t h e b u s i n e s s o f c a d
Issue #725 | March 6, 2012
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In This Issue
1. PTC Meets With Journalists (part i)
- Looking Back at Creo 1.0
- AnyBOM (Options Modeler)
2. Siemens PLM's Agreement with Boeing
3. Out of the Inbox, and other regular columns.
PTC Meets With Journalists, Part i
PTC last week hosted me and three other journalists who wrote reviews about Creo 1.0 following its launch last fall. This week, I report on UX, Creo 1.0, and PTC's plans for AnyBOM; next week, I'll describe what PTC has planned for Creo 2.0, specifically the Parametric, Direct, and the new Layout apps.
During the day, we provided Creo product managers further feedback on our experiences, and then quizzed them on how they deal with the UX (user experience). One editor explained his frustrations with UX: "I cannot jump into PTC software and just use it, like SketchUp or even SolidWorks. The biggest first step is install, which is 'expletive deleted'. [With Creo], you are breaking things down, so that guys with no engineering background are forced to use the PTC interface. For instance, to get an array of eight holes, I need to fill out a form, instead of just pointing and clicking."
We gave examples of unexpected behavior in the software. We brought up the confusion over the "Creo" naming system. As if to prove our point, one PTC employee mentioned "Elements/Direct," and then immediately translated it as the "former CoCreate." When asked about the difference between Elements/Direct and Creo Direct, PTC explained, "We have to keep Elements/Direct (CoCreate) around because Creo Direct does not have all the technology." The name confusion is something PTC, customers, and industry watchers will have to for now put up with.
In return, PTC explained to us their thinking that went into the original product. If I can sum it up accurately, it goes something like this:
"What we deliver in the next few iterations of the Creo product line is a better job," summarized corporate communications manager, Eric Snow.
The non-stop five-hour session (lunch was a working lunch) was divided roughly into two parts, looking back at Creo 1.0 and forward to 2.0.
Looking Back at Creo 1.0
Here are some of the questions and answers that began the session on Creo 1.0:
Q: What is the strategy behind Creo?
A: It addresses the market in a different way, which has been a monolithic approach. We recognize that companies have a variety of talents, and that not all are suited to a big CAD system [like Pro/Engineer]. We want to broaden the use of CAD data, broken into chucks for different parts of the firm.
We found that many customers use AutoCAD, because PTC's 2D offering isn't good enough. When customers use AutoCAD, they have to redraw the sketches when they move them to Creo Parametric, because any intelligence is lost. [Read about Creo Layout later in this article.]
The strategy is to use the [PTC] technology that you want to use. Creo is the strategy and overall brand; you cannot buy Creo itself. You buy Creo Direct, Creo Illustrate, and many other apps broken down into tasks.
Q: Let's step back. You used to serve the 'Pro/E mafia.' These are users who dictated to management that PTC software be used. [They are] An amazing group of dedicated people. Who are you serving now: the dedicated user, managers, new customers? For example, you recently released Creo Sketch program for free <http://www.ptc.com/products/creo/sketch/download.htm>, but it is not friendly to new users.
A: We had some of this conversation internally, and we have a great desire to meet the needs of our installed base. We started with our existing customers, but Creo would not exist if that were our only target. We can't be everything to everyone.
Another editor made this suggestion: "Improve the out of the box experience. Make the box and its opening exciting, like SolidWorks [or Vectorworks] packaging. Make sure it installs on Bootcamp [Windows running on Mac]. The small business guy needs it be easy-to-use and have a good looking interface, which PTC does not have. You need to distinguish between serving individuals and serving corporations. SketchUp is a human-scale product, while Catia is corporation-size."
Q: It is really popular right now for the big CAD vendors to integrate direct editing with their history-based CAD. Yet, the point to Creo is to be modular. Does this mean PTC will keep direct and history separate?
A: Yes. There is Creo Direct for direct modeling and Creo Parametric for history-based modeling. [The two exchange models through a common file database.] However, we provide direct editing in Parametric through our Flex modeling.
Q: Part of the Creo UI looks like the Office ribbon, but its sharp edges and plain looks make me think the UI was home-grown. Is this correct?
A: The user interface was built by PTC, using our own platform-independent UI Toolkit.
AnyBOM (Options Modeler)
PTC did not do anything with AnyBOM Assembly with Creo 1.0, and did very little with AnyData Adoption. While more is coming in 3.0, PTC considers AnyBOM the most important part of the Creo 2.0 release.
AnyBOM is for designing (and then validating) configurable products. This means setting up the CAD model so that it can produce many similar products that have different specs, such as doors that are wider or smaller. (In other CAD systems, this might done using VBA macros or third-party add-ons.) You set up variations, such as doors in size from 2' to 4' in 3" increments. When a new door size is elected, then everything connected to the door also is set up to change appropriately, such as size of frame, number of hinges -- as well as options, such as number and type of windows, locks, and handles.
