to learn about and contribute to the future ideas, initiatives, standards and technology that is quickly revolutionizing the way that engineering is done and delivered downstream.
The MBE Summit was first created after the Department of Defense assessed that their engineering drawings were not aligning with their engineering models. MBD was developed in conjunction with this summit to alleviate these problems and come up with a solution to place all of the Product and Manufacturing Information (PMI) into the model, and focus on delivering an accurate, 3D representation of any given design, with all of the associated manufacturing information on it. This has proven to be a bit of a disruptive technology, as manufacturing, quality control, purchasing and other areas of any given organization have been trained to rely solely on engineering drawings.
Decentralization of manufacturing systems has amplified the problem of collecting and communicating the product and process specifications downstream as well, particularly to supply chains and production. As global production networks grow, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have to adapt to integrate all of these disparate sources and data and become system integrators rather than just manufacturers. As you start to track and source this data, as well as monitor all of the downstream deliverable, you can adapt and learn based on your data – this allows for better decision making earlier in the life cycle of the design.
The goal of the MBE Summit was to highlight the ways that both the public and private sector can produce, track and reuse critical data. There was also a serious emphasis on cyber-physical systems (CPS), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and AI to enable advanced configuration management of the product life cycle.
There were many presentations from the Department of Defense, focused on how digital data models are rewriting everything we know about what’s possible. This included a speech from Rear Admiral Lorin Selby from the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), U.S. Navy about how live modifications and design adaptivity are critical to how the NAVSEA is going to be developing technology in the future. With so many data points and systems to update, continual updates and information streaming is key, but it is going to have to rely on AI to decide what information to record and what to discard, as well as using a digital twin for each design to track all the information. This will allow software to intelligently push and pull information and for continual updates, similar to the way that smart phones seamlessly update software behind the scenes.
Philomena Zimmerman (Office of Secretary of Defense/Office of Under Secretary of Defense Research & Engineering, United States) gave a speech on the Digital Engineering Strategy and Implementation, and how the Secretary of Defense has put a serious focus on digital engineering. She highlighted how they're implementing and utilizing technology across all sectors of the defense industry.
Christopher Delp from NASA gave a speech on how open source systems engineering is allowing all of the data across all aspects of a design, including systems, structural, mechanical and electrical to come together and be analyzed as an entire system, rather than as individual silos and departments of information. The development of a new open program, the Open CAESAR initiative, was shown Maged Elaasar of JPL to highlight how, with a focus on an open model-based systems engineering community and software, the JPL is able to build an environment to link data documents and programming languages seamlessly. There is more information about this initiative here.
Bryan Fischer from TDP360 LLC gave a speech on GD&T standards and how they apply to the 3D world. He explained how the ASME Y14.47 standard was written and determined. It focuses on the impact of dimensions and PMI on a model and how there should be both dimensions for human consumption, i.e. “interpreted from display”, and semantic dimensions that are machine-readable for automated applications downstream like machining, additive manufacturing and inspection.
One of the most moving presentations, however, was from Thomas Hedberg from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), who was heading up the entire summit. His presentation focused on how NIST is helping to drive the synthesis of advanced manufacturing capabilities and digital technologies to produce highly customizable products faster, cheaper, better and greener. The NIST engineering laboratory is putting a focus on understanding and enabling advanced technologies to drive American manufacturing to the high-tech sector. They’re putting an emphasis on researching and applying disruptive process technologies (additive manufacturing, 3D printing and robotic systems) as well as enabling systems-level technologies such as connected PLM and ERP, and how they all relate to transitioning and transforming into a model-based enterprise.
Key Themes and Takeaways
One common theme of the summit was that when a company transitions to model-based design, the time savings from a design perspective is irrelevant. The time savings and the reduction in error is mostly realized downstream on other areas of the business. It allows for better clarity in manufacturing, a serious reduction in inspection time for quality control and allows for the publication of digital work instructions and assembly manuals. All through the summit, we were constantly shown proof of companies that are leveraging this data for more and more intelligent business applications, allowing for rapid changes to occur downstream from the design, but also seamlessly consume data across all stakeholders of the business, allowing a business to rapidly assess and adapt to any challenges and errors that occur. This creates continuous improvement across an organization.
Another common theme of the summit was how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are handling the transition to digital and how they can leverage all of this information. From personally working with suppliers and engineers in the aerospace manufacturing realm for many years, it will certainly be an interesting transition as this technology becomes more and more standard. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) stated that that making emerging technologies accessible to SMEs will ensure the U.S. industrial base remains competitive and successful, and that the key to success in American industry is that we continually address the industry's need for interoperability across decentralized systems. Ensuring that tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers are able to consume the 3D model-based definitions of the files and use that data to manufacture and inspect is critical. Supply-chain readiness is key to long-term success and as an organization, you will have to understand the needs and readiness of the supply chain in order to truly become a model-based enterprise.
If you’re interested in learning more, or just want to see some of the amazing new innovations that are coming out of the Model-Based sector, all the presentations are made public and presentations from this year’s event and many of the previous summit presentations are now available on their web site.
The 2020 Model-Based Enterprise Summit will take place March 30 – April 2 at NIST in Gaithersburg, MD, so if you have any interest in MBD, MBE or are going to be involved in any sort of model-based process, it might make sense to attend. They’re also looking for speakers. If you have a good presentation about Model-Based Design, then you may want to volunteer!
SOLIDWORKS MBD is an integrated drawingless manufacturing solution which guides the manufacturing process directly in 3D instead of using traditional 2D drawings, which helps streamline production, cut cycle time, reduce errors, and support industry standards. Click below to stream our introductory on-demand webinar.