Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Direct Modeling & Large Assemblies

Interest continues to grow in our industry for the flexibility and ease-of-use that comes with history-free direct modeling. Unfortunately there is still much confusion out there about just what direct modeling is and what value it adds to the process of product development. One of the many high value opportunities that come with direct modeling is in “large assembly design and management”. Direct modeling technology can offer some unique advantages over traditional history-based modeling that can greatly improve design, interaction and management of large assemblies.

Based on the technology behind direct modeling, large assembly design and management can be fast and easy. As direct modeling does not record the modeling steps used to create the model, memory requirements and file sizes can be considerably smaller than with traditional parametric history-based modeling. With PTC CoCreate Modeling, for example, I have found file sizes to be 60% to 80% smaller than the same model created in most any traditional history-based system. This would indicate that these parts and assemblies will also consume much less memory when loaded.

In a traditional history-based CAD system, an assembly is basically a collection of references and relationships to other individual history trees. These history trees represent individual parts and sub-assemblies  The history trees can be large and complex. The assembly references and relationships between these trees can be even more complex. With direct modeling an assembly is simply a collection of solid models that are organized in a hierarchical structure. There is no history tree. There are no hidden references or relationships. What you see is what you get. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve been doing some large assembly testing with several different CAD systems. It has been startling to witness how poor many of the most popular CAD tools perform with large assemblies, even with “dumb solids”. The assembly that I am using in this example is made up of 29,455 part and assembly objects. The STEP file of the entire assembly comes out at just over 302mb. The native CoCreate package file of the entire assembly comes in right at 100mb. This is not a large assembly compared to many of the assemblies I have witnessed CoCreate users working with. Most CoCreate users would consider a large assembly to be somewhere around 100,000 to 250,000 parts. (By the way, the native geometry resolution/accuracy of a model developed in CoCreate Modeling is 1.0E-6 mm by default – about 2500 times higher accuracy than any other CAD system on the market, and yet it is still possible to manage these large assemblies.)

Below is a picture of the assembly I have been working with. It comes from a company in Europe. This is a coagulator used in the cheese making process. CoCreate Modeling was used from beginning to end to support the design process.

For the video below I loaded this assembly in its entirety. All parts are loaded as high accuracy solid models. None of the parts were loaded as lightweight, graphics only or in some suppressed mode. Based on the privileges controlled by the PDM system, every part and/or assembly can be quickly and easily modified. As you will see, in-context design is simple and fast, even in the context of 30,000 other parts.
Do you work with large assemblies? Do you enjoy it? Is it easy to collaborate with other team members when working together with large assemblies? If not, perhaps you are using the wrong technology. Remember that in a history based system everything must be programmatically and parametrically controlled; parts AND assemblies. More on this topic in my next post.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

PTC USER World Event 2010, Day 1 and 2

As you would expect, I attended the PTC USER World event this year specifically to represent the PTC CoCreate family of products. With this post I hope to provide information related to the CoCreate solutions, including the CoCreate sessions and related activities. For those CoCreate users out there that could not attend, we missed you, and I hope this post can give you some sense and feel for the energy and excitement of the event. I know there was much more to the event than what I am going to write about, so please check out some of the other blogs and articles that document the event from other perspectives. An easy way to do this is to follow the hashtag “#ptcuser10” on twitter.


Day 1 started off with a bang as you would expect. Dick Harrison kicked it off with a high-level enthusiastic overview of business past, present and future. According to Dick PTC is now the fastest growing PLM company with FY10 license growth expected to reach 7x that of its peer group. Dick also talked about some of the changes at the upper management levels of PTC. Dick will be moving to Chairman of the Board for PTC and in his place Jim Heppleman will take over as President, CEO, and COO.

Dick quickly handed over the stage to Jim. Jim reemphasized the fact that "PTC is the fastest growing major software company in the universe, bar none". The enthusiasm and excitement grew in Jim’s voice as he discussed many of the enhancements to existing products and some emerging products. Jim concluded his presentation talking specifically about CAD. The CAD industry almost seems static right now, probably since 2000. And yet there are still unsolved problems related to the role of CAD in product development. Jim summed up these problems in 3 major categories; usability, interoperability and large assemblies. At this point Jim introduced a new initiative that is in the works at PTC. He called this initiative “Project Lightning”. Project Lightning is going to “take Pro/ENGINEER and CoCreate to the next level”. And with that Jim handed the stage over to Brian Shepherd.

