Four ways crowdsourcing helps your company improve its product designs

Crowdsourcing offers a unique chance to speed up design cycles and improve designs. That is why a brand like GE, with so many great in-house engineers, chose to launch the GE Jet Engine Bracket Design Challenge with the GrabCAD Community. This was their chance to have engineers and designers from around the world build off each other’s creativity and learnings and to test the possibilities for a new, innovative technique like additive manufacturing.

GE jet engine bracket evolution of igor.lins.e.silva's entries

Pictured: Igor Silva created five entries as he gathered feedback throughout the challenge.

There was a record amount of collaboration for this challenge because it was a compelling, real world problem to solve. GE answered questions on constraints, participants were eager to share feedback and test results, and each entry inspired new ideas for future submissions. Here are four ways participants used feedback from the collaborative challenge environment to iterate and improve their entries for GE.

1. Early feedback gets you to V2 faster, with better results

Arfi’an Fuadi is a mechanical engineer and founder of an Indonesian based engineering team called DTECH Engineering. His, and his clients’, interest in additive manufacturing drew him to this challenge. He came in thinking a layered design would be best. Based on early feedback from the jury, he moved on to an open beam design.

I [saw] the maximum allowable stress is 131 ksi... With that limit, this information appeared when I was designing my V2, I could make a much lighter design than my previous entry.

See the change from V1 to V2, below.

V1 bracket by Afri'an on GrabCAD
V1: Arfi’an designed his bracket layer by layer to effectively transfer the load to each layer. He used FEM to understand the load transfer between each layer, and maximize results.

Original Design Volume : 28.27 cubic inches
Modified Design Volume : 9.18 cubic inches
Volume Reduction : 67.50%

V2 bracket by Arfi'an on GrabCAD
V2: With new knowledge from GE about the maximum allowable stress, Arfi’an created this, much lighter, entry.

Original Design Volume : 28.27 cubic inches
Modified Design Volume : 7.51 cubic inches
Volume Reduction : 73.43%

2. Cross discipline talent submits creative ideas

Andrew Coyne is a product design consultant who would not normally be drawn to a challenge that requires stress analysis as part of the requirements. Since GE handled the bulk of the analysis in this case, he felt it was a good opportunity for him to come up with a creative solution to the problem. Andrew had some experience with the DMLS process, which he thought could give his entries an edge as well. He started with some inspiration from nature because additive manufacturing can create organic shapes as easy as it can geometric ones. He used Pro-E and KeyShot to get his work done. You can see his out of the box thinking, below.

GE jet engine bracket challenge entry evolution by Andrew Coyne

Pictured: Andrew created 9 different entries (version five is not uploaded), in time clockwise from top left.

His exciting designs offer inspiration to others and lead the charge in a positive feedback cycle of more and more solutions presented to the sponsoring company, GE. You could even see professionals with other areas of expertise weighing in with ideas for others to pursue, like this comment from Max:

...Has anyone considered "Generative [modeling]" like Grasshopper to create [a] bone like structure. Something like [this or this.] Architects use it all the time, and it seems it would lend itself nicely to 3D printing and for strength to weight ratio. But then again I'm not an engineer.

3. A good, old-fashioned challenge boosts submissions

Andrew and Arfi'an, along with many other participants, mentioned being driven to create lighter and lighter entries because they saw new models coming in that were continuing to push the limits.

 

GE also motivated more competition when they announced that the top 10 entries all hit 75%, or greater, weight reduction. Submissions surged and with two weeks left to compete there was plenty of time to make your entry better. Andrew describes the feeling well:

The biggest driving factor would be to try to create a lighter model as the designs were coming in lighter and lighter as time went on.

4. Open communication lets participants learn together and work smarter

Igor Silva is a Control & Automation Engineering student working in an aircraft design team, as project manager and main CAD designer. Even though his team worked off feedback from their own test and simulation results, the group of challengers learned more with every entry Igor uploaded. Engineers love to download a CAD model, take it apart, and see how someone else solved the problem. As Igor and his team incorporated new information and made changes, the Community was able to examine the way they tackled the problem and then learn from it. See how Igor's uploads introduced new ideas to the group and how he shared his learnings from his team's individual tests, below.

Model conversation by GE bracket challenge participants
V2: Other challenge watchers are interested in their team's methods. Igor generously shares his tools and process.

 

Insights shared by GE bracket challenge participants
V3: Participants share tools and tips based on the new version uploaded by Igor.

 

How to help by GE bracket challenge participants
V4: Extra insights given as further optimizations are performed and uploaded for the challenge group to see.

Crowdsource your next engineering challenge

As you can see, there are many opportunities in crowdsourcing your next product design or improvement. Opening up your challenge to the greater engineering and design communities allows you to produce faster iterations, more individual solutions, more creative ideas, and does all of this in less time because communication is more open. We hope you'll try open engineering techniques like crowdsourcing CAD designs or moving your team's CAD collaboration online. How do you save time and create smart solutions to your toughest CAD challenges? Let us know in the comments.