I started out this year as an independent consultant doing design and engineering work. I also did some process consulting for a few manufacturing companies, and even some consulting for some software companies as well. As an independent I was able to get exposure to a variety of different design tools, CAD and CAE. It was a good year for this as technology continued to move at a great pace.
During my time as an independent, SpaceClaim came to market (almost 2 years ago now). I had much fun with that product. They’ve done a nice job at making history-free b-rep modeling simple, fast and flexible and they continue to be a strong advocate for this direct history-free technology. They seem to be focused on a complimentary, or coexistence strategy and getting CAD into the hands of the non-experts. In 2008 SpaceClaims’ unique user interaction model and geometry interaction methodologies were “leveraged” by another CAD company, bringing further validation to their place in the industry.
Just prior to 2008, PTC acquired CoCreate, adding direct modeling to their suite of products and raising the awareness again for history-free direct, or as they call it “explicit” modeling. I watched this closely as I used to work for CoCreate. Back then PTC was of course our biggest competitor. CoCreate Modeling remains to be the most matrue and capable of the history-free direct modeling systems on the market - after all they were developing it inside of HP long before CoCreate, the company, existed.
Then came Siemens and Synchronous Technology. It was great to see all the new attention, again, on history-free modeling. The marketing buzz from Siemens was that they were the first to combine history-free modeling with a synchronous constraint solver. Although they weren’t the first, they certainly made some good progress in integrating the two technologies in a useful way. I still think they have a long ways to go to bring maturity to their history-free modeling environment and the intelligent model, but they certainly have a good start.
There were also many advances this year in direct editing within the history-based environment. Most all of the history-based CAD vendors now have this capability. It’s seems a little flakey tracking direct edits in a history tree, but it does further validate the need for more flexibility in our 3D CAD tools.
Now we have Autodesk getting into the fray with Inventor Fusion, another validation that this is where we are heading with regards to 3D CAD. I still can’t tell what this thing is though. The demos that I have seen are very trivial and simple, but they do present some nice user interaction tools and methods. So, is this a history-free CAD tool, or more direct editing within a history-based system, or some weird combo-deal? Hard to say so far. I suspect a new history-free environment that will strip away all the history and parameters of an Inventor file, similar to that of SE ST and NX6 ST. We’ll find out soon enough. They do show some nice new user interaction concepts and tools.
While I enjoyed my time as an independent consultant, this last June brought a significant change for me in that I took a job with PTC. So now I can no longer claim to be one of those “credible independent consultants”. I guess I’m now a pesky “software vendor”. It’s been a bit of a strange transition for me. Not that I haven’t always been a bit bias to history-free modeling, and specifically the CoCreate product, it’s just that now I’m supposed to be. J I still hope I can be more factual than salesy though. I think that once someone knows the facts and knows their process and user requirements they will be able to make the right alignment with technology. History-free modeling is not the answer for all design requirements. (Not yet anyway).
So what’s coming next year in the world of history-free or direct modeling? You know, now that we have a few more capable history-free tools out there, we could greatly reduce the interoperability issues that come standard with history-based tools. Models can now be fully editable across several different CAD tools. The next step is to be able to transfer history-free features, 3D annotation and parameters between these systems. The STEP protocol actually has much of this built into it already. Imagine transferring fully parameterized, intelligent, editable parts and assemblies from one CAD system to another via STEP. Could it be possible?
Merry CHRISTmas and Happy New Year!!