Brian went into detail with slides and demonstrations of most all of the PTC PDS solutions. This company has a lot of fantastic products. Some day you really have to check out Windchill 10 … very nice!

During Brian’s presentation we even got to see a clip of CoCreate Modeling v17 doing some of its direct modeling magic. It was great hearing about and seeing all of the new innovations that PTC is bringing to the market – but I was most interested in this “Lightning” thing.

Brian finally got around to talking about Project Lightning. He referred to it as “The future of CAD”, and “A fundamental breakthrough”. I could try to summarize the talk but it would be better for you to hear it directly from Jim and Brian. Check it out here:

I realize there is not a lot of detail being shared right now, but you can know for sure that by bringing the people together that invented parametric modeling with the people that invented direct modeling with PTC’s PLM expertise … “break-though” might be an understatement. Mark your calendars: October 28th 2010.

Breakout sessions started right after a quick break. Korie Carter and Scott O’Brien of Tensor Engineering kicked off the CoCreate related content. This company develops the detail drawings necessary to manufacture the steel and construct the bridges. That is a terrible simplification of the incredible engineering challenges that they must solve along the way. And they solve these problems with many innovative tools, many of which they have developed themselves. One of the tools they use is CoCreate Modeling. Both Korie and Scott showed some amazing automation tools they have developed with extensive use of the parametric modeling capabilities of CoCreate Modeling – that’s right “parametric modeling” in a history-free direct modeling system. It was fascinating to see the engineering challenges that they have solved with this technology. They have refined the technology down to a one button solution. Amazing!!

After Korie and Scotts presentation, Chris Whitman, technical specialist for the CoCreate solutions and myself delivered a presentation focused on providing an introduction to CoCreate Modeling. The room was full of people that had little or no knowledge of CoCreate. I assume that the talk about Project Lightning may have sparked some of this interest. We spent very little time with slides but rather took turns showing some demonstrations of what direct modeling really is in the context of a mature, robust and very capable tool like CoCreate Modeling. We provided 4 basic demonstrations. One showing some quick and easy conceptual design of a fixture, applying design intent and parameters as needed. And then ending with some simulation of the fixture: Video

The next demo was of the conceptual development of a computer mouse using some high tech surface editing technology only found in CoCreate Modeling: Video

Chris then demonstrated some amazing interoperability by loading some IGES files and doing things with imported geometry that most people assume can’t be done. In CoCreate Modeling you work with imported geometry as you would with native data – no difference. We leverage the intelligence already built into every solid model regardless of where it comes from. Even imported sheet metal parts can be modified and flattened with appropriate k-factor.

I ended the demonstrations by loading a 30,000 part assembly into CoCreate Modeling, something that most CAD sales people would never do in front of their customers - and actually something most history-based CAD users have never done. I loaded the complete assembly in its full form with all parts loaded as high accuracy (1.0E-6mm) solid – modifiable – parts. The load took 50 seconds. This is a 300mb STEP file. I then proceeded to make some design changes in many areas of the assembly … in-context with 30,000 parts. And this is a relatively small assembly compared to what many of our customers work with on a daily basis.

We basically talked about “ease of use, flexibility, interoperability, and large assemblies”. Sound familiar?

The next session was designed to give existing CoCreate users a detailed look at all the various enhancements of CoCreate Modeling version 17 . However the full room did not only include existing users, but more people that wanted to learn more about CoCreate. Chris and I had to balance the time between giving the existing users some useful information, but also help the many other people understand the basics of what direct modeling is. Thankfully our users engaged in the discussion, and were probably more effective than Chris or I in helping the others understand the technology and value of CoCreate. It was an amazing session. It is always fun watching peoples expressions when the begin to realize and understand what they are seeing – they usually can’t believe it at first.

