Thursday, June 25, 2009

Inventor Fusion: “Unites direct and parametric workflows” - What?

The Inventor Fusion preview is now available. I am anxious to see this thing. Inventor Fusion “Unites direct and parametric workflows”. This is one of the title statements found on the Autodesk Labs web site. I hate to burst the bubble but “direct” and “parametric” workflows have already been “United”. It first happened about 10 years ago when Hewlett Packard embedded the D-Cubed 3D DCM parametric solver into their SolidDesigner (Now PTC CoCreate) product. Siemens has followed by using the same D-Cubed solver inside their Synchronous Technology. There are certainly differences in how these technologies are “united” and implemented in these systems, but the “unite” has already happened.

The first bullet under this title goes something like this: “With the introduction of Inventor Fusion technology, both direct, history-free and parametric, history-based workflows are united”. There could be some confusion in the usage of terms here, but again direct and parametric technologies have already been united. This statement however takes it a bit farther. It claims that history-based and history-free have also been united. If they are referring to a synchronous uniting of this technology, they are wrong. Either a system is recording the modeling steps, or it is not. It is a “1” or a “0”. And if it didn’t record it … assumptions must be made if a record is to be created after the fact.

It goes on to say, however that “Changes can update into the model's parametric feature history, ensuring critical design intent is maintained”. Now this could be cool, but I’m not sure. Are they simply referring to capturing the direct edit into the history tree, as any other (including Inventor) history-based system does with direct edits (nothing new)? -OR- Could they be referring to creating or modifying sketches, features, parameters, and structure of a history tree based on the B-Rep geometry of a history-free model? This however would be nothing new as well. Many companies, universities and creative individuals have been working for many years on this type of technology. It involves analyzing unintelligent 3D B-Rep geometry in an attempt to recognize characteristics in the model such that a fully functional history tree can be created (or perhaps edited) including sketches, features, parameters and structure/relationships. If successful the resulting history-based model could be edited using the standard history-based editing techniques. The system must make many assumptions to do it. Autodesk has been working on it with their Feature Finder, maybe they have made some major breakthroughs. SolidWorks has been working on it with their FeatureWorks technology. PTC has similar technology in their Feature Recognition Tool (FRT). All of this technology attempts to make sense/intelligence of a non-intelligent B-Rep model – the kind that comes from direct modeling. None of it works very well.

There could be another option I guess. Perhaps Inventor Fusion is tagging the B-Rep history-free model with information about a specific direct edit such that the information can be accessed back in the history-based environment to drive identical changes to the history-based model through the manipulation of a sketch, parameter or structure. This could be real messy in many ways, and would only work if the history tree is structured in such a way that the edit would actually work and not attempt to invalidate the model. It would also mean that inventor Fusion would be an "editing" tool only, not a modeling tool.

And then it is interesting to consider how you would rationalize having a history-based model and a history-free model of the same part. Which one is the master document? How would the PDM system handle it?

In a history-free system the 3D model is the master. In a history-based system the history-tree is the master and the 3D model is just a result. Two very fundamentally different technologies.

Well, speculation is fun but I wonder if Autodesk would let me download the Inventor Fusion Preview. Since they have a link to my blog on the site, I think they should. We’ll see. I do like some of the interaction and use model I see in the videos, but I am most interested in the round trip between history-free and history-based, if such a thing exists. As you can tell, I am a bit skeptical.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Some Random Observations of Product Development

While I certainly enjoy a good discussion and review of technology, especially the technology of 3D CAD, I equally enjoy a good discussing and review of the process of product development. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have had the opportunity to visit many companies over the years specifically to review their product development process (PDP) and to consider what and how improvements can be made. Over the last 12 months I have had the privilege of doing process assessments with about 15 different companies. I know this is a small drop in a very large bucket, but it's been interesting.

The companies range from small 2 or 3 facility companies to huge global companies. Industries represented include high tech, machinery, medical, bio-sciences, military, oil & gas, and transportation. Product lifecycles range from 6 months to 50 plus years. Annual product volumes range from one to millions. Throughout these companies there is a vast array of different tools and technologies used to support the process.

