3DEXPERIENCE Lab opens in Boston

Phillip Keane | Comments | July 31, 2017

The 3DEXPERIENCE Lab first opened its doors in November 2015 at the Paris campus of Dassault Systèmes and was announced as an open innovation Laboratory and startup accelerator program dedicated to nurturing disruptive projects with the goal of transforming society.

After achieving success over in Europe, Dassault Systèmes decided to bring the Lab across the Atlantic and opened a new 3DEXPERIENCE Lab in May 2017, located at the North American HQ of Dassault Systèmes in Waltham, MA.

Engineering.com spoke with Abhishek Bali, the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab North America Manager, to get the skinny on what’s going down at the new Lab.

Figure 1 Fabbers…fabbing in the Lab. (Image credit: 3DEXPERIENCE Lab.)

3DEXPERIENCE Lab Boston combines the strengths of a Startup Accelerator and a sophisticated Fab Lab set up in collaboration with MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, to facilitate the creative community of entrepreneurs and makers in the US with latest hardware and software tools” said Bali. “The Lab’s Grand Opening on May 30th, 2017 met resounding success with over 150 delegates from across industries, domains and geographies participating in the event, flanked by live demos of cutting-edge hardware, software and VR technologies.”

And the list of hardware is indeed impressive. The Lab features state-of-the-art Digital Fabrication tools, including high-end CO2 and Fiber Laser Cutters, Precision Mills, CNC Routers, a Vinyl Cutter, a Robotic Arm, a well-equipped Electronics Station and a variety of 3D Printers and Scanners. But of all the tools and equipment available to the users of the Lab (also known as “fabbers”), Bali gives kudos to one tool in particular

“The most advanced ‘piece of equipment’ in the Lab is the human mind” mused Bali. “It is amazing to see our fabbers and mentors coming to the Lab and experimenting with new creative ideas born out of their ingenuity. This is exactly what makes 3DEXPERIENCE Lab live and kicking!”

The 3DEXPERIENCE Lab operates on a unique Mentor-Fabber Interaction model. Every new fabber, is assigned to a set of mentors who train her/ him across various machines in the Lab. These mentors are Dassault Systèmes employees who have spent more than 20 hours in training across at least 5 machines in the Lab. The initial set of mentors were trained by instructors from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms(CBA) in a rigorous week long ‘Train the Mentor’ program. The program was led by none other than Prof. Neil Gershenfeld, Director of CBA, and the visionary behind Fab Foundation, the organization that connects over 1000 Fab Labs from across the world.

In addition to mentors, Fab Lab has a cohort of interns and co-ops from some of the best technical university programs that include MIT, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Northeastern University, and so on. Student startup teams from Babson College with hardware-based entrepreneurial ventures are using the Lab for fast prototyping and making proofs-of-concept for their innovative business ideas.

In the Lab, SOLIDWORKS and CATIA are used for 3D modelling, SIMULIA is used for multibody, multi-physics and computational fluid dynamics simulation, ENOVIA for project management, along with EXALEAD and NETVIBES for data management and research. DraftSight is used in the Lab for 2D Modeling. All of these are Dassault Systèmes owned software brands that facilitate Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).

“In this sense, they utilize the full-spectrum strength of various tools of Dassault Systèmes’s 3DEXPERIENCE Platform that offers amazing apps for 3D Modelling & Simulation, Social Collaboration, and utilizing information intelligence throughout the complete lifecycle of a product from ideation to production” says Bali. “Dassault Systèmes, as you know, takes pride in being a 3DEXPERIENCE Company, with its wide range of software solutions that cover all aspects of Product Lifecycle Management across industries and product categories.”

Speaking of projects, the Lab is currently hosting students and mentors working on a variety of projects including assisted technology based virtual hands, Da-Vinci inspired mechanisms and Arduino-based connected devices.

