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Want to know the future? Imagine it!

Want to know the future? Imagine it!

"What will tomorrow be like?"

That's an eternal question for the human race, alongside other questions such as "what's out there," referring to man's fascination with the stars.

The Hubble telescope and other NASA projects are helping us find the answer to the latter question. For answers to the former question--about tomorrow--we have to look to ourselves, because we have some control over the shape of things to come. First, we need to imagine what's possible.

Imagining the future is among the first steps in product design. Breakthrough technology often has its origins in pipe dreams.

In the Design News 50th Anniversary Issue, November 4, 1996, we reported on work being done in several quarters that could dramatically change the future of technology in such fields as aerospace, appliances, automotive, computers, consumer products, factory automation, machine tools, and medical. Pilotless aircraft, hybrid automotive engines, and virtual endoscopy are among the innovations we can expect to see coming on line.

But how will engineers work in the future? Dr. Paul MacCready, president of AeroVironment, Inc., says they will become, among other things, system designers. And what tools will they use? Computers and software, of course, and here is where the imagination of Algor President Michael Bussler comes in.

He sees event simulation as the future of finite element analysis, the development of software to model entire events, such as the buckling of a bar. Modeling the event, he says, would show not only what loads would cause buckling, but what happens when buckling occurs.

"What you see is what you get," he says, and you won't need to know as many facts about the design as you currently have to know to get results. Bussler believes event simulation will make mechanism and stress analysis one and the same, and will result in "virtual engineering." His software developers are refining the concept in a new product called Accupak/VE.

Is he right about the future of engineering software? Does it matter? What's important is that he is taking the time to envision what the future might hold. We all should do the same. What's your vision?

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