Carbon has announced the availability of its Design Engine software to all of its subscribers in a development that has been described as ‘10x type product launch’ by co-founder and Chief Product Officer Phil DeSimone.
Speaking to TCT, DeSimone said he expects to see an explosion of 3D printing applications enabled by the democratisation of Design Engine in the next two years. The software has already been used to help the likes of Adidas, Specialized, Riddell and CCM in developing their Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) 3D printing applications, while its latticing capabilities have also been used in the additive manufacture of COVID-19 testing swabs.
Design Engine has been built to automate the process of creating performance-oriented lattices, saving on time and effort as designers look to implement the desired mechanical characteristics into their parts. It becomes available to Carbon subscribers to now allow more designers, engineers and manufacturers to ‘gain design control’ of their applications. Up to now, Carbon has had this control, with an eight-strong team deploying the Design Engine’s capabilities on select projects with some of its big name clients. The company now expects to see a dramatic upturn in the volume applications enabled by its DLS 3D printing technology.
“There are very few 10x product launches people have an opportunity to be a part of throughout their careers. This is one of them,” DeSimone told TCT. “What I mean by that is, ’10x-ing’ your current output and throughput of applications specifically. In a very short amount of time, we have brought forward dozens of applications across many segments successfully and there are more that you will see being launched over the next 12 to 24 months. That team is small, it’s a team of about eight people, and our ability to get other people educated to do this on their own is a way to 10x that funnel from 50 or so applications that are launching to 500 applications.”
Recently, DeSimone has moved across to head up Carbon’s product strategy after eight years working to develop the company’s go-to-market functions. Among the first objectives in his new role has been to make available the Design Engine software to Carbon subscribers as soon as it was deemed ready to be a consumer facing technology. Previously, in working with the likes of Adidas, Riddell, CCM and Specialized, CAD files have been sent to Carbon, whose engineers would then populate said design files with lattices based on compression profile mapping. This back and forth would continue through iteration of the product. Now, with Carbon having carried out work to make the platform easier to use, all Carbon subscribers have access to the software.
Design Engine is a cloud-based application which provides computation power to generate complex shapes, leaning on five different types of conformal lattice. The types of lattice include Icosahedral, which delivers high stiffness to mass ratio; Kagome, which enables linear stress-strain response and high stiffness to mass ratio; Rhombic, which absorbs energy at high strains; Tetrahedral, for constant force stress plateau; and Voronoi, for foam-like, non-linear stress-strain response.
“These are the very core functionalities that we have focused on in this very first version of the tool,” Hardik Kabaria, Carbon’s Director of Software Engineering, told TCT. “Our idea is that we focused on which mechanical properties users want and we tied it to a particular structure. And these properties came out of the usage. We learned that these are the five basic things people, generally, are trying to use lattice for.”
Built in to the Design Engine software is guidance that has been designed to support engineers in selecting the right lattice for their needs to ensure they develop successful parts. Between them, the five conformal lattices are said to be able to robustly populate the most challenging design surfaces, eliminating ‘tedious design revisions post-generation.’ The software also has tools which predict lattice performance prior to their generation, helping to streamline the design optimisation processes.
“That really allows this process to shine,” Kabaria said. “If you’re designing a saddle, you as a mechanical engineer have some idea about how much pressure it should be able to sustain or how much stress it should be able to sustain before bottoming out. So, if the design engineer has access to that information, that this is roughly the stiffness I’m looking for out of this part, then the ability to predict the performance reduces the number of experiments you have to do. You don’t have to try 50 iterations; you can look at the predicted performance and choose the right lattice for yourself in a single go or very few iterations.”
Prior to its release to the entire Carbon customer base, these capabilities helped to enable footwear products for Adidas, football and hockey helmets for Riddell and CCM, respectively, bike saddles for Specialized and COVID-19 testing swabs for millions of people. Upon the democratisation of the software, DeSimone believes that explosion of applications will now commence, both in the consumer product space as well as more industrial sectors.
“We’re excited to release it to the public to allow people to start doing that design and application discovery on their own,” he said. “We think this will create a huge amount of leverage for Carbon because up until this point, we’ve been the bottleneck on the design. This will get the design tools needed into the hands of engineers globally and will have a massive impact on the industry as a whole.”
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DeSimone says that having seen helmets developed for the National Hockey League by CCM that are customised to the players. Here, the data of each player is used to generate lattice designs automatically without human intervention, with preventative technologies baked into the process to ensure corrupt data upstream is caught before a bad design can be printed. Carbon has been similarly impressed with how its technology has outputted bike saddles and shoe products, but the use of it on the COVID-19 swabs project was a particular eye opener for the company.
“How the deep the market is can be seen by the example of the swabs. Until the shortage hit, even folks like me and Phil who have been thinking about any product that would benefit from lattice, we would never have thought of swabs,” Kabaria said. “Traditional swabs are not made from foam, to the extent that when we showed the first one to the clinical, they were like, ‘this is not a swab.’ And today, it’s been used by hundreds of different clinical institutions. That shows that it is possible to achieve whatever mechanical response you generally get from a swab using a completely different looking swab made out of lattice. That gives us confidence that there are a lot more applications out there that can take advantage of the technology we have created.”
Rather than sit back and let the applications create themselves off the back of Design Engine’s release, Carbon is now looking ahead to future product developments. So far, the company has drawn interest with its lattice-enabled applications in partnership with some of the world’s leading consumer product companies. And though Carbon sees this as a ‘10x launch’, it plans not to slow down.
“This is the first step, we are not stopping at lattice, we don’t want to stop at lattice,” DeSimone finished. “There are multiple design tools beyond lattice that we really want to think about in order to help continue further down this path of helping people in that ideation phase. A lattice won’t be the last thing we do. However, we believe it’s something we have built a tremendous expertise in. We believe that there’s a deep well of a market there that has a huge amount of opportunity both in metals and polymers and [Design Engine] will be a first major step in that direction, followed by several other products beyond this that we’re interested in getting into. This thing that we’ve built a tremendous expertise in, we want to democratise that to all. But it’s the first step in a much longer journey.”
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