Next Generation Product Development Tools, Part 13

In my last entry I said I’d post some examples of recent developments in the CAD arena. So without further delay, here are some items which caught my attention.

Dassault CATIA V6

What’s notable about the forthcoming release of CATIA is the continued aggressive push towards a virtual interface along the lines of Microsoft Earth. From MCAD Online (Link):

The platform has been re-architected to make use of 3D in an online context, distributing engineering Intellectual Property (IP)* and product data to people via the internet in a compelling virtual environment.

V6 is the first outing of a ten year, multi-PhD, multi-patent research and development work on Catia’s core 3D modelling kernel. V6 is a brand new kernel, one that has capabilities that Florack claims to be unrivalled in the industry, being able to resolve Geometry and Topology simultaneously and being able to open files from pretty much any existing CAD system and edit it natively.

Dassault is certainly making some bold claims. In addition, the above video (for better quality, watch it on Dassault’s website – Link) seems to show some direct modeling functionality, though that isn’t a surprise considering what I understand of the product’s development history. Regardless of where Dassault falls on direct modeling, what’s more relevant to this discussion now is the Web 2.0/3DFlickr/MS Virtual Earth/3DVia social approach Dassault continues to pursue.

*Note: I don’t have any idea what “distributing engineering Intellectual Property” means, but keep it in the back of your mind.

Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4

PTC has not, to my knowledge, made any public statements regarding the kinds of broad Web 2.0 functionality which Dassault is claiming; however, they do appear to have made progress in at least one important area: backward compatibility for feature history-based parametric modeling applications.

Well. Maybe.**

For now, all I’ve seen is the press release (Link), which I don’t trust, and the above video, which is nice but uses an imported STEP file. I’ve asked around if anyone’s tested the claims, but I’ve not yet heard confirmation.

There is one additional thing I found interesting. While reading Desktop Engineering’s article (Link), this popped out:

Using the new intellectual property (IP) module, Rights Management Extension (RMX), and Adobe LiveCycle Rights Management ES, a user can protect parts, assemblies, and drawings files by assigning varying levels of security to those sharing the files. For example, the person charged with controlling the digital rights management (DRM) policy, does so from a policy server and can give someone in another department or a partner in a project an “only open” permission…

If you’re familiar with Second Life’s “Permissions” system, that probably sounds familiar. It’s most definitely the sort of functionality I’d hope to see in something like Dassault’s Enovia, or anything Siemens might do in the future.

Now you know why I told you to keep Dassault’s IP comment in mind.

Siemens NX/Solid Edge

About a week ago Siemens, in a much-anticipated press release (Link), threw their hat into the direct modeling ring. There’s been some blog coverage, some informed high-level commentary, and some pointless chatter regarding the degree to which “Synchronous Technology” is innovative.

What’s relevant to me is that a major CAD vendor, the third of four it seems, is making a big deal about integrating direct modeling kinds of functionality into their top-of-the-line, feature history-based, parametric application. And the news coming from all three has people who’ve never even heard of SpaceClaim or similar applications asking about direct modeling.

If you do read the chatter, you’ll see some people aren’t too happy about these developments … because they’re concerned the tools will fall into the hands of the unwashed masses. I’ve previously discussed that self-serving attitude and won’t repeat myself at this point.

So to condense things, here are my take-aways:

1) it seems as if data portability is on the verge of being resolved … to some degree at least, one way or another.
2) the buzz continues around the possibility of moving CAD applications beyond the desktop; whether or not as part of a software suite including virtual world-style interfaces.
3) two of the four major CAD vendors, Dassault and PTC, are addressing IP within the CAD system itself.
4) there may be some movement on the non-proprietary file format front; especially when I read about Dassault’s inter-operable capabilities. Just a feeling I have.
5) the fourth major CAD vendor, Autodesk, is currently no where to be seen on this particular front, though they continue pursuing acquisitions (Kynogon, MoldFlow, Skymatter) and pushing “Digital Prototyping”. Truth is, Autodesk, with its architectural market lock, still has plenty of time to move into the space Dassault is staking and Siemens seems intent on entering, so I’ll be watching them more closely in the future.

**For a good discussion that highlights the difficulty of PTC’s backward compatibility effort within their history-based system, as well as some insight into how Siemens’ parametric/direct modeling system is supposed to work, check out comments on NOVEDGE “Why Direct/Parametric Modeling Hybrid is an Oxymoron” (Link).

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