In 10 years??

Discussion in 'Software' started by duluthboats, May 29, 2002.

  1. duluthboats
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    duluthboats Senior Dreamer

    This is an interesting little article for those that are watching the computer take on more and more. Cad-Cam has improved my productivity by a factor of 10. I program and operate CNC machine tools. As we keep getting upgrades for our software I wonder where I’ll be 10 years from now. Building boats as a supplement to my retirement I hope. :D

    Will it be this way with boat design also? Will the field of naval architecture be taken over by the computer and some artistic visionaries? As with most engineering fields it all comes down to the numbers. Computers are much better at numbers than people.

    Any thoughts on this?

    Gary


    http://www.cadalyst.com/news/viewpoint/0502viewpoint.html
     
  2. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    I am not worried. I remember hearing this concern 10 years ago that CAD programs will “do it all” and make the architect, designer, and engineer obsolete by 2000.
    To start with his first point about eliminating drafters, back in 1994 I started playing with the first software which was supposed to automate the process of 3d modeling. Well, I’m still doing 3d models by hand (with solids, add and subtract functions mixed with surfaces for non-rectangular shapes). While tools like Architectural Desktop look good in theory, allowing you to draw the 2d and 3d at the same time, there is a heavy cost in terms of inflexibility – sure they can do straight walls with rectangular openings and standard stairs, but once you introduce anything which breaks with the rubber stamp it still is more of a hindrance. Likewise I’m still drawing and labeling sections by hand because there again there are always nonstandard elements so it is still faster to use the human brain direct to create the drawing as a representation than to try and convince the software to break with the rubber stamp. Now obviously things will continue to get better, and Art is working with newer software than I by a year or two, but I still would be surprised if the development can truly replace drafters within 4 years. Possibly tasks will change from 2d drawing to 3d modeling, and the drawing process will shift, but I think it will still be a while with any custom building.

    As to the broadening of his original premise to include Architects and Engineers and presumably Naval Architects and Yacht Designers becoming obsolete as well, there I believe he has gone too far. Yes software will be able to spit out working drawings for a modular home or a pole barn with the touch of a key, but this will be all the better as it will free the professional to spend his energy drawing and calculating things which are worth his effort. In our current built environment, there is plenty for the designer to do once relieved of the most rudimentary tasks.
     
  3. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    Calatrava Bach Leimbach Bridge
     

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  4. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    Calatrava Alamillo Bridge
     

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  5. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    Calatrava Bach de Roda Felipe II
     

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  6. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    Calatrava Bach Cascine Footbridge
     

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  7. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    Another view of Calatrava's Alamillo Bridge
     

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  8. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    Or for another example, Rem Koolhaas
     

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  9. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    I'm not sure if you guys ever watch Carlie Rose on PBS. But if you do you may have seen Rem Koolhaas recently interviewed where he talked about designing the shopping center & store because it was at the heart of American life and commerce. It's not so much that I like his finished buildings in themselves, but I like his thought process and the way he approaches every commission from a new angle that I had not seen before. Rather than looking at the store as a computer program would, basing a parametric model on the typical "store-101", he looks at it from a fresh perspective and creates something entirely new. Even his choice of words as he describes his work are from a vocabulary not typically applied to the building type he is talking about. Listening to him speak it's as if he approaches it with a new logic from the everyday one I'm used to... as if typical architects are using the human version of windows and he's using linux or a macintosh or an entirely new operating system instead which puts a new slant on the everyday problem.
     

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  10. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    And one last Rem Koolhaas image:
     

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  11. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    Not every building or boat can be designed parametrically – I would hate to see the waterways filled with the exact same bayliner based on the customer hitting “4 berths, two engines, 35 mph, white”, and I hope that others feel the same. I really hate seeing those subdivisions of all the same $400,000 house looking at the neighbor’s same $400,000 house, or worse all those exactly-the-same 4 window 3:12 pitch modular homes, with the neighbor’s mirrored if you’re lucky.

    Software will free the draftsman from drawing the same or very similar detail 100 times. Hopefully software will not simply move the client's money from paying a draftsman not quite enough to create something really special to paying for expensive software to knock out an even more generic product. We do see more modular homes here now than we did before because costs make paying a custom builder and Architect prohibitive. And I see Brunswick just rolled out what they calls a "revolutionary" (in affordability) $9,995 Bayliner 175 built in Mexico. I suppose the critical issue is not how good software will get, but if the public cares about quality and design and how the economic and forces of demand will shape our world in the years to come. Computers could automate the task and roll out 1000 boats all exactly the same numerically perfect based on one model and one set of "average joe" needs reducing costs to a bare minimum by standardizing everything at the expense of not meeting any of the customers needs exactly. But it could also help the designer speed along the “grunt work" so he can spend the same time designing something better than ever. I really hope people do want something special rather than something generic. I certainly do.
     
