i4pd secures Innovate UK funding to develop AI driven manufacturing cost estimator Posted on 28/05/2021

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i4 Product Design Ltd (i4pd) and its consortium are delighted to announce that they have been granted Innovate UK funding as part of the ‘Manufacturing made smarter: digital supply chain, feasibility studies’ challenge. The 6-month project assesses the feasibility of developing an accurate and automated manufacturing cost calculator.

At present there are a variety of software solutions for estimating costs for additive and subtractive manufacturing processes, as well as relatively straight forward sheet metal fabrication. However, there are no widely available solutions for more complex processes such as injection moulding. The project will be led by i4pd with partners University of Edinburgh, Houston We Have and BOC to create a platform that addresses this gap in the market.

The project was conceived after i4 Product Design developed a prototype of a part cost calculator that requires input from its experienced engineers to produce estimates for injection moulded parts. This project aims to refine the existing calculator so that 3D data files can generate accurate, automated estimates without the user requiring any knowledge of engineering. The new calculator will extract features that affect the cost of the part mould from the data file and use these features alongside material costs in an algorithm to predict the price of the part. The University of Edinburgh will work with i4 Product Design and ShapeSpace to build upon the Australian company’s algorithms that can extract features from 3D data files for part comparison.

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An additional software tool will also be developed that provides an estimate for a project based solely on initial product requirements. This will be developed through a new Bayesian Reasoning and Subjective Logic model, generated by Houston We Have. Both BOC and McLaren Plastics will support the refinement of this model and the 3D data-based tool.

It is envisaged that by combining these two tools into one platform, product designers can track manufacturing costs throughout the lifecycle of a project, with the final stage being a tendering platform where contract manufacturers can also bid on projects once they are ready for production. In addition to providing information on costs, it is planned that the platform will provide automated feedback on a project, such as alternative materials and manufacturing processes that have lower environmental impacts and credentials of matching contract manufacturers.

Following the success of the feasibility study, i4pd intend to lead the commercialisation of the platform and its extension into other areas of manufacturing such as sheet metal and other moulding techniques. We are currently seeking feedback from buyers and vendors in the manufacturing space, and would be most grateful if you can spare a couple of minutes of your time to complete a survey that will help to shape the development our product.

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