Reinventing CAD – Where are we headed? – Part 2

September 5, 2016 1 Comment »

CAD_0

In this series of posts, I’ve laid out a few observations on some of the new trends in the CAD industry and where we might be heading as new platforms are developed for the future.  You can catch Part 1 here if you haven’t seen it already.  Let’s dive into Part 2.

In Part 1, I failed to give the collaboration element due justice – so lets dive into that realm a bit.  We are already seeing collaboration enhancements in some of the new offerings and most of them are centered around the data being stored in the cloud.  Many of the cloud connected apps allow for real time notifications to users when components are updated by another users.  The user receiving the notification can then load the new component to see the latest changes.  This really doesn’t fall that far from some of the existing functionality in PDM systems such as SOLIDWORKS PDM. (which is not cloud connected)

The most innovative approach I have seen so far when it comes to collaboration is the approach that Onshape is taking.  They actually have the capability to allow multiple users to modify the geometry of a document AT THE SAME TIME.  This happens real time so as when a feature is added by one user, the other user sees it appear on their screen as the feature is completed. Traditional systems really struggle with this as pretty much all of them are still locked to a single file concept.  Only one person can have rights to that file at a time.  Being able to show “what-if” situations real time on screen is powerful.  It removes the need to exchanges screenshots or file versions while you are trying working a collaborative design.  You can see a video of real time editing with Onshape by clicking HERE.

Cloud CAD data can usually be shared to those outside the engineering process for review rather easily as you would expect.  There are also some tools out there today supporting traditional file based systems that do this pretty well.  (GrabCAD workbench comes to mind.)  But that application requires you to go outside your CAD authoring system which is just another opportunity for a broken link in the chain.  Sharing data like this is efficient, but like I mentioned in Part 1, security is going to be a concern for some companies.

So let’s switch gears a bit and talk about product accessibility. Not necessarily from the standpoint of accessing data from multiple devices, but from the standpoint of getting your hands on the tool to try it out.  One of the trends I’m seeing with the more cloud centric companies like Autodesk and Onshape is that they offer a free version of their tool.  Both packages seem to have done a good job at allowing users to kick the tires of the product (with full feature functionality) without having to go with a timed or arranged trial version.  The free version has the proper limits set so that users will need to upgrade to the paid version if they get serious about using the product.  If I owned a company that was in the market for CAD software, I would be compelled to try out those tools first to see if they met my needs.  It is a simple process to sign up online and begin using the software.  For me as an experienced CAD user, testing another modeler is pretty easy.  I just have to figure out where the buttons are and how the product workflow is set up.  For the unexperienced CAD user, they will have a much steeper learning curve.  With all of that in mind, both companies offer some great online tutorials that are easily accessible.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is, you can have the greatest product in the world, but if you make it hard for a customer to try it out, you are really losing a great opportunity to get that product in front of the customer.  I think some of the established CAD vendors need to take a close look at this and learn from it.  :-)

Ok…so I had fully intended to dive into the topic of distributed computing in this post, but that is going to have to wait for Part 3.  You folks are busy so I’ll be trying to keep these articles a little on the shorter side.

Stay tuned for Part 3 soon.

 

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  • Corporal Willy

    Here I am at a disadvantage. I do not work using SolidWorks or any other MCAD program in a collaborative way. I’m more of a self contained designer, tester and builder of my crazy ideas. I only deal in School Science Projects and I am getting quite good at doing that. However, I do believe in the importance of a collaborative effort in getting a product or creation ready for testing and or marketing. Time is of the essence as lawyers like to say but I would put a caveat here. I’m old enough to have seen plenty of cases where new was not actually better but just different. Rushing to the pretty white puffy ‘Cloud’ to promote easier collaboration often overlooks the dark threatening storm “Clouds” that are all over the world. I read somewhere that there is a lightning strike somewhere on the earth every second in time. So ‘Cloud Collaboration’ as a future way of working with others that are away from your own company, area or desktop, is and should be investigated but it needs to be done systematically and safely. Those lightning strikes could be considered the Hackers out there that would rather steal intellectual property then produce it themselves. There is no data on this question, but I wonder if that has already and successfully been done? Fingerprints along with Retina scans and special passwords could be set up for “ULTRA” top secret, extremely sensitive, important data. Am I over exaggerating this a bit? Think of this. The USA could be brought to a standstill if the wrong people get inside of its internet connected infrastructure and bring it down. Countries around the world are putting all of their eggs into this one basket. Ok, I already said too much here.