TROY, MI – As more manufacturing companies invest in AI and machine learning to tap the benefits of their application in simulation design, Altair sees a growing need for an unfamiliar skillset in the engineer’s wheelhouse: data science, according to Brett Chouinard, CTO, Altair.

While engineers have the design knowledge, they are typically not equipped to handle data at scale or properly interpret its meaning, he says. However, engineers have the analytical mindset to embrace data science. As hiring trends reveal, the time has come for the engineer/data scientist to emerge, where having expertise in data analysis, along with engineering, is essential to tapping the competitive advantages of AI. By leveraging insights from historical as well as real-time data, engineers can make quicker and smarter design decisions earlier in the process, resulting in shorter time to market and more innovative and efficient products.

Chouinard also predicts students need to be well-equipped to tackle challenges and deliver breakthroughs across industries. While academia is typically slower to adapt to active business trends, progressive, forward-thinking universities will begin to close the gap between engineering and data science, offering a combined mechatronics degree. This will replace the separate mechanical and electrical engineering degrees, as these disciplines are increasingly converging in products like autonomous vehicles and aircraft, according to Chouinard.

Also, the global pandemic has accelerated the trend toward a more virtualized enterprise on a number of levels. For many industries, simulation-driven design is the most effective alternative to in-person product testing and has been especially impactful in a time when physical distancing remains essential. In 2022, designers and engineers will continue to push the boundaries of what can be done using simulation models, steadily reducing the need for physical testing, and saving countless hours, resources, and materials. The most prominent example is the vehicle crash test, which may soon become obsolete, as advanced digital twin technology and real-time data insights become more mainstream. Not only do these engineering processes result in less physical interaction and quicker and more efficient design cycles, but also less material waste to help toward sustainability across multiple industries.

The pandemic has exposed the risks of the long standing just-in-time manufacturing model, where items are created to meet demand to avoid having surplus, says Altair’s CTO. While some areas of the global supply chain will improve in 2022, other segments may get worse, forcing organizations to seek new approaches and potentially partner across industries to gain more control over the supply chain at local levels. As an example, a shortage in sheet metal will have a profound impact on the auto industry in the coming year, and US auto manufacturers will likely need to collaborate to have greater control of their supply chain, while also getting more creative about alternative materials in the future.

In 2022, eyes will be on the agriculture industry as a showcase for technology breakthroughs, according to Chouinard. For instance, researchers have been exploring the viability of drone technology to help solve the water scarcity issue. As this technology gets further developed, more farmers will be able to fly drones over large tracts of land to distribute water and manage their irrigation systems more efficiently. We will see fully autonomous tractors also gain traction, using near-field sensors and GPS signals from air and local devices to navigate large plots of land without human intervention. These advancements in farming are poised to transform agriculture and create new economic and environmental opportunities for positive and lasting change.

Finally, concrete, a staple material for architecture, engineering, and construction professionals, is dropping in popularity because of its negative effects on the environment. The unforgiving material has a colossal carbon footprint, says Chouinard. At least 8% of global carbon emissions come from the concrete industry. In the new year, the AEC industry will look to timber as a sustainable alternative to concrete, especially with its renewable attributes, but designing for unfamiliar materials such as timber requires precision and accuracy in modeling and analyzing structures. Construction companies and architectural firms will need to invest in engineering software tools that enable structural analysis and design to ensure integrity, viability, and adherence to strict building codes and regulations during the design process.

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