Every other minute Chris and I had in the day was spent at the CoCreate booth in the exhibit hall. People were waiting in lines to see demos and to get to know better what this CoCreate thing is. It was a lot of very hard work, but so much fun to see the expressions on people’s faces. Many assumed for whatever reason that CoCreate Modeling is some low-end 3D sketch kind of thing, with some inferior geometry kernel with very little capability. It only takes about 2 minutes to change this perception as we demonstrate solutions to complex design problems that they obviously had never seen before – including high-end complex surface editing, and interaction with large assemblies that they could hardly comprehend. 100% of the people that were able to get a demonstration and talk with us, left with a complete different perspective on CAD – and all wanted more. I think we will be very busy in the weeks and months to come.

During booth duty some of my media friends stopped by to say hi. It was great to talk with Leslie Gordon from Machine Design. Thanks for coming by Leslie – let’s continue our discussions. Also Kenneth Wong stopped by for a quick demo and some discussion. (I want a copy of that picture we took, Kenneth.) You can check out Kenneth’s coverage of the event at his blog: Kenneth Wong’s Virtual Desktop


On Tuesday Chris taught two classes on CoCreate Modeling. I unfortunately missed the keynote as we were setting up for the classes. The first class was for existing users to get hands on experience with the new CoCreate v17. We saw many big smiles and raised eyebrows as Chris showed the new v17 enhancements and users got to try them out. This is one of the most significant releases we have had in years.

The next class was an introduction to CoCreate. The room was full of people that were excited to get their hands on CoCreate for the first time. It always takes a little while for people to understand that when working with CoCreate you work directly with geometry. There is no history tree. Modeling operations are not recorded. There is no need to be concerned with how you create the geometry. At first they seem to be cautious or nervous about creating the geometry in the wrong way or perhaps breaking some reference or relationships with an edit. And then in a few minutes “the lights come on” and they realize … it doesn’t matter.

I wish we could have stayed another day and met more people and provided more demonstrations, but we had to get back, and now I am on the airplane writing this and reflecting back on all the fun, and great people that I got to meet. I fully expect to see you next year in Las Vegas, where perhaps we won’t be talking about “The future of CAD” but rather “experiencing” it.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

CoCreate at PTC/USER World Event 2010

The CoCreate products will again be represented at the PTC/USER World Event 2010. I will be there and have 2 sessions that I will be presenting along with one of our product experts. The two sessions are detailed below:

Introducing CoCreate Modeling, the World's #1 Explicit Modeler

This session is specifically for people that have little or no experience or knowledge of CoCreate Modeling, or history-free explicit modeling. I will talk a bit about the technology, but we will be spending most of the time showing you the technology. You will see some fascinating demonstrations including things that you have probably never seen a CAD system do before. Then we will review how this technology can complement your design environment and add value in several areas of product development.

Introducing CoCreate 17.0: Simplicity of 2D, Power of 3D

This session is tailored more for the experienced CoCreate users. We will be going into much detail on what is new in V17. This will include many demonstrations of the product features and capabilities. We plan to have a highly interactive session with the CoCreate users.

Korie Carter and Scott O’Brien of Tensor Engineering will also be delivering a very interesting presentation. Their presentation is titled: “Automated 3D Field Splice Generator”, (whatever that is). You may not have much to do with bridge design, but you should see what these people are doing with CoCreate Modeling and how they are using history-free parametric relations to capture design intent and solve some very complex design problems. You gotta check this out.

For more detail on where and when these presentations are occurring go to:

CoCreate Modeling Hands-on-Workshops

We are also providing some informal hands-on-workshops on Tuesday. These were last minute additions to the schedule and as such you may not find much information about these in the formal agenda. Here are the details:

Tuesday, June 8 in the Wekiwa 5 room

9:45 to 11:30: V17 hands-on update training. For experienced users that want to learn more about the v17 enhancements.

1:00 to 2:45: Getting started with CoCreate Modeling. For people that have little or no experience with CoCreate Modeling. Come and try it out. We’ll have some fun with it.

CoCreate in the Exhibit Hall

I'll also be providing demonstrations in the exhibit hall with some of our other product experts. Be sure to come by and see us.

Keep track of the activities on twitter with hashtag #PTCUSER10.