Here are some of my random observations:

  • A PLM system does not necessarily reduce the need for individual discipline
  • Duplication of effort is much too common in product development
  • 2D drawings are by far the preferred method of conveying definition and design intent
  • Habits, culture and the path of least resistance often take precedence over process
  • Much data is created in the PDP that adds no value beyond the individual
  • Engineers doing more data entry and project management
  • Individual productivity does not equate to team productivity
  • Tools and technologies are often chosen based on personal preference over process
  • Still a lot of shared drives out there
  • IT often has significant influence, but equally often has little PDP knowledge
  • Throw-it-over-the-wall is still all too common
  • Much regulatory compliance is still paper based, (so they think)
  • ISO Certification is a book on the shelf
  • Regardless of value change may not happen
  • Regardless of value change may happen
  • Knowing how to use a wrench doesn't make you a good mechanic
  • Not knowing how to use a wrench is a problem
  • "PLM? I just need to get my job done"

Some of those appear to be more negative. Here are some that are more positive.

  • People genuinely want to do what’s right. Engineers are top-notch people
  • Engineers are also very creative, (this isn’t always good)
  • The vision for product development is relatively consistent and progressive
  • Innovation happens and tools don't get the credit
  • There is a huge culture gap between the senior and the youth, (good as long as youth knows where help comes from, and senior is open minded)
  • Having a full toolbox is a good thing when problems need solved
  • Collaboration with outside suppliers and venders is improving
  • 3D is making its way into all aspects of product development
  • From drawing boards in open spaces and real-time collaboration - to - CAD in scatterd cubicles and... Twitter??

I started adding examples for each but it got a bit crazy so I will just leave it at this for now. You're welcome to add some of your own random observations.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

PTC User 09 and CoCreate - Day 3

I started out the day with an early round of golf (I wish I knew how to play golf). Fortunately I had to leave after about 13 holes to get back to one of the CoCreate training sessions.

The fact that I played golf, means that I missed the KTM keynote. I would like to have been there.

I arrived at the class a bit late, but Brad Tallis (PTC CoCreate Technical Consultant) was doing a nice job of leading and teaching the class. The class was full. All students were Pro/ENGINEER users just trying to get more familiar with what CoCreate Modeling is. It can be a bit difficult to get out of the mindset of structuring a history tree, but the lights come on fairly quickly. We had a great time and it appeared that the students all had a great time as well. They all wanted more but the time was over all too soon. We encouraged them to download the free Personal Edition from and try it out some more.

PTC User was a great experience this year. It was my second one and I enjoyed meeting more of the PTC community. I also enjoyed meeting in person some of my fellow bloggers and others that I have virtually met in the social network.

I hope these blog posts were of some use to those of you that could not make it to this years event, but I more hope that we will see you at next years event.

Boarding now, got to go.


PTC User 09 and CoCreate – Day 2

John Abele from Boston Scientific was the keynote speaker for today. What a great story. He is a pioneer in many ways. Some of the statements that caught my attention included the following. “Pioneers have arrows in their back”, somewhat referring to the fact that innovation and progress is not without many trials. “Change agents don’t come from the establishments”, another interesting comment that can apply in many different ways. Another one I liked; “preparing to be lucky”, think about that for a minute. He also made some good statements about customers becoming family, salespeople, application developers, engineers, presenters and strategists – basically user groups.

John also told a most fascinating story about finding the submarine that his farther served and died on during WWII. I can’t begin to describe the story, so if you missed it, you just missed it. It was amazing.

I then participated in a meeting with PTC User representatives and other CoCreate users interested in trying to find ways to build up the CoCreate user community. One of the better ideas that came from this discussion was to encourage regional user group meetings. We are looking for a few customers that will step up and be willing to host such an event. I can tell you that if you do you will be well supported. These can be great events and platforms for some valuable collaboration between PTC User, PTC and our customers.

In the afternoon Brad Tallis taught a class on CoCreate Modeling advanced topics. We had several CoCreate users attend the class and even a few brave Pro/E users. He showed many productivity tips and tricks that are perhaps not so well known. There was even some other sharing from some of the attendees with their own tips and tricks. Brad went into some details on part and assembly structure management and then showed how this structure and organizing can be utilized in modeling operations as the design progresses. As CoCreate Modeling has no part modeling mode or assembly modeling mode, you can leverage this virtual 3D environment in some very useful ways. He also went into many other details about sectioning, clip planes, advanced blending capabilities, 3D curves and surfaces capabilities. He ended the class by showing many different ways to take advantage of Configurations to capture states, positions, exploded views, view settings and so on.

