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A Year Like No Other

Though the uncertainty that arrived with COVID-19 early in 2020 does not appear to be dissipating; even so, the engineering technology sector has continued to innovate and generally thrive.

Though the uncertainty that arrived with COVID-19 early in 2020 does not appear to be dissipating; even so, the engineering technology sector has continued to innovate and generally thrive.

When I joined Digital Engineering in July 2019, I could never have predicted the roller coaster of a year that was ahead of me in 2020. As my first full year here closes, I can safely say that this has been the most unpredictable, exciting, grueling, and often disorienting start to any job I have ever had—and I once spent two years working in a parole office.

 

As I write this, the U.S. and other countries around the globe may be poised to institute an additional round of stay-at-home orders of varying degrees of severity, meaning that remote work (and for many, online school for their children) may continue well into 2021. Election Day in the U.S. has stretched into an Election Week of very slow vote counting. The uncertainty that arrived with COVID-19 in the spring does not appear to be going anywhere.

Despite this, the engineering technology sector has continued to innovate and generally thrive. We saw 3D printer companies rise to the occasion when there was a critical shortage of health care equipment earlier this year, and design and simulation software vendors quickly adapted to help their own customers remain productive while working from home.

Initially, the pandemic threw a monkey wrench into the product launch plans for many companies in the digital engineering space. Since the summer, though, we have seen rapid advancements across the product sectors we cover.

On the workstation and high-performance computing front, NVIDIA launched a powerful new GPU (the A6000), while rival AMD announced new GPUs and a potentially game-changing 64-core CPU. New mobile workstation launches from Dell, Lenovo, MSI and others have provided additional compute power for engineers working at home. 

While the 3D printing space has been hard hit in terms of sales, we are still seeing interesting new product launches, as well as new management and quality control capabilities. In addition, additive manufacturing companies are working with software vendors to take advantage of generative design innovations, topology optimization and GPU-
accelerated workflows.

In the CAD world, Autodesk has essentially called a truce with the Open Design Alliance, and cloud-based CAD tools continue to improve. Ansys, Dassault, Siemens, COMSOL and other major simulation players announced important new software tools and features in 2020.

In this issue, our staff explores some innovative trends across these markets, including the use of digital twins, GPU acceleration and expanding simulation use cases. We have also included the results of our annual Technology Outlook reader survey, which provides a glimpse into what our engineering audience has planned for the coming year.

While everything feels like it is up in the air right now, I am optimistic about the future of the digital engineering market. I do not know yet when we might get to meet in person at a live trade show, or what the economy is going to look like next year, or when my children might go back to school, or even who the President of the United States is going to be. But I am confident that our readers and the technology companies that provide the tools they need to do their jobs will continue to innovate.

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About the Author

Brian Albright's avatar
Brian Albright

Brian Albright is the editorial director of Digital Engineering. Contact him at [email protected].

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