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6/21/2011
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'Engineering Cloud' Promises To Modernize Manufacturing

Fujitsu's specialized cloud computing platform combines on-demand computer-aided design and analytics software with a thin-client environment to offer manufacturers additional product design and production power at an economical entry cost.

Fujitsu has launched in Japan an "Engineering Cloud," a new type of specialized cloud which it says will serve as a platform for next-generation manufacturing systems.

In an announcement Tuesday in Tokyo, Fujitsu said its data centers will host their own computer-aided design (CAD) and analytic software as well as database services, starting in October. Additional manufacturing services will be steadily added to the initial CAD and analytic software as a service, Fujitsu spokesmen said.

CAD and its associated computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) have typically been on-premises, not remote, systems because of the highly detailed and voluminous designs they must work with. The Engineering Cloud will use a Fujitsu technology, Remote Virtual Environment Computing (RVEC), for high-speed display of virtual desktops developed by Fujitsu Laboratories. RVEC can compress images at high speed and decompress them in the user display, allowing a cloud-based CAD/CAM solution, the spokesmen said.

One goal of the Engineering Cloud is to allow large and small manufacturers to escape the constraints of PC desktops and use larger cloud-based systems without needing to invest in them directly. If such systems were available from a cloud supplier, then small manufacturers could share data across engineering teams and product designers, regardless of where they were located. Such a move could speed products to market if there was no need to set up common systems between distributed team members. Fujitsu also will supply a product lifecycle management system and a parts database as components of its offering.

Japan automotive parts maker JTEKT is already using the cloud services, said Fujitsu. JTEKT builds steering systems, driveline components, and bearings, and needs to subject them to more sophisticated electronic controls for the sake of fuel efficiency.

JTEKT needed design and production processes that lead to greater reliability than existing products provide, while allowing frequent adjustments to desired features and other customer requirements.

Fujitsu sells its own manufacturing expertise as a consulting service and JTEKT made use of it, as well as the cloud service, to build in greater flexibility and reliability into its manufacturing processes, Fujitsu spokesmen said.

In addition to its software and consulting services, Fujitsu will offer a thin-client environment for cloud users that can take advantage of its compression system and offer sophisticated planning, design, and engineering processes without investing in special-purpose workstations. Spokesmen said a netbook or even a smartphone can make use of the thin-client environment.

Its compression technology can supply full-motion video to thin clients in one-tenth the time of a non-compressed transmission, the spokesmen said.

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