MIT Uses OnShape to Launch New Professional Course on Additive Manufacturing

April 6, 2017

MIT professors Wojciech Matusik and Justin Solomon are using Onshape to launch a new course on CAD for additive manufacturing this summer aimed at professionals seeking to speed up and modernize the product design process at their companies.

The 5-day introductory course, “Advances in Computer-Aided Design For Manufacturing,” will be offered through MIT Professional Education, which draws individuals from companies and organizations around the world to campus for professional development programs. The CAD course, scheduled from June 26-30, seeks enrollment from research scientists, engineers, developers, designers and project managers in industries that use 3D design tools to manufacture products. Relevant industries include: aerospace, automotive, biomedical engineering, computer graphics, defense, mechanical engineering, prosthetics, robotics and shipbuilding.

According to the course description, “attendees will become familiar with the entire CAD pipeline, from developing a concept to designing a three-dimensional surface or volume. This process also highlights the virtual simulations of various materials, numerical optimizations for automatic design, and taking into account the considerations when interfacing with manufacturing hardware.”

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is the opposite approach of subtractive manufacturing – which starts with a solid block or sheet of material and then cuts away scraps to make parts. Conversely, additive manufacturing starts from scratch and builds or “prints” parts layer by layer using the geometry from a 3D design model. Large companies such as Ford, Caterpillar and Boeing are now experimenting with using 3D-printed parts for manufacturing.

“This course will give a high-level overview of what the modern additive manufacturing pipeline really looks like,” says Matusik, who teaches at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) alongside Solomon. “So much has changed in the last few years. Everything from geometric modeling and Computer-Aided Design to how you interface with 3D printers, and how much the computer can do as your partner.”

“We'll introduce some of the new technological tools and algorithms that are available, and show them a broader range of possibilities of how their computer can help them make creative designs faster than what they currently do,” he adds. “Basically, additive manufacturing was almost a gimmick a few years ago. But now it’s not just being used for making prototypes, but for real manufacturing.”

“With on-demand manufacturing, you can make unique, personalized products in smaller batches,” notes Solomon. “You have much more freedom in terms of geometric design. There are many new capabilities available as well as a need to educate companies on how to take advantage of these technologies.”

The goals of the course include:

  • Understanding and manipulating the assorted expressions of geometry in a CAD system (NURBS, subdivision, volumes, point clouds, meshes, parametric models)
  • Understanding the underpinnings of and experimenting with assorted software/algorithms for simulating physical objects before they are manufactured
  • Formulating optimization problems for improving a design based on coupling with simulation, constraints of manufacturing hardware, and design objectives
  • Writing software for translating a high-level surface or volume representation into a printable object suitable for communication to hardware
  • Identifying drawbacks of assorted additive and subtractive manufacturing hardware and the potential disconnect between a digitally-designed object and its printed counterpart
  • Experiencing demonstrations of assorted CAD-driven manufacturing pipelines firsthand
  • Recognizing assorted challenges of implementing and using CAD within larger engineering pipelines through case studies presented by industry members

“Boston is also emerging as a center of additive manufacturing,” notes Prof. Matusik, referring to companies such as MarkForged, FIT AG and Desktop Metal. “There are a lot of innovators in this space here and we hope to bring some of them to class and in the long term, help to bring this business community closer together.”

While planning the course, Matusik and Solomon chose to incorporate Onshape’s Education Plan, which is free for all teachers and students, primarily for “the low barrier of entry.” Onshape’s full-cloud CAD runs in a web browser on any laptop, netbook or tablet, so there is no expensive hardware required to participate. There’s also no school license or IT overhead required as Onshape has no installs and system upgrades happen automatically in the cloud.

“Onshape is easy for people to start using right away. Some of the people in the course might not have a huge CAD background and we want their transition to be as seamless as possible,” Matusik says.

“I also think Onshape’s collaborative aspects are tremendous. We’d like to have participants form teams and perhaps even have small design competitions,” he adds. “Onshape’s ability to have the whole team be part of the design process is a real strength for us.”

(For more information on enrolling in this MIT Professional Education course, click here.)