Most engineers would not refuse to use a software tool that would help them develop more innovative designs. That is exactly what Invention Machine (www.invention-machine.com) is banking on.
The Boston-based company has introduced a product called Goldfire Innovator that addresses the front-end of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).
The company says that it is the first software to integrate within a single desktop platform comprehensive functions and content that help the innovation process, upstream from PLM. These include problem-analysis tools and methodologies that guide users to solutions; semantic knowledge retrieval, providing access to relevant content; and proprietary patent information and access to more than 9,000 scientific effects and 2,000 scientific websites.
One of Invention Machine's customers is GKN Aerospace, located in Cowes in the UK. Kazunari Sukui, technology development engineer, says that while he just started using the technology at the end of 2003, GKN plans to use it to find new ways of making components.
"One of the major benefits of the software is it tries to make engineers think in a more innovative way," he says. "It makes you think creatively rather than just solving problems."
The software does this, he says, because it makes the engineer break down a project into small components. "The program asks you questions, such as 'have you ever thought of doing this?' It is a step by step process. The software also has a set of scientific effects, which is quite good," he adds.
The software is a knowledge base that keeps building its knowledge as the engineer uses it, explains Rick Bigley, solutions engineer for Invention Machine.
Bigley explains that there are three major components to the software that are integrated into one product: the Optimizer, the Researcher, and the Innovation Trend Analysis, which looks at the competitive landscape and sees what patents the competition has filed.
"This technology gives an engineer the tools to fully understand the design or the process and all the interactions, and how they affect one another good and bad," Bigley says.
The software ranks the components or the steps, and will eliminate the less useful functions and simplify the design or process, he adds.