Given the overwhelming groundswell of enthusiasm for social networks and consumers’ relentless quest for sharing -- and over-sharing -- with communities of like-minded peers (as well as vehement opponents), it makes sense that many new paradigms and capabilities are finding their way into traditional engineering tools, as well as into new interpretations of traditional tools.
Several of the leading CAD and PLM vendors, as well as startups, are enhancing the traditional design experience with social functionality, allowing engineers to better locate IP experts, collaborate on designs, foster brainstorming around innovation, and in some cases, actually create new innovations in an open, social forum.
Click the image below to see 15 examples of CAD going social:
Local Motors is a car company built around the concept of social product development and co-creation. This is the winning design for the FLYPMODE, the experimental crowd-derived Combat Support Vehicle Local Motors worked on in conjunction with DARPA. (Source: Local Motors)
More than mobile capabilities, the utility of adding social functionality to CAD and PLM platforms seems to raise some serious skepticism among traditional engineers. Now that some of these functions have found their way into current design tool platforms, I'm curious if our audience is coming around and finding some of these capabilities useful, maybe even indispensible to their engineering workflows. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
The idea is leverage some of the newer collaborative and interactive capabilities people are getting accustomed to in their personal lives--rating systems, status comments, sharing information, seeking out like-minded peers--and incorporating them into traditional CAD and other design tools to foster a more inclusive and collaborative design interaction. I don't think the social capabilities are intended for sharing IP, but rather for fostering more design interaction and feedback and brainstorming in a manner that feels comfortable with how people are already doing this today on a personal level.
I suppose a auto manufacturer might post designs for concept cars so consumers could voice their opinions and perhaps check-off "must have" features in new models. But companies that develop other types of products might not want to expose their designs until they have them ready for sale. As an entrepreneur, the last thing I'd want is to tip off competitors about the design work underway at my company. Even if I shared the information with a close group of colleagues I'd still worry the information would "get out."
The "social side" of CAD might seem like a good idea, but only for a few companies.
The Local Motors example highlighted opens up its design process to a broader crowd to develop and refine its IP, but it (meaning the car company) was predicated on the open source business model as one of its key differentiators in its approach to building automobiles.
Most companies won't leverage social capabilities in such a public and open manner. They won't open up designs on Facebook or use Twitter to microblog to each other about all of their design strategies. What I do see happening is Facebook-like and Twitter-like functionality being added to next-generation CAD and PLM platforms. In that way, the extended design groups working on a car or an aircraft can leverage social-type functions to better collaborate and brainstorm within the secure parameters of their traditional design environments.
The area of social innovation, and particularly for PLM is indeed emerging. I am aware that the initial and primary concern of designers and companies is the protection of their IP and ideation. That is a concern to me also. One thing that those if us who have been engineers and designers for many years have to undertstand is that the notion of collaborative design, social design, and the resulting emergence of knowledge communities is indeed a generational phenomenon. Designers and engineers that have grown up totally immersed in the environment of social media are more apt to be comfortable in a social innovation environment. The idea is that the pool of ideation and creation is vastly larger outside the walls of the company design community. Of course there has to be point in the product development process where things go black. Each engineering/design organization and company has to decide at what point that is. Some will never allow their ideation process to go outside the walls of their company. The up side is simply that design collaboration and knowledge communities will offer an order of magnitude more in exposure to new innovation and ideation.
I do not see this going far. I like the idea but how do you communicate outside your company without breaching company, state, and country policy? How can you insure that who you are talking with is not outside the country? A good majority of industries are still not suited for this environment. I personally don't see this benefiting any one that has proprietary information. The small stuff is what makes a design work so well. A clear understanding of the process, the details, and a good community are key factors. But a lot of the details have been gathered with years of legacy work. Your internal community knows these facts but do you really want to discuss them externally? Engineering businesses live and die on the basis of information control.
Many valid comments about companies not divulging IP. In addition there's exposure in the opposite direction. Someone in the public "social circle" provides a great idea. Company implements the idea and it's a huge money-making "win". Person providing the idea sues the company. The Facebook lawsuit and appeals is an example of this. The lawsuits may be groundless but that doesn't prevent exposure.
Yes, I can see your point, Beth. These tools are coalescing behavior that is already becoming common. Group communication over the Internet is something we've all becoming accustomed to over the past few years. These comments are an example. The tools you display seem designed to determine the focus of contributions and the specific population.
It's nice to see the range of participation and the range of those whose comments and suggestions are brought in.
While every company might have their own solution for PLM, Aras Innovator 10 intends to make PLM easier for all company sizes through its customization. The program is also not resource intensive, which allows it to be appropriated for any use. Some have even linked it to the Raspberry Pi.
solidThinking updated its Inspire program with a multitude of features to expedite the conception and prototype process. The latest version lets users blend design with engineering and manufacturing constraints to produce the cheapest, most efficient design before production.
MIT students modified a 3D printer to enable it to print more than one object and print on top of existing printed objects. All of this was made possible by modifying a Solidoodle with a height measuring laser.
Siemens released Intosite, a cloud-based, location-aware SaaS app that lets users navigate a virtual production facility in much of the same fashion as traversing through Google Earth. Users can access PLM, IT, and other pertinent information for specific points on a factory floor or at an outdoor location.
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