29 Oct 2010: Yesterday, in downtown Boston and worldwide via the Internet, PTC announced Project Lightning, now renamed Creo. CEO and President Jim Heppelmann, noted that Creo is the Latin root of the word for creativity. The announcement lived up to its name. I was present at the live event in Boston. This gave me an opportunity to follow up with some questions in person.
By now you have probably seen or read about the announcement. If not, you can see more at http://creo.ptc.com. I want to give you my thoughts and observations on the product and how it might change the CAD game.
First I was surprised. I had expected a much more mundane announcement. What PTC did was fundamentally change the direction of their approach to CAD.
To put it simply, PTC is marrying its Pro/E, CoCreate, and ProductView technologies, mixed in with a connection to Windchill for managing complex BOM assembly configurations. It turns out the ProductView is a key element to the AnyData strategy. Similar to JT, ProductView enables storing summary and detailed model data from 130 or so data formats. This will form the basis of the common data model mentioned in passing by Jim Heppelmann at an afternoon press conference.
4 new technologies were described that net out Creo’s ambitions:
- AnyRole Apps
- AnyMode Modeling
- AnyData Adoption
- AnyBOM Assembly
AnyRole Apps approaches the problem of CAD being too difficult to use and train, except for power users. For most other users the power of a CAD system with its myriad of menus and options is too daunting even for less complex usage. AnyRole Apps approaches the problem by implementing a wide variety of applications, each with a simple UI, designed only for specific user roles. AnyRole Apps are expected to come from PTC as well as its partner ecosystem. This concept generated a variety of questions. What might the apps cost? Will they be customizable by customers? If similar in concept to iPhone apps, what developer systems will PTC offer? Will there be an app store?
Three partners at the announcement were able to answer some of the integration questions. Luxion, Simpoe and Vistagy, all third party partners, were able to completely integrate their applications within Creo and demonstrate it today, after only a three-week lead-time. I had a chance to view the Simpoe plastic mold flow application. It operated totally within the Creo UI and directly read and wrote to a common data model. Options windows opened to allow input to the application. Vistagy claimed s similar, easy to integrate experience.
AnyMode Modeling ties together parametric (history based), direct 3D modeling and 2D. The concept is to allow designing in either mode, or a mixed mode. Designs can “float back and forth with no loss of design intent or flexibility.” The difficulty is usually in working with direct models in parametric mode. The technology for AnyMode Modeling was not discussed and I was left with the impression that most PTCers I spoke with either did not know any details about how worked or were purposely vague about it. I questioned a few about how similar it might be to Autodesk Fusion which converts direct model changes to parametric models and the answer I typically got was: Creo’s direct-parametric modeling was more robust.
AnyData Adoption recognizes the proliferation and need for data from multiple CAD systems. PTC describes that as allowing all types of data to flow in. More than just understanding non-native CAD data, Creo “adopts” the data and treats it as a legitimate family member. The data is treated as much more than an unintelligent blob as most systems do. Using the beauty of direct modeling Creo can change the non-native data by recognizing and allowing alterations to its inherent geometry constructs. Modifications can be exported to the originating system. Originating system changes can be brought back into Creo, although it is not clear how this would work since Creo may have already modified the geometry.
AnyBOM Assembly optionally incorporates Windchill to allow serial number configurations. This should make the hardware vendors happy because this usually generates massive amounts of storage needs.
PTC is also rebranding the existing 3 technological apps as follows:
- Pro/ENGINEER becomes Creo Elements/Pro
- CoCreate becomes Creo Elements/Direct
- ProductView becomes Creo Elements/View
PTC expects to ship Version 1.0 in the Summer of 2011 and Version 2.0 in the Fall, preceded by a Beta version in the Spring of 2011.