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Human creativity at the heart of digital engineering

David Brewer | 06 Feb 2017 | Comments

Using digital design tools presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to increase certainty. Poor predictability of time and cost on rail projects mean we risk losing the confidence of funders and sponsors.

Investing both time and effort in design is key. Better adoption of digital tools to support design development has a role to play and will change the way the organisations involved in the design and construction process work together, challenging traditional boundaries.

This week I witnessed an incredible example of auto-generative design; a computer developed an aircraft tail fin, creating thousands of variants to find the best fit with defined performance parameters. I also witnessed the hand measurement of Pucher charts, used to calculate bridge loading – with around a 10% error associated.

This striking contrast reminded me of the expression; 'the future is already here, it's just very unevenly distributed.' The juxtaposition of old and new characterises the railway, but it does perhaps give us some pointers. As an industry, we need to be more responsive to new ways of working and technologies which enable this.

For the applications of this thinking to rail engineering and for the full article, please see the January edition of Rail Engineer: (Page 7).