Brad and I both were doing demos of CoCreate Modeling in the exhibit hall. It is always enjoyable seeing the reaction of people when they start to realize and understand what CoCreate Modeling is. Several people kept coming back for more. I don’t think they believed it the first time.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

PTC User 09 and CoCreate – Day 1

The day started out with a talk from Jim Heppelmann and Brian Shepherd. Technology just keeps moving forward. What might be interesting to some of the CoCreate folks is the appearance of some CoCreate technology inside a future version of Wildfire. A brief video was shown of the concepts with stronger direct editing capabilities within Wildfire. Could be interesting.

The CoCreate specific content started with a presentation from Dan Gioia from Gioia Consulting. His presentation was focused on the design of electro-mechanical assemblies using IDF and CoCreate Modeling. By sharing data between the EE and ME disciplines he is able to show a considerable reduction in late changes and errors as well as eliminating the confusion of multiple layout passes. Just for reference, the IDF exchange capability is part of the base CoCreate Modeling product.

Andy Poulsen from Aspiration Innovation, Inc. was up next. Andy is a master at creating productivity add-ons for CoCreate Modeling. He showed us some great examples of the power of the CoCreate Modeling Integration Kit, which is a LISP based customization layer that can be used for creating your own custom tools and automation routines. You should checkout: for more information about the products and services they provide.

During lunch I spent some time at the CoCreate booth. Many people came by to better understand what the heck CoCreate Modeling is. No one left unimpressed. It’s a blast showing off this product.

In the afternoon Martin Nuemueller, Product Manager for the CoCreate products presented the CoCreate product roadmap. Martin presented many of the breakthrough technologies around explicit modeling that are coming with v17. I’ve had the opportunity to use early v17 and can tell you that “breakthrough technologies” is a great way to describe it. The focus is around improving speed, flexibility, predictability and intuitiveness. I guess Software companies are always working on these things, but the CoCreate team is taking some big steps with v17. V17 also includes much more interoperability with many of the other PTC products. These integrations can greatly increase the value you can get out of your 3D engineering data coming from CoCreate Modeling.

There is also new stuff coming in Model Manager as well such as management of inseparable assemblies, PCB integration, management of stock-finish parts (multi-opp parts), advanced version control and many more. Martin also talked about the coming gateway between Model Manager and Windchill.

Berthold Hug (PTC Prod Mgr, CoCreate Modeling) and I then presented the “Explicit Modeling Outlook”. I talked briefly about the technologies of parametric modeling (history-based) and explicit modeling (history-free). How these two technologies can address different needs and requirements of product development, but also how they can overlap and complement each other. The most exciting part was Berthold’s presentation and the demonstrations of v17. Wow!! I am hoping that I can get some images and videos posted real soon.

Korie Carter and Scott O’Brien of Tensor Engineering also presented how they are using CoCreate products in steel bridge detailing. They showed several pictures of very large and very complex bridges that they have worked on in the past, from locations all around the county – check out their web site at There is basically no room for error in a business like this. You don’t get to create any prototypes, the volume of product is 1, and the cost of the product is… well, I have no idea. It is very interesting to see how a company like this is using 3D modeling to minimize the opportunity for error and help solve design problems. It’s not that they are not able to do it with 2D, 2D CAD is still a very important part of their process. It’s just that in many cases 3D can be used to more effectively visualize and solve geometry problems. They also use it to visualize the construction process. They even animated the assembly process to capture the specific sequence of assembly. In many cases it is critical to ensure that pieces are assembled in a very specific sequence. These animations make it very clear. Nice job Korie and Scott!

