The industry has the common notion that self-driving nurtures a paradigm revolution timing unprecedentedly for the automotive industry. The emerging new tech may completely change the way traditional vehicles are designed, manufactured and used. Even the name “car” and what it stands for may be redefined, which implies that the whole automotive industry will be restructured to form a new circle. Now retrospecting back to 20 years or so, no one would have imagined that LiDAR company will now be the main supplier of automotive industry (self-driving vehicles). They didn’t even know what a LiDAR is. But nowadays you can see LiDAR now and then on almost every autonomous vehicle.
Recently, PIX Moving, a self-driving startup, announced that they’ve been selected into Autodesk Technology Center Residency Programat their San Francisco Technology Center. Self-driving and Autodesk innovation, what interdisciplinary sparks it will ignite?
Autodesk is world-famous leader for its 2D, 3D design and engineering software. How about Autodesk Technology Center Residency Program?
“Where The Future Of Making Takes Shape” was the first thing noticed when we open the Autodesk Technology Centers page. The residency program writes “The Autodesk Technology Centers exist to create a shared vision of the future of making with a community of innovators and thought leaders. The Residency Program is a vital part of bringing that vision to life”, the program “provides open workspaces and equipment for teams from industry, academic and startup communities doing forward-looking work in the areas of construction, manufacturing, and emerging technologies.”
Screenshot From Autodesk Technology Centers Website
“Exploring what it means to be a configurable microfactory to implementing emerging technologies into architecture and construction and how we design the world around us. With state of the art industrial workshops and a diverse community of experts, this is what the global Autodesk Technology Centers network enable.”
It brings together the most innovative minds, thought leaders and entrepreneurs on the planet, who’re building the future using cutting-edge technology in machine learning, generative design, robotics and more.
Autodesk Technology Center at Pier 9 in San Francisco
Let’s look at the other side of the story: PIX Moving, the self-driving startup that has been invited to join the Residency Program. From its website, we found PIX main product: L4 universal autonomous chassis, based on which diverse self-driving vehicles and applications can be customized, such as logistics cargo, delivery vehicle, sightseeing car or a moving hotel. What differentiates PIX from the other self-driving startups is the generative design (GD) powered by AI and WAAM metal 3d printing, which are their core technologies and focus besides the self-driving algorithms.
Screenshot from PIX Moving Website
What exactly are GD and WAAM? Some basics here: generative design is a new design technique which can generate plenty of feasible outputs based the real-world manufacturing limits and product performance constraints, such as strength, weight, material selection and so on, the process is powered by artificial intelligence. GD enables less-parts and less-weight design in the generated options. WAAM, Wire-Arc Additive Manufacturing, on the other hand, can manufacture solid metal components by means of layer-by-layer surfacing with electric arc as the heat source. WAAM reduces manufacture lead time and meanwhile remains relatively low cost.
Vehicle parts and chassis designed by PIX team via Generative Design approach
At PIX digital factory in China, they’ve printed the first version of one-piece-structured chassis, which was printed in 90 hours with aluminum alloy material. As the world’s first vehicle chassis that’s designed from GD and printed by WAAM, the chassis debuted its charm at Michelin Movin’On Summit in Canada this year. Siddaharth, master graduate from University of Michigan and now the Chief Mechanical Engineer at PIX, mentioned how PIX applies generative design and additive manufacturing in building vehicle chassis. Traditional car may have thousands of car parts, but with new design approach and 3D printing, PIX is able to reduce chassis structure parts to one piece, which can not only reduce the manufacturing cost, but also makes it agile and flexible to modify the design or appearance. Overall, it’s easier to customize and meet a variety of different demands. Siddharth said they used software like Autodesk Fusion 360, PTC Frustum, Altair Inspire and others for the design process, meanwhile, they developed their own algorithms as well.
PIX metal 3D-printed autonomous chassis unveiled at Movin’On Summit 2019 in Montreal
During the chat with Angelo Yu, Founder and CEO of PIX Moving, he talked about the fundamental reasons for applying the two technologies: “Though most of us thought the key of self-driving tech lies in the algorithms, actually self-driving is more involved with hardware, whose cost subsequently decides the kernel of self-driving commercialization. Redefining how we design and manufacture cars is the way to revive the automotive industry, following the thread of how the production line of Henry Ford created the beautiful blueprint of automotive industry for the past 100 years.
The automotive industry has growing demand for large scale application of 3D printing. BMW Group announced that they’ve produced a million parts through 3D printing technology. The year-output of 2018 was expected to reach over 200,000 components — a 42 percent increase than 2017 total. These components were used in diverse applications, including manufacturing tools and fixtures. As the automotive industry turns to autonomous driving, the shape and function of vehicle will have fundamental change. An agile manufacturing system powered by 3D printing is no doubt a challenge arisen for the automotive industry from the coming revolutionary times.
3D-printed component at BMW Group
PIX provides full-stacked hardware and software solutions. Most self-driving companies don’t offer hardware integration and end users have to elaborate on lots of resources and suppliers if they want to have a running self-driving vehicle of their own.”
Angelo also mentioned “Currently there are many issues and problem within international trading. PIX, takes a different approach. We transmit digital processing and product design based on digital files and then produce the physical object through 3D printing, which cuts the dependence on industry supply chains. Today we have the possibility of manufacturing a complete self-driving vehicle at a distributed location by digital manufacturing, which is a unique exploration on brand new international trade.”
Manufacturing Unit of 3D printing is working at PIX factory
Autodesk believes that generative design and additive manufacturing are in line with the future of making, which may reshape the automotive, aerospace, construction and other industries. The residency program often brings in startups with a similar vision. PIX is honored to be one of the residents. As a startup, PIX Moving differentiates itself from other big enterprises by the determination of applying these the emerging technologies in reimagining how the vehicles are designed and manufactured.
Sean and Matteo photoed with Gabrielle Patin, Community Manager of Autodesk Residency Program at the San Francisco Technology Center
Reshaping the existing vehicle design and manufacturing system is a risky challenge, but the process on the other hand will bring new knowledge and hope to the manufacturing industry, which is the Glory and the Dream that PIX hopes to achieve as Technology Center Residents at Autodesk.