DuringSolid Edge University 2016last month, I met withOleg Shilovitsky, ceo and co-founder ofopenBOM. This new software lets designers track products. Here is my interview with him.
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Ralph Grabowski: Where did the idea for openBOM come from? Oleg Shilovitsky:What is the first thing an engineer uses? A spreadsheet.
Grabowski: True. When I bought my first personal computer in 1983, I wanted to bring it to my job at the consulting engineering firm to run spreadsheets. (My boss wouldn't allow it, so we continued to do all calculations with HP calculators.)
Shilovitsky: Another thing is that many new projects get started today on Kickstarter. Well, that is just for the funding. But if you look at the proposed project, many of them are bits of software running on hardware that needs to be manufactured.
Grabowski: Probably designed in USA, manufactured in China.
Shilovitsky:The second thing that engineers need to do is share data. They are small teams who work with many contractors. Many of them use Google Sheets as their BOM[bill of materials]because Google designed it for more than one person to work on the same spreadsheet at a time.
So we designed openBoM that works like Google Sheets, but has links into all of the MCAD systems. It works on the cloud -- which you call "remote server" but you really should call "multi server” <g> -- so that additions and changes to the data occur instantly.
[Here Mr Shilovitsky made a change to a BOM item on a Windows laptop and as he did, the change -- character by character -- appeared on an adjacent MacOS laptop.]
Grabowski: I see the menu has a link specific to Fusion 360. Why is that? Shilovitsky:That is the connector that I happened to have installed on this machine. It uses Autodesk's new ForgeAPI system.
Grabowski: I've been trying to figure out Forge. It is just an API[application programming interface]? Shilovitsky:Yes. It is new, so it works just one-way for now. I can get data from Fusion 360, but changes I make in openBOM cannot be synchronized back to Fusion. Onshape has a very good API, so changes are synchronized in both directions.
[Mr Shilovitsky shows me me the list of connectors for MCAD and ECAD software from Altium, Autodesk, PTC, Siemens, and Solidworks.]
Shilovitsky:We work inside of OnShape, appearing in one of their tabs. (See figure 1.)
Figure 1 OpenBOM running in an Onshape tab
Grabowski: So an Onshape user would get openBOM from the Onshape app store? Shilovitsky:Correct. And next we are working to get openBOM working with their drawing module[written by ARES developer Graebert].
Grabowski: What about something like BricsCAD or ARES? Can they work with openBOM? Shilovitsky:We don't have a connector for them, but they would connect through a spreadsheet file[but without the real-time synchronization]. We read XLS and CSV files[exported by BricsCAD and ARES]. It takes us about a week to write a simple connector for a CAD program.
Grabowski: What about keeping track of changes? Shilovitsky:Here we have three mechanisms. OpenBOM keeps a history of all changes made to the BOM, and by whom. When engineers want to freeze the BOM before a revision, they can save it as a named state.
Grabowski: What about comparing older and newer versions of BOMs? Shilovitsky:We do that too. But more importantly we show the list of changes. When a product is revised, the manufacturer doesn't want the revised BOM listing all the parts. He would refuse to continue on the job! He just wants to know what has changed, and we provide that list and allow him to export it to Excel.
We also track where-used. So when a part is used in more than one project, users can see them all.
“Inventories” in openBOM can be flexible, fixed, or hidden.Flexiblemeans users can edit the BOM anyway they want.Fixedmeans the administrator sets the values that are to be used.Hiddenmeans the contractor doesn't see the details of properties.
Which leads me to the administration panel: It is very simple: I just add an email address with permissions. If the user is a contractor, I remove their email address once the contract is over.
Grabowski: How much does it cost? Shilovitsky:A single registered user can use it for free, along with other registered users. We have aTeamprice at $50/month that adds administration and allows unlimited users. TheEnterprisepricing is for companies that don't want their employees buying this individual, and who want to reassign as needed.
Grabowski: Where does the "open" part of the name come from? Shilovitsky: It makes BOM open, it is free to use, and can read data from any CAD system[directly via a connector or indirectly by XLS/CSV files].
Here is my transcript from the 1.5-hour Q&A session:
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Q: You have ARES on six platforms[Android, iOS, Linux, MacOS, Web, and Windows]; how do you coordinate development of them all? A:We have different teams for each one, working at different cycles:
Our desktop software gets a release every three months
Mobile is updated every four weeks
Web every three weeks
Large accounts face a strong inertia and reluctance to change from their user base, and so for them, it is potentially easier to validate one feature every three weeks than to jump to a new version with hundreds of differences every two or three years.
