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Issue #681 |  March 8, 2011 

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In This Issue

1. PTC Virtual Corporate Visit

   - Creo Roadmap
   - Creo Strategy Update
   - Q&A
   - The Creo Pledge


2. Using Technology, Can We Build Faster, Cheaper, Better?

    - VA Assisted-Living Facility Example
    - Summary


3. Out of the Inbox


PTC Virtual Corporate Visit

For the media listening to last week's PTC virtual corporate visit Webcast, there was little that was new, beyond what we had already reported on from Creo's launch event in Boston last fall. I'll provide a summary of some of the comments and then bring you the Q&A.


Of the roughly 450 "attendees" to this Webinar, there wasn't just media, but also students, professors, and others interested in Creo. CEO Jim Heppelmann made an effort to distinguish the "new" PTC from the company's first era, where its fast success gave outsiders the impression of arrogance, even to customers. "Some of you might note that this sounds like a different PTC than from the 1990s," he said.


That Creo is a bet-the-firm kind of move is not questioned. It won't, however, be released until this summer, so we don't know how well the claims PTC has made will hold up. Claims like these made by Heppelmann during the Webcast:

"Creo is a spectacular example of out-of-the-box thinking."

"Creo is a product family, but also a story of how mechanical design is accomplished and then reused in many places downstream."

"Creo is just the latest in a long list of product ideas PTC brought to the market first."

"Creo is such a different CAD platform that we don't even call it a 'CAD platform'."

"Any CAD system takes at least a week to learn. We got rid of one large monolithic system, and broke it down to apps, like on an iPhone."

From these comments, you would be forgiven in thinking that PTC's world now revolves around Creo. When Mr Heppelmann showed a slide of how all of his company's software fits together, however, it was Windchill that lay at the center. See figure 1. "The purpose of Windchill is to coordinate," he said, "Windchill is the backbone of PTC's system." This comes as less of a surprise when one realizes that Mr Heppelmann was a cofounder of Windchill before it was acquired by PTC.


Figure 1: Windchill is at the center of the PTC customer's workflow. The green boxes represent software not sold by PTC; they are integrated through links.


Creo Roadmap

A road map describes the dates when software (and hardware) companies plan to ship future products. When, and which ones. At the Creo launch event, PTC envisioned shipping the first seven apps this summer, with the next set following in the fall. As of last week, the road map changed to look like this:


Creo Strategy Update

I don't know that we actually heard an update to PTC's strategy regarding Creo, but I will rehash some of the points made by Michael Campbell, vp Creo product development. Creo consists of four groupings of modular applications (called "apps"). All of them use a common data model so that there is no loss of data when moving between 2D and 3D, parametric and direct modeling, and so on. Mr Campbell assured us that the technology is heavily protected by seven pending patents, as yet unpublished.


The new kernel is a combination of capabilities from Pro/E and CoCreate. He told us that it is better than Autodesk's Fusion and Siemens' Synctech, because "the Pro/E kernel is the most powerful geometry kernel on the market," and because the CoCreate kernel has been added to it. "Work in either paradigm with no loss of design intent or flexibility," he summarized.


Here are the four groupings:


Audience Question: Why was Pro/E renamed Creo?

A: Because this is a ground-breaking approach. If we called it "the next release of Pro/E," it would miss the point of the magnitude of the change. We did not come to this lightly. Pro/E is our best known brand; but we need to let the world see it in a new light.


Audience Question: Where did the Creo name come from?

A: "Creo" is the Latin root for the word "Create."


Audience Question: How many apps will Creo have in the road map?

A: We now have a list of 35-40 apps.


Audience Question: Will each app have a different price?

A: Some will have different prices. Some will be sold individually. Some will be bundled. The pricing will be made public this spring, with the software shipping this summer.


Audience Question: What about maintenance plans?

A: We do not expect you to repurchase the software. If you own Pro/E, you will get Creo 1.0.


Audience Question: How does Windchill work with Creo?

A: Customers have a right to be concerned about new software. Will it work? Will it work with existing software? We are working hard to make sure Creo works on an extensive range of operating systems, Windows XP, Vista, and 7.


upFront.eZine: If you are "making SharePoint relevant to product development," does this mean you are locking Creo to Microsoft Windows? How will you run your software on other OSes?

A: We are responding to our customers who tell us that they by and large only run Windows on the engineering desktop, and therefore Creo will run on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7.


upFront.eZine: If a user suddenly realizes he needs another Creo module, how long would it take for him to get the module?

Answer: You would need to purchase it from PTC or a PTC partner, and would be able to use within a day.


