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2024 Trends: Expanded Simulation, Generative AI and Resurgence in Cloud Migration

As we enter the new year, Jonathan Girroir, Technology Evangelist at Tech Soft 3D shares his thoughts on where 3D technology will go in 2024. Tech Soft 3D has spent over 25 years helping more than 700 companies build 3D engineering software for CAD, CAM, PLM, AEC, BIM, CAE, FEA, and 3D printing.

The 3D industry never seems to fail to come up with new ways to accelerate the rate of its own change and surprise us all along the way. 2024 will bring changes to the 3D landscape unlike anything we’ve seen before, yet there are some clues to help point us in the right direction. With this said, here are 4 initiatives the 3D engineering industry is embarking on, expanding, or otherwise likely to be deeply involved within the coming year. They include some you expect, some old faces, resurgent, and some that reshape how we design applications entirely.

Artificial Intelligence: The Trend on Every List

No prizes for guessing the first on our list, AI is the buzzword across nearly every domain involving tech. With the explosion of ChatGPT, Bard, and dozens of other powerful AI services, it’s hard not to feel like we are scratching the tip of the AI iceberg across nearly every industry. Artificial intelligence isn’t going anywhere, from writing and content generation to data management and processing. With all of this, many are considering AI applications for 3D engineering software.

We are confident in saying AI will impact our applications in innumerable ways in the next few years. The level of innovation in the industry is unparalleled, and the speed at which software is released is likely to only increase to keep pace with these new tools.

While people want AI-powered everything in the future, there are many ways we will be impacted in the short term. We can see it in training tools within software, with training models run by AI language models and AI-empowered chatbots. This presents the unique challenge of writing documentation in a way AI can understand and provide the information to users on demand. This unlocks a host of potential for more comprehensive, faster training of new users in applications.

It is crucial to understand: AI is not going to do the work of an engineer. What it will do is enable us to get them up to speed faster and empower them to do more with their time and energy.

This expansion of how we think about problems is an area where AI can shine. AI is fantastic at helping find a starting place, a brainstorming kernel. While a user will need to train the AI, once it is working, it can offer a thousand outside-the-box solutions from which you and your team can start from. In summary, users are going to demand more a comprehensive experience with software, and the process of how we create applications will have to evolve to match.

Generative Design: More Holistic Problem-solving is Essential

Generative Design is a term that can make people nervous. In the coming year, we see a real paradigm shift beginning in how users will interact with software, and how design must evolve as a result. Simply, software is going to have to move on from focusing on a solution to focusing on defining the problem in broad strokes. Generative design, at its core, will require us to consider functional requirements and constraints but also additional context including material constraints and availability, the supply chain, manufacturing constraints, economic factors, codify them in algorithms and then maximize for all of them. Solutions will be less linear, and have to take far more into account.

This begins with more comprehensive, focused descriptions of the problem you are trying to solve. For the 3D engineering market, this requires new tools, better interoperability and connectivity between applications, particularly in simulation and analysis. Applications will need to tie to one another in ways they never have to get the most out of this iterative approach. More systems with APIs are needed to make these things possible.

Expanded Use of Simulation and its ‘Left Shift’

With the ever-creeping need to make smarter decisions, simulations are more and more important to make better products. Related to generative design, we predict an expansion in the usage of simulation and ‘left shift’ in when we use such tools in a product’s life cycle. Historically in the left-to-right product life cycle, 3D engineering saw simulation used predominantly in the engineering and manufacturing stages, towards the end of a product development. Once we had a finalized design, we simulated, got feedback, and iterated from there based on the requirements. This is changing.

In 2024, we expect to see simulation used comprehensively in areas it was previously used sparingly. We are seeing simulations in design stages, to more quickly react to feedback and constraints than before. The increase in simulation and testing doesn’t stop there. Simulation of the supply chain, born out of necessity during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, is becoming more commonplace. We are seeing its benefits: savings of time, money, and better-built products that are more resilient to supply chain issues.

Cloud Migration: An Old Trend, Resurgent

Reading about cloud migration in a predictions list for 2024 may feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but we expect this to be just as significant a future shift as anything else on this list. Believe it or not, not everything is on the cloud already.

While the vast majority of new products are already cloud-native, there are a tremendous number of legacy products still waiting in the wings. Notably, the majority of engineering is still done on desktop applications in 2023. This next year is a critical moment as these gargantuan, slow-moving companies make this switch. Many are using a tiered approach to migrating, and however it is done, the potential this creates is huge for the industry

Cloud migration of these powerful applications unlocks a wealth of data. We can use this to train AI, better empowering the leading buzzword of the coming year. This data means more APIs, allowing us to create better generative approaches. This year is going to see a continuation of the renewed interest in moving data and applications to the cloud.

3D engineering platforms are consolidating for many reasons. They are looking at how they can use a single modeling kernel, data pipeline, graphical representation, and publishing tools. Platforms as a service (PaaS) are growing in relevance, popularity, and functionality. We have examples to back this up: Autodesk Forge has become Autodesk Platform Services, Hexagon has Nexus, and a handful of other 3D engineering products are soon to launch.

Nearly everyone in the industry has dreamt of consolidation of these key components, and this is the best opportunity we will have to do so. The result would be better workflows, huge monetary savings, and the streamlined development cycle many have been hoping for for decades. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why cloud migration is a hot topic again and is only going to get hotter in 2024.

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