What’s up with Belmont Technology?

9 Sep 2013: Last week Siemens PLM Software announced that “Belmont Technology, a venture backed software start-up founded by CAD industry veterans, has licensed Siemens’ Parasolid® software and D-Cubed™ software components to be the foundation of a new generation of cloud-based applications for the computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering (CAD/CAM/CAE) market. The Belmont team, which includes Founder and Chairman, Jon Hirschtick, and CEO John McEleney, will use Parasolid and D-Cubed components to provide the solid modeling and geometric constraint solving capabilities that are fundamental to modern CAD/CAM/CAE applications. Parasolid and D-Cubed components are developed by Siemens’ PLM software business unit.”

So that’s news. We have not heard from Belmont in some time. Note this verbiage: “a new generation of cloud-based applications for the computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering (CAD/CAM/CAE) market.

As I recall, this mirrors the way SolidWorks started – a long time development followed by a brilliant piece of software, delivered at the right time and making the best use of existing and soon to be future computing technology. The company, in its early stages also was brilliantly managed and established new ways to market along with a close customer-vendor relationship. Today, SolidWorks – the company, for many reasons no longer has the many of these characteristics.

So, I am speculating about the possible new product. Perhaps my 20+ years in the CAD/CAM market allow me some perspective on what might be coming. Also, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what the sticking points are in existing products. So here goes:

  • Cloud based
  • Much easier to use
    • Model building guidance that encompasses user methodology
    • Speech recognition for commands
    • Automatic initiation of model veracity as you build
    • Real time collaboration with other designers
  • Automatic management of major topology changes
  • Fully integrated with PLM from the start
  • Easy upward migration from existing CAD systems and data formats
  • Built-in simulation and analysis software
  • Real time, full time shading and visualization
  • A flexible pricing structure
  • Combines both history and non-history based modeling
  • Easier use of vendor libraries
  • A new collaboration schema among internal and external designers
  • More flexible modeling allowing easier to redesign models
  • Incorporation of requirements at the early stages of design

Even if Belmont incorporated all of these, would it be enough to convince users to move or even migrate to a new system? After all, today’s CAD systems work and pretty much can design anything. Let’s take a quick look at the past.

What convinced new customers to migrate to SolidWorks at its introduction, was its new use of variable driven modeling and history based design. The logic was that if you correctly designed the model, than changing a few variables could change the resulting design, possibly resulting in a massive savings of design engineering. Many users bought into this, including me.

Unknown to us at the time, were the inherent drawbacks to such designs. The primary one being that this only worked for MINOR changes in the variables: one that caused few topology changes. There was no way to account for major topology changes without extensive programming, an undesirable way to manage the problem. Many confusing workarounds were built to significant CAD systems that are in use today.

Another problem was how to “unwind” the history and variables when changes are desired that cannot be handled parametrically. Thus, design re-use became only marginally workable. SpaceClaim solved this by totally eliminating design history, sacrificing much of its power, yet allowing users to manage deigns more easily.

Conclusions

Belmont Technology needs to hit a home run in making mechanical design engineering and re-design engineering better than today’s systems by orders of magnitudes.

Let’s see where we stand today with major mechanical CAD software:

  • Siemens PLM Software with NX, Solid Edge and Teamcenter.
  • Dassault Systemes with CATIA, SolidWorks and Enovia
  • PTC with Creo and Windchill
  • Autodesk with AutoCAD, Inventor and Autodesk PLM 360

Each has strong offerings and are large well funded companies with global sales and marketing, large well-funded development teams, and many customers. Can a newcomer easily overturn them? It has certainly been done in the past and certainly some are more vulnerable than others. All but Autodesk have made only limited accommodations for cloud based computing, while Autodesk has gone “whole hog.” Just today, Autodesk announced monthly pricing for its entire design suite, a big change from past pricing models.

IMHO, all of these vendors MAY be vulnerable to a fundamental change in technology. But it will have to be huge or promise to be huge, while at the same time require a unique difficult to copy technology.

I look forward to hearing more.

What are your thoughts?

One response

  1. I was working on major position at SolidWorks and PTC. All these systems are so close to each other in terms of functionality and features. Still the hassle at those systems are the same and mostly based what you did describe before. Because of 3D the models became bigger and bigger and Windows had a hard time to put them under control or make them workable in terms of speed. As former Country Manager of SolidWorks in Germany I build succesfully the whole channel of Central Europe and therefore I had a lot of insights with the Company. I was lucky to work with the founders, such as Jon Hirschtik and others in the beginning. Those guys are brilliant. Nevertheless I never understood, that a company who had the success like Solidworks and put some huge pressure on the competitors in terms of pricing aren’t able to use his strength to build something new, as they were on top of the hill. Now sales is going down, pricefights are hindering the channel to make money and the competitors are offering the same features and function like all others. In 2002 before I left SolidWorks I had the chance to talk to Jon and I did ask him: “Jon why Solidworks isn’t developing something new, something which would support the engineers to become more faster on their work. Something which might be able to save the ideas, knowledge and way to work of each engineer and make it just in time present for him or others who work with him? The CAE world has been changed and only few of the engineers need 80% of your features, maybe most of them are only using 40% of it. So why always creating new features instead of using a knowledge base system, which really would speed up the working process…” I haven’t got any answer from him or any other of the leading guys at SolidWorks at this time. Maybe Jon and John are working on something like that now, might be interesting. But to create a cloudbased system – my guess – doesn’t help at all in times of NSA and others. If I’m a company owner of sensitive development datas I never would store these datas on a cloud. The time has turned around, collaborative datas are important but more important is to secure my sensitive datas in the most protected way. Hope Jon and John are doing the right thing. The bad thing at SolidWorks after they became outstanding succesful was, to sell their company to DS. Giving your power to Frenchmen aren’t work. These guys aren’t creative enough to guide a wonderful talented child to become a strong adult. Now this adult looks like others and nothing makes me and others excited anymore.

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