Sakai: Collaboration in the Rapid Design Life Cycle

Thanks to Rob Crouchley (Lancaster University) and Rob Allan (STFC, Daresbury Laboratory) for this article.

The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) is a University of Liverpool project partially funded by the North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) located on the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus, UK.

The VEC was set up to help both small companies and larger organisations embrace ICT in the rapid design life cycle. Companies bringing their expertise together and using computational modelling and 3D visualisaiton aim to reduce the time taken from idea to
product.

In this context Sakai is to be used as a collaboration and communication tool which can underpin a large collaborative research network of both academic and business partners. Custom tools are being deployed as portlets within the Sakai framework and made available to all partners.

This means that Sakai will enable on-line collaboration among designers and manufacturers and also enables feedback from end users of engineering products. The provision of simulation tools alongside collaboration tools in the same platform allows end users to test small changes to the design specification, run scenarios on a computational Grid using pre-defined workflows and to visualise the results of their changes. In this way they can participate in the overall process and better understand the reason for some of the final design choices.

Some project partners are now beginning to use Sakai to assist in the management of projects and have expressed an interest in using it to provide support to their own “customers” as part of the overall supply chain.

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