For them, the cloud is solving lots of issues, such as getting rid of the hassle of updates and installs; every one using the same version (which facilitates support and training); and minor updates every three facilitates adoption.
Q: Speaking with one of your OEMs[software companies who license ARES], they wish you would do more with 3D. A:That is a complicated question to answer. We know that some things are missing and we need to build on them. Each seat of ARES has, after all, a full license of ACIS[for 3D solids modeling]and we are one of the only systems with CDS[Dassault's constraint system licensed by Spatial]. But does ACIS/CDS help a mechanical or AEC designer? We are not sure what people would use it for, but some use-cases include event planning.
When people compare feature lists, we beat AutoCAD, because I question if there are many users working in 3D with AutoCAD. I would tend to think that if you truly need 3D nowadays, there are more efficient solutions on the market than AutoCAD.
For the 2D-oriented user, our new ARES Trinity workflow has improvements coming from the synergy of desktop-mobile-cloud. We feel it can boost productivity by more than 50%, while a new CAD feature can hardly improve by 1%.
We are not going to build a feature-based modeler. But we will add dynamic UCS, grips editing. So we have a team working on 3D for the next year. But we have bigger teams working on the cloud and on mobile, while we make sure we improve the desktop.I think one useful function would be to do clean-up editing to a 3D model and then send it to a 3D printer.
Q: How do you run LISP on Kudo[server-based CAD]? A:LISP is working in Kudo. We showed it already last year at the Graebert Annual Meeting in an example combining Lisp and DCL [dialog control language] running on desktop, mobile, and cloud. However, we are not ready yet to expose it for end users, as we need to make sure they cannot break the system with LISP (as it can potentially impact other users collaborating on the drawing). Q: It is interesting what you are doing in Japan. A:We are not going to build a global spanning Behemoth, but instead work with local guys who know what is needed. Our deal with Japan happened because they got frustrated with Autodesk. We don't have a presence in the UK, for example.[Graebert's first country distribution deal took place in India.]
We are a weapon supplier to the big guys. When an industry leader gets frustrated with Autodesk, we say to them, ‘We have something for you’.
Q: Trimble is another one, they need a proper drawing program, because Layout doesn't work well. There is a rumor Trimble will buy one of the big BIM players, but not Revit. A:We are having conversations that we can't talk about.
We can provide things like plug-ins, and modify our ARES software. ARES Map an example; we are getting interest from city councils, larger corporations in ARES Map.
Q: I could see SketchUp running in the cloud, like Onshape, using your Kudo drawing component. A:In addition to being a full DWG editor, Kudo is a file management system, where you can bring all your DWG files; it does not force you to use one specific cloud storage service. I want to make money in the meantime with the mobile thing. I think mobile can sneak in nicely between[desktop and Web].
Q: But mobile is not an in-between market, it is a supplemental market. A:Agreed. We are finding that we are not going to be on the Top Ten list in the Google Play store, but we see there is interest from large companies (making multi-thousand-seat deployments) to solve a business process. Mobile CAD is definitely supplemental [to the desktop].
Q: The Open Design Alliance is developing the API[application programming interface]that mimics AutoCAD Mechanical. Are you doing anything with it? A: AutoCAD Mechanical objects are interesting to us, because there are all these old files -- such as from the old Genius software and from India, where 2D is big -- and so we can read them. People don't want to create new drawings from them, but want to be able to read the drawings so they can re-use them, and update them with our ARES Mechanical.
Q: Is the DWG market growing? A:The number of people interacting with DWG is not dropping off, as everyone thought it would ten years ago. It is not being replaced by 3D.
Q: There are Solidworks customers using Draftsight[made by Graebert]being targeted by Onshape[which uses the drawing editor from Graebert]. A:Our job is to find partners who are strong, so that we can provide them with technology, but we cannot control how successful they are at running their businesses.
Q: You should be marketing the heck out of your stuff. A:Autodesk blocks all the large dealers from selling other software, as they lock up their dealers. If one of their dealers want to sell other software, Autodesk kicks them out. So only the small players are left, which doesn't get us very far. So we look for opportunities elsewhere, using our trinity model to attract people like in India and Japan who know their local markets.