  12. duluthboats
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    duluthboats Senior Dreamer

    I really did think there would be more interest in this subject. Do I think computers are going to replace us? No way. What I do see happening is we are becoming much more productive. The CAD systems allow the designer to concentrate on the design and not worry about the math. Instead of stifling creativity I believe it promotes it. I’ll use myself again, not a good example but the only one I have. Ten years ago if I wrote a program that worked, I smiled and let it run. Even if, after the fact I knew I could make improvements. I just never had the time to do a rewrite. Today I can do changes in minutes not days. Back to boats. As modeling software improves, a designer will be able to tweak his design many times before it ever leaves the concept stage. The good designers will be doing more work and the rest will be doing something else. CAD is not magic, but is a very powerful tool. In the hands of a good designer it will do wonders. In the hands of a poor one it will do nothing.

    Jeff, thank you for the cool pictures and your comments.

    Gary
     
  13. Jeff
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    Jeff Moderator

    Likewise – when I spend a little time modeling in modern design software I can’t believe the amount of time I spent doing my first 3D hull in AutoCad, manually fairing each station and then manually skinning the whole model between stations. Then when I saw something I wanted to change in the final model, I knew it would take me another 10 hours to refair and reskin. Now it’s a matter of seconds. And because of the speed, you can use 3d models in the design process instead of just at a late stage. But at the same time, software still has a long ways to go before it becomes truly transparent to the design process. For example, still a model is largely one-way, that is you move towards a target but not all actions are reversable so you do still have to "redo" instead of a model being entirely plastic. Even though software today is so far advanced beyond that from just a few years ago, there is still a good deal of manual labor and repetitive tasks which could be further streamlined in the design process.

    But this is definitely a relevant thread. Though I’m not worried about the capabilities of software displacing the designer, I am worried about the economic forces which advanced software and mass production techniques bring into play. I am worried that the public might go for "cheaper" or "value packed" mass-produced models instead of "better" or "perfect" custom boats and in this way designers and the design process could be displaced in the future. Or possibly there could be a change from "project" designers working on unique yachts to "process" designers working on increasingly complex details of a single design project for what will then be an increasingly mass-produced model.
     
  14. tspeer
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    tspeer Senior Member

    One direction I think will become evident in the next few years is the convergence of production and one-off boats.

    With CAD/CAM, it doesn't take much more effort to crank out a custom design than it does to make a production version. Numerically controlled cutters are just as efficient producing one each of 50 different parts as they are at producing 50 copies of the same part.

    Techniques like resin infusion drastically reduces the labor and cycle time, but requires a very expensive learning curve. Individual boat builders will find it hard to afford scrapping whole hulls until they get it right. And many will be reluctant to pony up $10,000 for the license fee on an established process.

    What I think this means is the bigger outfits that can afford the captial investment will be able to compete with the little guys on the little jobs and produce a very high quality product. Will that be the end of the little guy? Probably not, but the nature of the business will change.

    The small builder may well contract out to more specialized firms for many parts of the job. For example, Janicki has already made a reputation for being able to hog out plugs from high density foam, and it may well be cheaper for a small outfit to have this done for them than to spend the manpower to produce a plug from more traditional materials. Especially if one aims for high dimensional accuracy so as to match up with NC-produced interior parts.

    There are lots of business analogs for this. Hollywood has a few big studios, but without all the small firms that do all the supporting work, the studios would be no more substantial than the Potemkin villages on the back lots. Silicon Valley works by having a network of small firms that coalesce to do one project, then reform with others to do a different project. Aerospace is also going this way. The major firms are dying and merging for survival, but the action in General Aviation is in the small firms producing everything from kitplanes to the Eclipse business jet. The mammals are already running around under the legs of the dinosaurs.

    The small business that don't adopt this model for creating new boats will settle into new niches. There will be some demand for traditional craftsmanship - wooden boats haven't disappeared from the scene and probably won't. Some boatbuilders will become more service oriented, doing more maintenance and repair. And some will become specialist suppliers, concentrating on products that require a limited range of processes that the supplier has honed to a high art.

    The boats that result will use the latest materials and building techniques. The semi-custom designs will have the reliability and cache of established brand names, but will also project the owner's style and requirements.
     

  15. duluthboats
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    duluthboats Senior Dreamer

    "The mammals are already running around under the legs of the dinosaurs."


    ;) Very well said, and exactly how I feel some days.

    The hardware for CNC keeps getting cheaper. The gantry router I'm building will be less than 10K including the software. Contract costs for CNC use to include large amounts of time for programing. The CAD/CAM software has made this cost very small, allowing more businesses to contract out the CNC work. This in a way is the answers the question. The better the software, the easier it is for the small guy to compete.

    Gary
     
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