PTC found that configurations does not work well from neither the PLM nor the CAD side. PLM does not intimately understand CAD, and so it does not understand the geometry that drives the changes; CAD doesn't understand business logic. So, PTC got its CAD and PLM teams working together to created a bridge it calls AnyBOM.
AnyBOM is a window into the Windchill database. "As far as we know, no one else has solved it the way we have," PTC told us.
In Creo, multiple configures are collected into "modules." They showed us a configuration model that generated multiple styles of bike frames. There was a frame module that held two or more frames; a front wheel module that knows which frame it belongs to; and so on. When the demo jock chose one frame, the correct wheels appeared.
Right now, it works primarily with Creo models; they can maintain a link back to foreign models, such as SolidWorks. (Make a change to the model in SolidWorks and the change is recognized and applied in Creo.) We were told the future plans, but were asked to keep them embargoed for now.
AnyBOM can access configuration data directly in the model: choose a part in Creo, and a small window displays a list of all the variants names obtained from Windchill -- pretty much instantly, it appeared to me.
Variant Builder is the name of the interface for creating configurations. It has three panes: Options (holds lists of each type of bike frame, engine, headlights, and so on), Model Tree (with assignments), and a preview image of the 3D model. As you choose options from the Options pane, the Model Tree shows which parts are affected, and the preview image changes the 3D parts from ghosted to fully rendered. Click Update Assembly button, and the preview pane shows the changes in green.
You can specify product names, such as Street or Offroad, and then AnyBOM selects the appropriate parts and generates the model. You can specify the configurations in Creo or in Windchill. Rules are written using simple AND and OR statements.
PTC calls AnuBOM "assembly to order;" it is not engineer-to-order, although you could do configure-to-order in Creo.
A journalist asked, "What about have analysis specifying some of the parts, such as having to meet a certain ground clearance, which selects the appropriate springs for the load being carried?" PTC found that idea interesting.
Cloud? Never came up, except by one journalist noting that portable devices are strongly linked to the cloud.
The overall feeling I get is that while PTC understands the corporate market very well (where individuals are told by their boss what CAD software to use), it still is working on understanding the individual market, where the individual can choose the CAD software. I was interested in the number of times they used the phrase "that's coming" or "3.0". As the world moves on, PTC works on catching up.
In summary, it is clear that Creo is a work in progress, just as Synchronous Technology is. Both products suffered from too much launch hype. After four releases, SychTech is much better; Creo probably will be, too.
[Disclosure: PTC provided me with airfare, accommodation, some meals, ground transportation, and a lovely gray PTC sweater.]
Next week: Part ii
Creo 2.0 Parametric, Direct, and Layout
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Siemens PLM's Agreement with Boeing
Siemens PLM Software last week issued a press release that got me puzzled. In it, they announced that "Boeing has signed a new 10-year agreement to extend the use of Siemens PLM Software technology at both Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Defense Space and Security." I spoke with Tim Nichols, the managing director of aerospace and defense global marketing for Siemens PLM.
Q: The press release says that this is a 'new agreement', but then says it 'extends the use' of your software. Is this a new agreement or the extension of an existing one?
A: It is a renewal of an agreement that has been in place that allows Boeing to expand the use of our software for the next ten years. It is new in that it is a new contract. Using our software for many years, it reconfirms their commitment to our technology
Q: Which of your software does Boeing use?
A: NX and Teamcenter. On the commercial aircraft side, Teamcenter is used for the BOM [bills of material] for every plane being built for ten years now, except the 787. On the military side, NX and Teamcenter are used for military aircraft, like the F18, F15, and C17.
Q: Do they use any of your other software connected to CAD, such as CAM?
A: No, just NX for design and Teamcenter for data management.
Q: Boeing is known as being a Dassault shop. Why do they use more than one CAD system, more than one different PLM system?
A: That would be a fair question for Boeing.
Q: On hearing that NX and Teamcenter are used for military aircraft makes me wonder if NX came through Boeing's acquisition of another aircraft company?
A: Boeing did acquire McDonnel Douglas. [This aircraft company acquired UGS in 1976, developed it, and eventually spun it out; it is now known as NX.]
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Out of the Inbox
Autodesk has been talking about its cloud-based PLM software since last December, and last week the company officially launched "PLM 360." Its benefits include instant-on (because it runs in a Web browser), being easy to configure through vertical apps that can be customized through drag'n drop, and costing nothing for the first three users of each company (says the press release, but the Web site offers $100 for 10 users for ten months), otherwise, it's $900/user annually. http://www.autodeskplm360.com [Disclosure: Autodesk gifted me with an "Autodesk PLM 360" edition of iPod Nano and TikTok strap.]
