It seems that almost all CAD companies are now investing in history-free CAD technology (direct, explicit). If a design/manufacturing company already owns a very capable CAD tool, why would they purchase a direct history-free CAD tool? What value are they getting from history-free CAD that doesn't already come from their existing CAD tool?
I personally have been involved in the history-free CAD business for many years now. Below I have tried to identify the top ten reasons a company may purchase history-free CAD - based on my observations. Certainly others that have experience in this market may have different observations and opinions. If so, you are welcome to add those as comments to this post.
As usual with a Top Ten list, I’ll start at #10 (least significant) and work up to #1 (most significant).
- Most companies already have a very capable CAD tool. The purchase of a history-free CAD tool usually has nothing to do with missing functionality in the toolset they already own.
#9. Management of Engineering IP
- It may take some time for a company to understand the differences between managing history trees and managing 3D models, but it is significant. People are beginning to understand this and it is starting to influence decisions.
- The lifecycle of geometry can be very long. History trees can be rendered obsolete very quickly. Some CAD companies have done this simply by introducing their next version.
#8. Multi-CAD Legacy Data
- History trees are proprietary. Geometry is common across all CAD platforms. With mature direct modeling, value can be extracted from any geometry created by any CAD tool.
- Companies may add direct CAD to easily extend the value of their legacy data, 2D or 3D.
#7. Teamwork, Collaboration
- Teamwork and collaboration can happen more easily when the data in question is a 3D model rather than a history tree. With geometry what you see is what you get. With history trees there will always be an extra layer of complexity.
- Improve collaboration and interaction with your dispersed team members, suppliers and partners by sharing data that is clear, simple and based on industry standards.
#6. Company Product and Process Characteristics
- Product and process characteristics should drive the usage of a particular CAD technology. Direct modeling may be better suited in the following areas:
- Products that demand high innovation with many iterations
- Products with short and high speed development cycles
- Products with short life cycles
- Low volume products
- When you just need to get parts out the door as soon as possible.
#5. Large Assemblies
- In-context design and optimization at the assembly level is easy and natural in direct modeling, even with 100,000+ part assemblies.
- File sizes can be 60% to 80% smaller in direct compared to history-based modeling.
- Improve the exchange of engineering data with partners, suppliers and customers that perhaps use other CAD tools.
- With direct modeling, geometry is the master, with history-based parametric modeling the history tree is the master.
- Reduce product development cycle times, especially in the concept phase.
- Reduce time in the bid and proposal phase.
- Reduce time in late stage engineering changes
- Reduce efforts and time in preparation for analysis
#2. Ease of Use
- Reduce time-to-productivity and improve the flexibility of resource allocation.
- Usable by infrequent users. For example:
- Analysts for model simplification and preparation for FEA
- Marketing for concept review
- Bid and proposal team for quick concept development and review
- Other non-CAD experts can get value from design data through direct interaction
- Review multiple concepts quickly and easily.
- Improve innovation by quickly and easily repurposing and reusing existing data.
- Improve accuracy in proposal generation by reviewing more alternatives.
- More easily respond to customer driven product development.
- Complete freedom in the part and assembly modeling process, no requirement for best or common practices
- Capture design intent and intelligence in the design only as needed
Many of the characteristics listed above will drive a company to add direct modeling technology as a complementary tool to their existing history-based tool set. It is important for a company to understand workflows and processes to attain highest possible value with minimal disruption. There are a few characteristics however, such as #6, that may drive a company to bring direct modeling technology in as a replacement of their existing toolset. I have recently witnessed several examples of this.
As recognized by thousands of manufacturing companies and several CAD companies, direct, history-free CAD is of high value and is only going to become more prevalent in our industry. If you haven’t already, you should be considering closely what value it can bring to your product development process – most likely your competitors already are.