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Additive Manufacturing, Materials, and the Future of Mobility

I had the opportunity to participate in a seminar on the Future of Mobility at the Society of Automotive Analysts. This well attended event focused on recent hot topics in the automotive industry such as Silicon Valley vs. Detroit, autonomous vehicles, increasing software complexity, additive manufacturing, and new materials.

The first speaker, Prof Antonio Doblas-Madrid provided macroeconomic forecasts for the automotive industry. One key conclusion was the expectation of a reduced volume of freight due to the expansion of Additive Manufacturing (AM). Given Altair’s leadership in design for AM, I could relate to this trend very well – a specific, low volume application developed jointly with Ruag being shown here. As technology improves, volume and size constraints are quickly being overcome so this trend seems to be well on its way to realization.

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Lively panel discussion after presentations were delivered by all three speakers

My discussion focused on consumer and regulatory trends of fuel economy and emissions, which are leading to lightweight design as a key countermeasure. Besides lightweight design, it is becoming a multi-material word in the automotive industry. Taking a cue from the aerospace industry, materials such as aluminum and high strength steel are commonplace. Dependent on the application, eg BMW i-3 and i-8 even carbon fiber is being introduced increasingly as a material of choice. I finally closed with re-iterating that AM was here to stay, and is also a means of achieving lightweight goals.

The final speaker, Michael Crane, Vice President, Body & Security Interior Division, Continental Automotive – illustrated how his organization has shifted from a traditional automotive supplier to more of a software company. This shift has lead to an increase focus on Agile development together with CMMI and Spice certification, recognizing the importance of software quality and security.

The event closed with a lively panel discussion, which amongst other topics focused on how to compete for talent against Silicon Valley. The consensus was that an increased level of marketing has to be done to convince potential employees of the level of software and hardware complexity in the automotive industry and the resulting challenges to be addressed.

Finally, the overall conclusion of the event was that it is an exciting time to be part of the automotive industry.