My Twitter feed at PlanetPTC Live 2012 expanded with additional comments

7 Jun 2012

Introduction

I attended PlanetPTC Live 2012 as a media and analyst guest of PTC earlier this week. I was free to mingle with any user in attendance, and attend the general sessions, as were the other 75 or so media representatives. PTC also organized special sessions for the media. These sessions generally were more concise and allowed more direct interaction with PTC executives, other management and selected presenters. [Disclosure: PTC paid for my airfare and hotel accommodations.]

I tweeted during the events I attended, not prolifically as do some other tweeters, instead choosing to focus on what I found to be interesting and the highlights of some sessions. I have taken most these tweets and expanded on them below for my blog readers. In a blog to be posted soon, I might add additional comments.

In general, the conference was upbeat and well organized. With Creo and Windchill almost evenly divided in terms of revenue, the two lines of business account for some 80% of PTC revenue. The other three (ALM, SCM, and SLM) make up the balance, but represent substantial future growth areas for PTC. All three are collaborative businesses based on Windchill. SLM being the newest. With the PTC business now focused on lines of business, each with its own P&L, customers are better represented.

Tweets expanded (tweets are identified by the • symbol, followed by an expanded explanation)

  • In the exec wrap up on Tuesday, Brian Shepherd confirmed plans for an entry level Windchill. Pre-configured for smaller users.

More: While I had not heard of such an activity, some media were and asked the status of the project. As best I can recollect, this may come out in 2013. Probably one reason why Windchill ProductPoint was decommissioned last year. Remember this product, which relied on Microsoft SharePoint?

  • PTC realigns organization structure by lines of business, each with P&L responsibility. CAD, PLM, ALM, SCM, and SLM.
  • SLM is service lifecycle management. According to EVP Barry Cohen, an underserved market.
  • Mike Campbell now heading up MCAD segment. Brian Shepherd and Bill Berutti head up other 4. Development reports to EVP Rob Gremley.

More: Here are the relevant descriptions from the latest PTC company info flyer:

Rob Gremley EVP, Product Development & Corporate Marketing
Brian Shepherd EVP, PLM & SCM Segments
Bill Berutti EVP, ALM & SLM Segments
Mike Campbell Division General Manager, MCAD Segment

  • Problems reconciling EBOMs and MBOMs? Now there’s another – SBOMs. Service BOMs add parts kitting.

More: Users have struggled with developing and managing manufacturing BOMs for decades. Add a new one for managing the services practices – the Service BOM, which describes the product from a service point of view. These often contain groups of parts that may be replaced as one unit in the field.

It looks like Windchill MPMLink today manages this process for MBOMs and EBOMs in those companies that use Windchill and Creo. With PTC constructing a Service Lifecycle Management business unit, I am not sure where or how the SBOM relates to the other BOMs and how it is managed. I am sure PTC has thought this out and can provide an answer.

  • Campbell highlights Creo Layout and Freestyle as providing impetus for move to Creo.

More: These two Creo apps are new for Creo 2. Both are targeted towards giving users more easy to use modeling methods, fully integrated with Creo Parametrics. In the case of these two apps, both also play in the concept design space. PTC stressed the connection into Creo, rather that having a stand-alone concept design system, a dig I am sure meant to rattle the cage of companies using Alias (from Autodesk), today’s most widely application for industrial and concept design.

  •  PTC positions Creo 2 as opening the floodgates for Wildfire transitions. No cost to users. UI and functions better.

More: Brian Shepherd said this on the first day in the main tent session. For those of you not aware of what the term main tent is, it relates back to my days at IBM, where they called the main tent was where all the attendees were gathered together, as opposed to the breakout sessions. I guess back in the early days IBM held these sessions under tents – companies were smaller then.

  •  With release of Creo 2, PTC encouraging third parties to develop [apps]. None available from third parties yet. Opportunity to fully integrate.

More: In a follow up conversation with Brian Thompson, VP of Product Management for Creo, he stated that the requisite API’s are not fully available yet. They will be by Creo 3 and Creo 4. Creo 4, I asked! Yes, he said by Creo 4, or two years from now. Third party developers might want to clarify this directly with PTC.

  • Option modeling another approach to developing ETO configurations. Another approach to developing requirements based models?
  •  Option modeling marries Creo 2 and Windchill 10.1. Can add PLM config options based on geometric positioning.