The Creo Pledge

PTC employees take The Creo Pledge at http://pledge.ptc.com. "We've been carrying that pledge around with us everywhere. We tack it up on the walls of our booth..." They go as far as to suggest that customers sign the pledge.


The problem is that the pledge isn't being followed. "Creo will do away with the barriers embodied by mechanical CAD as it exists today." Creo puts up two major barriers: (a) data can be imported, but PTC is not enthusiastic about you exporting it out of Creo; and (b) Creo runs only on Windows.





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Using Technology, Can We Build Faster, Cheaper, Better?

Greg Robinson of Lucrosol spent some time last week describing to upFront.eZine what the company is doing with Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), and Building Information Modeling (BIM) to build a variety of commercial and military buildings -- together with architects, engineers, MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) and fire sprinkler contractors. He was answering the question he had posed to me: "Can we build faster, cheaper, better using technology?"

Old way: Perform coordination after all design teams finish their work; design drawings are handed to the contractor/subcontractor who do shop drawings, and to discover constructability and clash conflicts.

New way: IPD, VDC, and BIM where each team member has a stake, risks part of their fee. Therefore, they have to work together in the beginning: designers, builders, and owners. Everyone benefits from performance and efficiencies or pays when there is an error by one.

Using a virtual digital prototype permits much of the construction to be pre-fabricated, such pre-cut plumbing and mechanical sections and studded wall sections. For example, all electrical wires are the cut to the correct length and built off-site, complete with conduits and junction boxes. Outlets and switches are installed and coiled temporarily by one crew with the next crew pulling the wire to the junction boxes. Entire sections of piping and ductwork complete with hangers and unistrut are constructed in the shop eliminating field soldering. Wood and steel studs framing is built in sections and erected as panels. Safety is a big deal, so the more construction you can do in a safe controlled environment the safer the entire project will be.


VA Assisted-Living Facility Example

Mr Robinson walked me through the construction of the 28-acre Veteran Administration Assisted Living Facility in California. He showed me a 2.8GB composite IFC 3D model in Tekla. See figure 2. It combined files from AutoCAD (for 2D drafting), Tekla (for 3D structural shop drawings), AutoCAD MEP with object enablers (for 3D piping & mechanical), CadPipe (for 3D fire design), Revit (for 3D Architecture), and SketchUp.


Figure 2: 2.8GB model


The model is built for constructability, and so the building is modeled down to the steel studs. The idea is the "pre-build" the building in the CAD system so that it can be built easily on-site. For example, can a bulldozer fit inside?

(No joke. Working as a summer student at an aluminum smelter in northern Canada, I saw an example of this problem. A new concrete building lacked a doorway even as wide as a Bobcat mini-bulldozer. Laborers had to bring in the sand by wheelbarrow and then spread it by hand using shovels.)


Here is the condensed version of a 29-page specification that Mr Robinson worked out:

1. Establish a master control grid based on survey data, architectural, and structural coordinate systems.
2. Verify transformations of each software platform's disparate coordinate systems, units (Imperial, metric, engineering, and so on) and base point origin to the master control. Detect and eliminate any associated errors.
3. For control purposes, institute a usable x,y,z-point object for all disciplines to place into their native software file types.
4. Create a composite of all source file data using NavisWorks and Tekla for clash and constructability reviews. The composite model contain any 2D information that is useful, whether elevated, extruded, or transformed along with any 3D data. For example, this might mean taking 2D elevations and then transforming then against the outside walls of a 3D Revit file.
5. Study the model for constructability: does it fit? Does it have the right spacing? Does it clash? Can one piece be connected to another? Look for sloppy modeling. Indicators are added to show constructability problems in the composite model.

At this point, I asked Mr Robinson how errors are found in the digital model. The team has to "walk" through the model using Navisworks/Tekla, hoping to find all problems at known points. For example, on such digital walk is taken around the perimeter of the building, looking for things like...

...whether the fascia can be attached to the roof.
...that nothing impedes light coming through skylight.
...pipe hangers located to match gyproc seams.

When problems are found, notes are added and screen grabs are made. These are sent to the designer to make the changes. Mr Robinson noted that 2D is used just as much as 3D.


6. A scheduling package is set up to create task objects containing building objects from the 3D model, such as the steel beams and columns. The task object is a function that defines production, such as pieces of steel per hour, which defines its duration. When tasks are linked together (such as where task A has to be completed before task B can begin), the schedule defines itself. These schedules can be imported/exported to and from traditional scheduling software, like MS Project, Primavera, and spreadsheets.
7. Metrics on VDC, BIM, and IPD usage are tracked through a spreadsheet derived from Stanford's VDC certification Program. It tracks the following items:

- Weekly blocks of time
- Designers and subcontractors
- Types of Change
- Types of impact
- Money and time lost or gained
- Net loss or gain
- How issues were identified
- Perceived usefulness
- And when issues would be discovered without VDC.