Luxology's new modo 601 rendering software offers Parasolid-based CAD Loaders for reading XT, IGES, and STEP files. As models are loaded into modo, the CAD surfaces are dynamically tessellated for modo's modeling and rendering operations. The CAD Loaders are priced at $495 or $695. http://www.luxology.com
PTC's Mathcad Prime 2.0 integrates with Excel, automates symbolic algebra, outputs 3D plots, and finally supports 64 bits and multi-threading. http://www.ptc.com/product/mathcad
China's ZWSOFT pre-launched its new ZW3D 2012 software through an open beta, and now anyone with an .edu email address can get a 12-month educational license to the Student Version from http://www.zwsoft.com/en/student
Gstarsoft last night shipped the Android version of its mobile CAD program, GstarCAD MC (mobile client) for drawing, editing, and viewing files in its proprietary OCF format. (You use their desktop softare to convert drawings to OCF.) The Android version boasts incremental improvements over the iOS vesion, such as listing of recent documents, saving drawings locally, and optionally using the volume key for zooming. Download at no cost directly from http://www.gstarsoft.net/docts/GstarCAD_MC_for_Android.zip
"A little over a month ago at a week-long coffee-infused hack-a-thon in-person gathering, many of our core developers worked on improving BRL-CAD's source code. The team inspected and fixed more than fifteen hundred issues being reported by Coverity Static Analysis. After five days of code crunching, the developers reduced BRL-CAD's defect density to less than 1/4th the industry average at approximately 0.22 defects per thousand lines of code (kloc)." http://brlcad.org/wiki/Code_Cleanup
Remo 3D v2.2 supports OpenSceneGraph OSGT, OSGB, and OSGX formats and VBS2's P3D format, as well as 64-bit computing. Download a demo version from http://www.remograph.com/download.php
On the WorldCAD Access blog
These were some of the news items that were posted during the last week at our WorldCAD Access blog <worldcadaccess.typepad.com>:
"I'm a draftsman for a pressure vessel fabricating outfit and was hoping if you knew of any such companies and what CAD packages they use. Currently, we use Bricscad but are looking into something a bit more robust in terms of 3D. So far tried out Inventor, Solid Edge, and Spaceclaim.
"To this point, the latter is the easiest but their sheet metal doesn't do cone shapes, which we need. Is there anything out there where it doesn't take six months or so to get up to speed? It's a hard sell to my boss to spend $7,000-plus on a package and not be productive within a reasonable time frame. ( I forgot to mention Alibre, which is far cheaper, but no one has done a write-up on it lately.)
"It might be my limitations going from 2D to 3D; is this a common problem? Do you have any opinions on it? I'm grasping for straws right now and could use some input."
- TN, draftsman
The editor replies: "Have you looked into the software provided by Intergraph? I think they might have some packages along the lines you are looking for. Certainly, try out the demo software they have. Going from 2D to 3D is definately an issue, because you have to make two conceptual changes:
a. In 2D, you work primarily with 2D entities, like lines and circles; in 3D, you tend to work with 3D objects, and then once the 3D model is finished, the software generates the 2D plans for you, semi-automaticlaly.
b. In 2D, you work in 1 plane; in 3D, of course, there are 6 planes, and so you spend more time manipulating the 3D model visually in 3D space to see and work in the area of interest. (Some find a 3D mouse helpful, although I don't.)"
Letters to the Editor
Re: Here's Why Autodesk and Pitney Bowes Signed That Agreement
"And you think this clears something up? What does it mean to 'deal in the large construction projects, but still need GIS'. That makes no sense what so ever. Can you show me one example of where ESRI has moved into a CAD design situation? So since they play in totally different markets there should be great synergy in working together? What am I missing? How can you support this nonsense."
- Gene Roe
"I don't get the connection btw the soft 'sciences' and the 'hard' sciences? Why the 'partnership' when they are worlds apart? Please plainly tell me their hidden agenda."
The editor replies: "I am not knowledgeable about politics in the GIS [geographic information systems] industry, but to me it appears that Pitney Bowes (who owns MapQuest) and Autodesk are worried about the strength of ESRI."
"Does Autodesk's fiscal year 'up' from last year include the increase in assets due to spending $ on companies they gobbled-up?"
The editor replies: "The phrase used is 'immaterial to revenues', meaning the acquired companies are small enough that they do not contribute much to the bottom line. They are purchased mainly for their technology."
Re: Notable Quotable
"I usually appreciate your newsletter very much, but this time I was struck by "Notable Quotable." Maybe I misunderstood the meaning of it?
"Everybody knows -- especially vendors -- that PLM cannot take the place of CAD. Through the Seventies and Eighties I was teaching at Italian business schools the concept and practice of 'gestione del ciclo di vita del prodotto' (product lifecycle management) with the help of the unforgettagle Gartner quadrant.
"Since then CAD has been a component more or less integrated with other software for technical process automation. I cannot believe there can be customers confusing one component for the other process -- even though I know a salesman who sold a plotter assuring the buyer that it would work as a CAD system, but that happened 40 years ago!"
- Dr. Sandro Sozzi, PLM analyst and consultant
The editor replies: "I think that Matt Lombard was speaking of CAD vendors who forget their CAD customers in search of greater profits from PLM sales."
"Most anti-consumerism sooner or later degrades to niche consumerism."
- Alex Bausk, @bauskas
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Entire contents copyright 2012 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 "WorldCAD Access" 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.