More: Option modeling allows a concise description of a product with many variants. In some systems users plug all the variants into a parametric model containing all of the variant options. This often results in a very large model with an obscure definition of when each variant is used. Creo 2 and Windchill aim to solve this by combining the geometric properties of Creo with the data management properties of Windchill. For example, in a bicycle, all wheels are attached to hubs. Thus one need only keep track of the different wheels, along with any geometric modifications to the geometric model for the various wheels. Filters and equations are used for the definitions. I think, because I only saw a five minute video example.

  • Attending Cummins case study of integrating mfg and product intros. Closing the loop between the two.

More: Dr. Michael Grieves, author of several books on PLM, along with Apriso, revealed a startling efficiency claim for Cummins, which integrated its PLM, ERP, and MES systems. See if you can get a copy of his slides for an explanation.

  • Main tent sessions focused on Creo 2.0 and hints of what’s to come. Main business line highlighted. Campbell: great job on CAD.

More: On the first day PTC revealed what’s new with upcoming products and it vision for the future, near term.

  • Chief customer officer – Mark Hodges. Never heard of that title.

More: From Wikipedia I found out that a chief customer officer (CCO) is defined as “an executive who provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.” The CCO typically reports to the chief executive officer, and is potentially a member of the board of directors.

  • High of 97 degs expected today at PlanetPTC in Orlando. Hot AND humid. Good to be inside with A/C all day.

More: Guess someone got a good discount for holding it here this time of the year.

—————–

Altair expands its reach with easy to license third party software

24 April 2012: Intrigued by the recent spate of third party announcements by Altair Engineering, I sought out someone in the company to find the reason for their seemingly rapid expansion. Last week I spoke with Antoine Poussier, VP of Global Partner Relations, who was able to enlighten me.

First, a little about Altair, a company many of you may know very little about. At least I knew little about the company or their products. I knew they had some well-respected analysis software; it turns out that they have much more. Think about $213 million USD in revenue, 1500 employees, seven major business lines, over 40 offices across 16 countries, and over 4000 customers in a wide variety of industries.

Known primarily for its HyperWorks simulation software, other business lines include cloud computing software, product design, business intelligence software, industrial design and styling software, and a venture focused on next generation solid state lighting.

The HyperWorks Partner Alliance provides a foundation for an open CAE licensing structure, which enables customers to easily try-out new software with minimal additional cost. Their strategy offers a unique contrast to the licensing strategy of most software vendors in the CAD/CAM/PLM marketplace today. Rather than offering software with a substantial initial cost and a lower ongoing annual maintenance cost, Altair Engineering instead allows on-demand access to their software as well as those of third party vendors using an on-the-fly licensing scheme using HyperWorks units (HWU’s). HWU’s act like tokens. Customers buy a certain number of HWU tokens to use on a monthly basis. A user, running each software removes tokens from the token pool; quitting the software returns these tokens to the pool. For instance, HyperMesh, Altair’s own meshing product, uses 21 tokens. Users can download any number of products from a server that they might need to use, then merely activate them by using the correct number of HWU’s. Although I tried repeatedly to find out, Poussier refused to reveal how much the HWU’s cost or how many might be used per application. Users will need to contact Altair directly for this information.

The impact is to eliminate the cost of acquiring new or infrequently used software. Also, no additional licenses need to be procured or managed, reducing the burden on IT and purchasing. It also makes it much easier to try out different software or perhaps use very specific software for a limited time. Visit www.hyperworksalliance.com/PartnersList.aspx to find out what third party applications are available. These are in addition to the many Altair products.

In summary: Altair Engineering’s HyperWorks Partner Alliance makes it easy for potential partners to sign up and makes it easy for users to explore alternative simulation solutions.

Disclosure: None required. No compensation of any sort was provided for this article.

Additional info about the company is available at http://www.altair.com.

—–

Rhino 5 Beta Features a Gumball Manipulator

15 April 2012: last week I had a chance to sit in on a webinar hosted by Novedge about the new Gumball manipulator for Rhino 5. Why it’s call the gumball manipulator I have no idea and in response to this question apparently Rhino doesn’t either. Brian James, from Robert McNeel & Associates, presented the webinar hosted by Novedge.

Using the gumball manipulator, allowed for a very impressive list of capabilities to modify surfaces and curves directly.

Here is a view of the manipulator, selected to operate on the yellow curve.

Gumball Manipulator

It can perform translation, rotation, and scaling on the selected object. It can also be used to create geometry. This curve can be used to create the first solid, as shown below.

Scaling and translating the top face to modify a solid.

Eventually, using the gumball, other Rhino functions and a few other curves, the presenter created this faucet.

The faucet

The additional curves in the image below will be used to generate the sink shown below.

