Direct Modeling: The future?

April 23, 2008 46 Comments »

I’ve put it off writing about this subject matter for quite some time now but with the recent announcement of yet another CAD company touting Direct Modeling, CAD 2.0, Non-History based modeling, or whatever other industry term that is out there, I thought the time was right.

Siemens announcement yesterday no doubt shook some foundations around the CAD Industry.  I’ve read articles or posts that range from “This is THE next big thing” to “It’s old news”.  So which one is it?  Or does the answer lie between the lines somewhere.  Here is my take on it.  Is Direct Modeling the next big thing?  Simply put…No.  It HAS been around for some time.  Is it an important feature set that should be looked at by all CAD companies?  YES.

Matt was correct yesterday when he said that SolidWorks has had some direct modeling functionality for some time now.  A combination of the Move Face command and Instant3D does cover many of the topics we all saw in the video yesterday.  Are those features developed to the level they should be?  No.  The Move Face command is very capable but there is no access to it via the Instant3D tools.  Its success can be very dependent on what faces you select (In particular when there are fillets present).  It is still a great tool for making tweaks and adjustments down the tree without having to understand the design intent of the sketches or worry about child dependencies.  As Josh pointed out, Instant3D does require the feature history to be there in order to make changes to a model quickly.

Even with these existing features, I would still like to see additional capabilities and improved UI functions built into SolidWorks that allows more direct editing of imported models (which of course have NO history).  You can do quite a bit with the tools they have now, but they need to be more powerful, easier to use, (especially for less experienced users) & should require LESS steps.

Will History Based Modeling be a thing of the past?

I do not agree with those who say that Direct Modeling will replace history based modeling.  I believe that combining the two methods in the correct manner IS the best solution I have seen.  I can’t tell you exactly what the correct manner will be but I’m sure the next 12 months will give us all much more insight.  We all saw some pretty impressive things yesterday but there really wasn’t much in the way of an explanation on how the direct edits were shown in the tree itself.  (Actually there was a quick view of a feature tree that shows a “Direct Edit9” feature about 7:22 into the video.)  With that said, I really like the approach that SolidWorks and Siemens is taking with this.

As with many things in the industry, time will tell.  I do think there is something to the fact that 2 of the 4 major MCAD players have now quickly adopted some sort of marketing stance in direct modeling.  The coming months will be interesting to say the least.

Those are my thoughts….I welcome yours.

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