Proceed With Optimism

Our readers and the technology providers in the engineering market have continued building on the opportunities that emerged in the past year to explore new ways to collaborate.

Our readers and the technology providers in the engineering market have continued building on the opportunities that emerged in the past year to explore new ways to collaborate.

Last year when we were preparing for the December issue, my column ended on a note of cautious optimism that we were reaching the end of pandemic- and election-related cultural whiplash and edging closer to something that might resemble normal life.

 

As it turns out, both my optimism and caution were warranted. The children are back in school (except for when an occasional COVID-19 outbreak sends them home). Parts of the economy are improving, but inflation is growing and supply chain snarls are dogging some sectors. Wages are up, but employers are having a hard time hiring. In-person industry events briefly returned, too, and I spent a nice few days at the RAPID + TCT show in Chicago. But many other events have returned to virtual-only or hybrid formats as winter approaches and the direction of the pandemic remains questionable.

To fall back on my frequent trope of using hometown Cleveland sports as a metaphor for how upside down the world is, we here in Northeast Ohio have spent the fall watching the stacked-but-underwhelming Cleveland Browns slowly fall out of playoff contention. But our spirits have been buoyed by the formerly hapless Cleveland Cavaliers, who are unexpectedly fun to watch again. The past year has been full of such surprises.

That said, our readers and the technology providers in the engineering market have continued building on the opportunities that emerged in the past year to explore new ways to collaborate; experiment with new software configurations; expand their use of 3D printing, virtual reality and generative design; and continue leveraging advanced simulation software (enabled by massive gains in compute power) to make better designs faster.

In our end-of-year issue, we present the findings from our annual Technology Outlook Survey, which highlights the slow and steady evolution of the technology tools that our readers are using to solve some our most pressing manufacturing and (in some cases) existential challenges. 

We also take a deep dive into some emerging areas, including micro-scale 3D printing, the ways that simulation technology have affected physical testing and prototyping, cloud technology and the digital thread, Industry 4.0 and new engineering workstation capabilities. Senior Editor Kenneth Wong also explores how the pandemic experience has shaped manufacturing.

Heading into 2022, I will have to say my optimism is starting to overwhelm my caution. The new technology announcements that came out of RAPID + TCT, Formnext, the NAFEMS conference, and the NVIDIA GTC event over the past few months are truly exciting. My industry sources tell me that even more interesting things are to come. 

I, for one, will be approaching things with optimistic caution this time, a definite improvement. We will see you all in 2022.

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About the Author

Brian Albright's avatar
Brian Albright

Brian Albright is the editorial director of Digital Engineering. Contact him at [email protected].

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