The final sink model

This was all pretty impressive and demonstrated that Rhino is continuing to develop their software into a “solid” CAD system featuring advanced curves, surfaces, and solids, as well as having a unique UI. All at a modest price.

Take a look for yourself via the recorded webinar.

More info:

Link to the recorded webinar:

http://www.rhinojungle.com/video/novedge-webinar-series-episode-43-rhino-5-overview-featuring-the

www.novedge.com, a leading on-line superstore has lots of video demos available for many products.

Scan and Solve offers meshing-less FEA

19 March 2012: Recently I had a chance to sit in on a demo of Scan&Solve™, software promising to (virtually) automatically solve parts for linear stress FEA analysis without any concern about meshing the part. Used in conjunction with solid models of parts developed with Rhino, the demo did just that. To verify the accuracy of the results, the demoer adjusted something called the resolution of the “geometry scan” of the part. Adjusting the resolution showed that the accuracy was converging. Wow! I thought. Time to find out more about how this worked, how extensible it was, how it differed from traditional FEA, and its cost. I went to the company website and soon located the founder of Intact Solutions LLC, the company that authored the software – Vadim Shapiro, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Right away, I figured uh oh, an academic. They are not always known for providing crisp answers. Nevertheless I requested and was granted an interview with Dr. Shapiro. He turned out to be very open and enthusiastic about the product.

Vadim Shapiro, Intact Solutions founder

Here is what Scan&Solve does differently than traditional FEA meshers and related solvers:

  • Scan&Solve is not a replacement for FEA; it is an extension of FEA, which aims specifically to solve the problem of CAD/CAE interoperability. Any reasonable geometric kernel and any reasonable FEA package can be interfaced with great benefits. The goals of the product are simplicity, universality, and complete automation.
  • The current version analyzes parts only, not assemblies.
  • Instead of meshing, the software assigns an analysis space (a grid) surrounding the part to be worked on, as shown below:

How Scan&Solve works

  • Scan&Solve needs to interface with the CAD system to supply coordinates of the model to Scan&Solve for each point on the grid. Given this interface between the CAD system and S&S, there is no need for a mesh to be created. Instead the software works with the precise model geometry. Scan&Solve directly modifies the basis functions, sometimes called “shape functions” — functions that approximate the solution of the problem. In the current implementation, these basis functions are associated not with vertices of the mesh, but with cells in the mesh (of the space, not of geometry). “Modify functions” means that they are modified to satisfy the applied restraints everywhere — not just at vertices. Scan&Solve™ can be applied to any geometric model and used within any geometric modeling system that supports two fundamental queries: point membership testing and distance to boundary computation.
  • No simplification or de-featuring of the model is needed.
  • Increasing the resolution of the grid can test convergence of the results. If a higher resolution produces large changes in the results, keep increasing the resolution. Shapiro noted, “The issue is essentially the same as with standard FEA. One can estimate the error and refine the mesh (or increase density in our case), but it is more or less the same for all techniques. We do not do anything automatically right now. We advise the users to run at different resolutions (which requires NO WORK from the user) and compare the results. If results are significantly different, increase the resolution. In principle, this can and will be automated in the future.”
  • Can work directly with polygonal models. Scan&Solve performs all analysis related computations on the native geometry (whether polygonal, NURBS, or other form of geometry). Shapiro stated that “This eliminates the need for preprocessing: no healing, smoothing, de-featuring, or meshing is needed. This drastically reduces preparation/set up time.” However, the commercial product in Rhino works only with NURBS solids.
  • It always produces results. Shapiro stated “The solution procedure is deterministic, does not use heuristics, and always produces a result. (In other words, failure means a bug in the code: not inability to handle some geometry.) The advantages of S&S are full automation, complete integration and interoperability. Use it at any stage of the design process: from concept creation to detailed geometry.”
  • Prices are very reasonable. Scan&Solve for Rhino commercial licenses are $695 for a node locked version and $1295 for a floating license. Academic, trial and rental licenses are also available. Scan&Solve for Rhino also requires a Rhino license.
  • Interfaces are available currently for a limited number of CAD systems. Scan&Solve can be applied to any geometric model and used within any geometric modeling system that supports two fundamental queries: point membership testing and distance to boundary computation.

References: http://www.intact-solutions.com/

http://www.scan-and-solve.com/

Disclosure: No remuneration of any kind was paid for this article.