8. For owners, a 3D Operations and Maintenance model links objects from the model to COBIE-standard spreadsheets [Construction Operations Building Information Exchange], and/or PDF files of manuals, sketches, drawings, and photographs. Provided the digital prototype is brought up to the as-built condition, then the operations and maintenance documentation is provided to the owner, following commissioning and issuance of certificate of occupancy.


I asked him how intellectual property concerns are handled? He noted that IP is not as crucial as in the MCAD field, but the practice of "copyright" by each designer needs to be halted. The project design should be considered as open source. On Lucrosol's projects, an on-site model server computer attached to a 47" monitor allows anyone on the project to access the data on the project. Also available is a copy of the current model, email facilities, a webcam, VoIP communications (Skype), Navisworks and Tekla viewers, SketchUp, and other software.

Through this interview with me, Mr Robinson wanted to let the industry know what can -- and cannot -- be done. Digital prototyping -- or BIM or what ever marketing professionals care to call it -- is here to stay. A lot of software is very capable, but few use it wisely. The early lessons of even 2D AutoCAD apply to sophisticated 3D digital prototypes: you need to create tight models, efficient designs, and provide the level of detail required for the task at hand.

Think about the alternatives to designing a building. You can provide either (a) verbal/written instructions and specifications; (b) 2D plans; or (c) a fully functional 3D digital representation of the building, complete with links to associated system databases.






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Out of the Inbox

There's a Revit Technology Conference in Australia (May) and another one in USA (June) operated by the Revit User Group Sydney (RUGSYD). http://www.revitconference.com.au


MIP launches SolidGenius 17, integrating it into PTC's not-yet-released Creo Elements/Direct Modeling (aka CoCreate Modeling). "New innovative concepts like Dynamic Profiles, Smart Connections, and Rubber Parts will be first time introduced to CAD/CAM world," the press release tells me. (MIPS is short for "Manufacturing Integration Products.") No-charge eval version from http://www.solidgenius.com/free_trial.htm


IMSI/Design has a new version of Renditioner Pro for Google SketchUp ($200). It's got HDR lighting, weather-based lighting schemes, twist lighting, real world cameras, alpha textures, and more. http://www.imsidesign.com/Products/Renditioner/RenditionerPro/tabid/1750/Default.aspx


Extensible CAD Technologies updates InspectionXpert for Pro/E with automated mapping of custom attributes and automatic capture of drawing
changes. http://www.inspectionxpert.com


Apple, Google, Mozilla, Opera now support WebGL 1.0, which is yet another 3D Web Standard, but one that Khronos Group hopes will be the One 3D Standard to Rule Them All. WebGL allows hardware-accelerated 3D graphics in HTML5 Web browsers without for plug-ins. http://www.khronos.org


IronCAD's already got its first update for the new IronCAD Design Collaboration Suite Product (IronCAD, Innovate, IronCAD Draft, and Native Translator Bundles). Some of the improvements include:
      - Quick search to locating parts, assemblies, and features
      - Enhanced sketch creation and editing
      - Better loading, feature regeneration, and startup
Users get it automatically, but if you can't wait, here's the complete list: http://www.ironcad.com/support/updates/ironcaddcs2011/ICDCS2011PU1Readme.htm.


PTC landed Hyundai and sister company Kia, and now they got the Aston Martin LMP1 racing car contract for design software -- using the as-yet-unreleased Creo Elements/Pro (also Windchill).


Ten years it been that Okino supports translators for Rhino and its related OpenNURBS .3dm file format. The latest version works with Rhino v5. All the details here with this graphic: http://www.okino.com/images/rhino_radial.jpg

MecSoft's VisualXPORT plug-in for SolidWorks lets you export parts as VisualMILL .vcp files. (The company also produces RhinoCAM, Alibre CAM, and VisualTURN.) http://www.mecsoft.com


And Siemens PLM Software is chuffed that 3.5 million endusers are using software that uses the Parasolid kernel. They're calling it the "World's Most Widely Used 3D Geometric Modeling Component." but I would think Autodesk's proprietary ShapeManger might be #1.

Notable Quotable

"Looks like $100 million gets you a team that at least knows how to copy and paste."
  - Jay Bhatti, co-founder, spock.com



upFront.eZine is published every Tuesday, except during summer and Christmas vacation. Editor: Ralph Grabowski. This newsletter is read by 12,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Your comments are welcome at editor@upfrontezine.com! Deadline for submissions is every Monday noon.


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Entire contents copyright 2011 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "On your desktop every Tuesday morning" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.

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