To end the day, Brad Tallis, a Senior Technical Consultant at PTC, gave a presentation and demonstrations about virtual prototyping using some of the advanced capabilities of CoCreate Modeling. He showed simulation and animation of mechanisms to identify any potential interference or conflicts. This capability will work with any geometry from any CAD system. He then showed the integrated FEA capabilities within CoCreate Modeling. He was able to identify areas of weakness, quickly change the model in many different ways to reduce stress and then rerun the analysis, all without being concerned with how the model was created in the first place - just quickly solving problems. Also in the context of virtual prototyping Brad showed the new cabling capabilities of CoCreate Modeling. He loaded an E-CAD file that defined the cables and their pin assignments. Using this data, CoCreate Modeling was able to create the cables and route them automatically and appropriately. Last, but not least Brad talked about taking advantage of the high quality rendering capabilities to use your 3D data to better understand what the product will actually look like. Bringing all of these capabilities together can greatly reduce the dependence on the physical prototype. And when it is time for a physical prototype you can be much closer to a final solution with less iteration.

So that was day one from a CoCreate perspective. Now on to day two.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Some Serious CAD "Geekery"

For those of you that have not already done so, you should check out the geeky discussion going on a Matt Lombard's blog at:

Not sure if any of that discussion helps clear the mud, but I hope so. Let me know what you think. It seems that it will only get more confusing as history-based technology adds more powerful direct editing and dynamic feature manipulation, and as direct history-free modeling adds more intelligence to the B-Rep.

The Big question is; what does it all mean to the process of designing products? It will certainly be interesting to watch.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

PTC World User Event and CoCreate

The PTC World Event is starting next week in Orlando. I am making last minute preparations for my trip and participation at the conference. Myself and several others will be there to represent the PTC CoCreate products. We have several presentations planned along with some free training. We also have a booth in the exhibit hall. We actually get to show off so very cool new stuff so it should be fun.

If you are planning to be there, please come by one of the presentations, training classes or the booth. I would love to meet some of the people that read my blog.

If you are not going to be able to make it, myself and many others will be blogging and tweeting real time as best we can to keep you up to date on what's happening. Watch for the feeds at:


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

PDM and the History Tree

As you would expect, I take whatever opportunity comes alone, with whoever is willing to listen, to explain the benefits of history-free CAD. As such I get to hear many reasons why history-free CAD will not meet a person’s particular requirements. Some of these reasons are certainly valid based on their product characteristics and/or design process. Some, on the other hand, are, well, puzzling to say the least. It is amazing what some people believe that the history tree is doing for them.

One of the frequent and more “puzzling” reasons that I hear for needing the history tree is; “I don’t want anyone to be able to change my model”.

Wow! There are so many things wrong with this statement I’m not sure where to begin.

First of all, the history tree technology (CSG) was originally leveraged into 3D mechanical CAD to make the editing of models easier and more predictable, as compared to the ridged editing capabilities of the old B-Rep CAD systems. When did it become a method for restricting edits? It is true though, you can organize the history tree and constraints to make only specific edits possible. But then if you actually have access rights to make these very specific edits, you also have the rights to reorder the tree, or even corrupt the tree? Strangely enough, you most likely also have the rights to delete the file. Whether intentional or by accident, the model can be changed. Since when did the history tree become some form of data management?

Maybe these people are simply referring to the use of the history tree to capture and somehow communicate their design intent. If this is the case, we should consider how many people within the team and throughout the enterprise need to understand this design intent. And of those, how many have the skill to properly evaluate a history tree to accurately assess the intent. Of these people, how many should have access to the native CAD data? I think the number will get real small, real quick. We have been capturing and conveying design intent via 2D drawings ever since humans have been inventing stuff, and 2D drawings will continue to be the preferred method for many years to come. Model Based Definition may catch on at some point, but MBD does not require a history tree. What unique design intent is captured in the tree? And how does it get communicated to the greater enterprise?

I suppose that there are some that would tell me that what these people really mean is that they want to make sure that IF the model is changed, i.e. a boss is moved on one part, the mating feature on another part is updated accordingly. If that is the case, they are confusing the history tree with parameters and constraints. And please don’t assume that just because these relationships exist, you don’t need to check the results. Relationships and parameters can be changed, removed and even broken - and now we are back to data management.

Maybe I am missing something here, but it seems to me that there is a tendency to believe that a nice looking, well constrained 3D CAD model with a well structured history tree somehow implies “security” and “completeness”. Bottom line: if you think the history tree is somehow protecting your model/assembly, or perhaps somehow controlling and communicating intent, you’re at risk, (in so many ways).