Thanks to a collaborative partnership between Ohio University and the PTC Corporation, students and faculty in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology will have access to a suite of software tools that will transform the landscape of digital engineering at OHIO.
The PTC Corporation, a leader in digital engineering, aims to create solutions to problems in a forever evolving digital landscape. The suite will allow students to prepare to lead the workforce with their technical skills and experience in digital engineering.
“There are companies who are adopting these technologies who are looking for the new class of engineer. Both operators who will take advantage of these technologies, and those who will make these experiences,” said Director of Engagement for PTC Education Peter Zink. “Universities will help define those roles and expand them.”
While the commercial value of the software exceeds $11 million, universities are eligible to acquire educational licenses at a significantly reduced cost. PTC generously offered an additional gift-in-kind discount that led to a substantial savings for Ohio University on the costs of educational licenses.
The applications of this software are vast and flexible, allowing it to be used for 3D printing and modeling, rapid prototyping, and the development of hands-on training opportunities in virtual and augmented reality. According to Neil Littell, associate professor in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the virtual and augmented reality applications are vital as industry partners begin using these methods in their training and design processes.
In fact, Engineering Technology and Management Associate Professor Jesús Pagán is currently developing workforce development tools that aim to leverage virtual and augmented reality to design a digital twin of a factory.
“A digital twin is creating a system that mimics the real world where we can program interactions with devices and machines,” Pagán said. “Creating a virtual factory enhances the student experience because it is hard to interact with machinery physically. If virtualized, students will have access to machinery using virtual and augmented reality.”
Within PTC’s suite of tools, Pagán is specifically using programs like ThingWorx, Vuforia and OnShape to develop a virtual smart factory supported by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. His efforts are part of Industry 4.0, the fourth iteration of the industrial revolution which aims to transform manufacturing through automation and machine learning.
Zink finds faculty research like Pagán’s invaluable in discovering the potential of PTC’s suite of tools. “A cool fundamental role of the University is play with the tools, find new ways of leveraging them to increase their utility across society,” he said.
In addition to creating applications for virtual and augmented reality, the suite also allows users to track the lifecycle of a design, creating a digital thread. A digital thread is the data affiliated with a design from the moment of its conception to its current iteration, which includes the design’s quality, performance, reliability, cost effectiveness and maintenance records. This function is revolutionary because it consolidates files and tools in a singular location.
Zink describes it as Google Docs for CAD.
“OnShape is a cloud native computer-aided design (CAD) program. I can give you remote help [on a project] in a really intimate way,” Zink said. “You never have to click save and two people can work on a model at the same time. This is not possible in any other CAD platform.”
This software is flexible and robust, and the initiative of faculty members like Pagán and current industry trends suggest a massive shift towards digital engineering. Automotive, financial, manufacturing and health care system industries are beginning to adopt these trends as well. The success of these tools demonstrated by key stakeholders, like faculty and industry partners, has helped to pave the way to implementing its use across the University.
“We want to build a state-of-the-art, comprehensive digital engineering capability. We want to create better opportunities for Ohio University students to be trained as digital engineers,” Littell said. “This will ultimately yield better partnerships with companies in Ohio, better partnerships with the Department of Defense, and a competitive advantage for the state of Ohio with respect to the future of manufacturing for the state.”
As Littell mentioned, digital engineering is becoming a priority for key partners and industry leaders. Jeff Stanley, former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology, and engineering and an Ohio University alumnus (BSEE, ‘85), coauthored the digital strategy for the United States Air Force, which addressed the evolution of digital engineering and the need for trained practitioners in the field.
“As the technology evolves and digital engineering tools become available, we must take advantage of their capabilities to maintain our positioning as leaders in engineering and technology. It is critical that Ohio University students are trained in these tools, such as the one provided by PTC, to be prepared to enter a workforce that strategically and innovatively leverages these tools to advance their goals and maximize their impact,” Stanley said.
Both faculty and students across the University will be able to use the software. In fact, PTC offers resources for faculty members to learn and integrate the suite of tools into their curriculums. Ideally, students who will be learning the software will have ample opportunities to gain hands-on experience with the tools.
“We have lots of resources for educators but incorporating them into curriculum is much more a conversation than it is a program,” Zink said. “PTC is excited that Ohio University is embracing these tools and is happy to include them in that community. Ohio University is a leader in this space. Dozens [of universities] are at this point in figuring out how do we put these things in engineering programs and prepare students for the workforce of the future.”
According to Littell, there is a need for graduates with technical skills and PTC’s tools will help give OHIO graduates a competitive advantage when they are looking for a job.
“Our students are adaptable. They readily understand how technology, people, and processes come together,” Littell said.
If you are a student, staff, or faculty member interested in setting up a license to use this software, please contact Bryan Jordan at [email protected].