“One of my personal favorites is called Ultrasonic Flash Light Sensor” said Bali. “The idea is to help one of our dear colleagues who is visually challenged to walk using a context-aware system that can reliably inform him about obstacles in his path. A diverse team of mentors is working on this project, bringing together their strengths in Electronics, User Experience, Industrial Design and Product Engineering.”

Figure 2 Wing-box under construction (Image credit: 3DEXPERIENCE Lab.)

The more keen-eyed among you may have noticed an image of a metal aircraft wing box being assembled in the pictures. This is part of another cool project (cool to me, because I’m an aerospace engineer) which is being undertaken in the Lab.

“We are really excited about the assembly of the Zenith CH 750 Cruzer in our premises” says Bali. “Zenith Aircraft Company is a SOLIDWORKS customer and has used the software to design the plane assembly from scratch. The 3DEXPERIENCE Lab is running a cross-collaborative exercise around assembling the entire plane by involving over 300 Dassault Systèmes employees, partners, Customers and user groups in the coming months. We have ‘build sessions’ thrice a week in which we invite a cohort of 10 participants who have never held a rivet gun or touched a toolset in their life, in the lab to co-work and assemble one small part of the plane at a time. They of course go through safety instructions training and are supervised thoroughly at every step of the 1-hour long training exercise by Terence McCabe, our Engineer-in Chief for the project.”

And let’s not forget the accelerator part of the program. The 3DEXPERIENCE Lab is not only focused on providing the tools for students to create awesome new products, but what is innovation without a market application? It is the very definition of innovation- to create new applications which have value in the marketplace. So, for budding entrepreneurs with an innovative streak, 3DEXPERIENCE Lab has it covered as well.

“The Accelerator program extends the footprint of the highly successful program in 3DEXPERIENCE Lab Paris to the across the Atlantic in the United States” says Bali. “The program is highly selective, with over 300 startups having applied to it over the past two years and only a handful getting selected for incubation. The idea is to have 4 to 6 US-based startups that can truly shift the scales of innovation around the 6 themes of Life, City, Lifestyle, Internet of Things, Ideation, and Fab Lab. The startups will be selected through a rigorous Open Innovation-based process with Dassault Systèmes’s in-house domain experts along with the CEO, Bernard Charlès. They will evaluate each startup for couple of months leading up to a quarterly Innovation Committee Event in company’s Global Headquarters at Velizy in France. The next event will be held in September 2017 and we can expect the first lot of startups in the Boston Lab around that time. These startups will get full access to 3DEXPERIENCE Platform’s tools, state-of-the-art Fab Lab, physical co-working space and technical mentorship for two years without having to give away equity or IP rights”. Dassault Systèmes are not content to rest on their laurels either, and have their eyes firmly focused on the horizon.

“While we have a plan in place to make the Lab a center for Digital Fabrication excellence (3D Printing, Laser Cutting, CNC Milling and Routing), we also want to build expertise in domains of Electronics and Robotics” says Bali. “The idea is to foster ways of cross-pollinating expertise across domains to power low-investment to high-impact projects along upcoming domains such as Internet of Things, Social Robotics and so on. When we talk about expanding radially, we want to continue involving more and more partners, stakeholders and users in the process of ‘digital maker-ship’. The 3DEXPERIENCE Lab is already connected to a global network of over 1000 Fab Labs through Fab Foundation. We aim to become a super node in this network in coming years and host classes and interactions of Fab Academy Coursework which is a rigorous 6-month coursework taught by Neil Gershenfeld (Professor at MIT and the director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms) himself”.

Figure 3 Building an aircraft in the Lab (Image Credit: 3DEXPERIENCE Lab.)

So there you have it. The 3DEXPERIENCE Company is investing heavily in cultivating minds and facilitating training and incubation to students and startups, as well as providing an enviable experience for students wishing to taste the full product design journey for themselves.

If you’re part of a startup(or just plain curious) and are interested in the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, feel free to reach out for more information and for applying to the Accelerator program. The link is: www.3dexperiencelab.com

To learn more about Dassault Systèmes, please visit: www.3ds.com

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