Q: Do you have to build a BIM tool next? A:We don't have the knowledge or the time to build another Revit, but we could work with someone to help them enable a cloud version of BIM. We are part of the BIM group in the ODA. If you look at our SiteMaster BIM software, it already includes many architectural features to create walls, openings, slabs, and more. Graebert has a long expertise of ADT objects and IFC export in SiteMaster BIM.
Q: What is next for Graebert? A:The next step up is "flavored trinity" -- industry-specific versions, for example ARES Map on mobile and Kudo. This is how we differentiate ourselves from Autodesk and from other low-cost companies.
There is more at ourWorldCAD Accessblog about the CAD industry, tips on using hardware and software, and our popular travelogues. You can keep up with the blog through its RSS feed and email alert service. These are some of the articles that appeared onWorldCAD Accessduring the last week:
Saw your pieceon ODAs work on libraries for reading RVT file. And saw one response mentioning the Autodesk Forge web services and another mentioning the importance of IFC when viewing BIMs. And thinking you may not have used the new Forge Viewer web service. Why don’t you embed a few 3D models and 2D drawings in yourWorldCAD Accessblog web site as a way to “check it out”? Copy and paste this embed code in your web page to view an IFC file of a Bridge… <iframe src="https://myhub.autodesk360.com/ue29c8251/shares/public/SHabee1QT1a327cf2b7ac9a44a42928ad962?mode=embed" width="640" height="480" allowfullscreen="true" webkitallowfullscreen="true" mozallowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0"></iframe>
Copy and paste this embed code in your web page to view a Revit project of a house – that includes both the 3D model and several sheets (drawings). <iframe src="https://myhub.autodesk360.com/ue29c8251/shares/public/SHabee1QT1a327cf2b7a56acd0ff89f1bce8?mode=embed" width="640" height="480" allowfullscreen="true" webkitallowfullscreen="true" mozallowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0"></iframe>
Pull out a tablet or a decent size mobile phone and visit your website to see you can view these files on most any device and most any browser (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera, etc). Along with IFC and RVT, the Forge Viewer supports SKP (Sketchup), DGN, STEP, IGES, SolidWorks, Inventor, Fusion, CATIA, Creo, SolidEdge – DWG of course - and many more file formats. Want to embed the model of a building or a DWG you already have in your web site? Just get a free A360 account, upload your file, and follow the “sharing” links to “embed”. Want to just view most any design file “right now”, drag and drop viewing athttps://a360.autodesk.com/viewer/
Check out the following two websites that have 3D models embedded in them (in some cases with drawings):
Last: See the “properties” tool in the Viewer toolbar… where you can browse properties for every entity (assuming the model/drawing came from a CAD system that has entity level properties/attributes/metadata). So these are not just pretty pictures. One can even search for and count entities. What you cannot do is recreate the original model/binary (except manually) as all the geometry is simplified when prepared for Viewing.
The days of having to install a client app to view a CAD file are fading. The days of rev control hell that occurs when you share the original CAD binary file goes away too. The number of people that use a CAD file – the folks that construct the building or manufacture the widget – mostly don’t have CAD – and frankly view proprietary binary file formats as a hassle. - Jim Quanci, senior director, partner development Autodesk
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For the 11,456thtime: Autodesk is pushing this business model for the benefit of SHAREHOLDERS, not for the benefit of the software users. The GOOD news is that you, too, can become a shareholder - just buy some stock, and you will get a vote. If two million users buy enough stock, in a couple of years they can influence Autodesk company policies like never before.
Until then, one solution might be for companies to allow each other to remotely access Autodesk software that resides on their respective servers, in an effort to defray costs. For example, if Company A has a license for AutoCAD, but only uses it a couple of months a year, it could allow Company B to remote in to its server to use AutoCAD for the rest of the year. At the same time, Company B may have a license for Revit, and it also needs to use 3D Studio, but it cannot afford the license. Company C may have a license for 3D Studio, but needs to use AutoCAD for six months. Company D, meanwhile, needs Revit for one project that will last for four months, et cetera.
If someone were to develop a database and website that tracked these licenses and availability, and no money changed hands, and each company was officially listed in their respective charters as some sort of limited sharing partner, a 'work-around' could possibly be developed that allowed folks to trade software 'license time' with each other. Yes, such a notion may feel like it might be approaching a gray legal area, but necessity is the mother of invention, and Autodesk created this necessity, so we are just inventing a response. -Peter on WorldCAD Access
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What is mysoftware/perpetual license worth? I have a copy of Autodesk Product Design Suite Ultimate 2012 - Pauline via WorldCAD Access
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