Conclusion: Both CAD and FEA vendors should check out the possibility of offering this technology as an option for users. With trial copies available from both Rhino and Intact Solutions, users wanting to extend FEA analysis beyond the traditional analysis experts should consider the benefits and urge their CAD partners to investigate this alternative.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) produces high strength and finished metal parts

10 March 2012: A few weeks ago I received a press release about EOS, the laser sintering company based in Germany, that got me thinking about their process. They claimed to directly produce parts, specifically knee joints, from an additive machining process that could be used in orthopedic surgery. Nick O’Donohoe, of the PR firm, the Parker Group, stated that “A sea change in medical treatment—mass customized, patient-specific care devices—will be evident at this years’ American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) meeting. There, EOS and its customers are displaying all types of innovative, high-quality orthopedic products that excel in effectiveness, fit, and comfort.”

Of course, from my years in the industry I knew quite a lot about additive manufacturing, but naively assumed it only produced low temperature and low stress capable plastic type parts.

After a little research into the background of laser sintering I was surprised to learn EOS’ laser sintering can produce parts made from chromium steel and even titanium! The difference between the melting points between plastic and these metals was several thousand degrees. I was determined to find out how this was done.

I scheduled a call with Andy Snow, Regional Director at EOS of North America. I have attached a summary of call below. But first, I had to learn a bit about powder metallurgy and high power lasers.

How it works

Basically it works similar to an SLS (stereo-lithography) additive machining process. A laser is directed to the material and it solidifies the material. In this case the material is powdered metal and the laser is high powered enough to fuse the metal in its beam area to a depth of 20 microns (typically SLS systems solidify plastics at an 120 to 200 micron depth). The elevator is lowered 20 microns, powdered metal is swept over the previous layer and the process repeats, of course with the laser beam directed to the precise locations based on an original CAD converted model.

Other similar technologies include laser sintering and electron beam welding. It is left to the reader to examine these alternatives for their particular requirements.

Conclusion

While EOS DMLS systems are pricey ($600K+) compared to plastics additive manufacturing, the choice using of high strength metals directly in this process offers the users a final product ready  for use, possibly after some clean-up such as polishing. In addition, certain geometries possible with additive manufacturing, such as internal channels, can be machined no other way. See the references below for additional links.

Disclosure:

No compensation of any sort was provided for this article.

—–

An interview with Andy Snow, Regional Director at EOS of North America

RAY: EOS has a unique approach with its direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). I am interested in the strength of the materials and finishing process and what’s required to produce a finished product? Can with start with a discussion of orthopedic knee replacements?

ANDY: Traditional knee replacement devices are made using a casting process. Our EOS produced parts are far better than cast materials, which need secondary machining and polishing.

RAY:  Does your final product also need additional machining operations?

ANDY: Yes, for orthopedic devices intended for implants, which need porous surface for orthopedic implants.

RAY: Porosity; does powdered metallurgy need binders?

ANDY:  Not in DMLS (direct metal laser sintering), as opposed to traditional sintering process.

RAY: I read that EOS systems melt Titanium. Is this true?

ANDY: Yes pure Titanium.

RAY:  What does a system cost?

ANDY:  $600k to 750K USD, depending on what materials you need to process.

RAY: Does titanium-sintering cost more?

ANDY: Not necessarily. It depends mostly on if there is a need to process multiple metals.

RAY:  Does the operator just dump a pail of powdered metal in the hopper and go?

ANDY: The input is powdered metal. It works similar to a stereolithography process – growing geometry layer by layer by heat from laser. Layers for our metal process can be 20-80 Microns depending on alloy. Plastics typically are thicker and 100 to 150 microns per layer.

RAY: EOS machines are slower?

ANDY: Yes

RAY: How slow? What are some example build times?

ANDY: It is geometry dependent. For example, a quantity of 16 54 mm acetabular knee cups take about 16hrs to build. The same builds in plastics might be six times faster. Of course plastic cannot directly be used for knee cups. However, patient specific drilling guides are often built in plastics. VisionAire is one trade name. [You can find out more at http://global.smith-nephew.com/us/patients/ABOUT_VISIONAIRE.htm%5D

RAY: How is this better than selecting from a suite of fixed knee cup sizes, as is most often done today?

ANDY: A custom product matches the bone geometry exactly. Thus there is a better fit.

RAY: What are the cost aspects as compared to mass-produced parts?

ANDY: The patient match is better because operating room expense is less because easier to install.

RAY: Are there any special environmental requirements?

ANDY: Nothing special is required, except within the EOS machine for specific metals. The EOS machines are typically in a machine shop at the OEM.

RAY: Does the metal sintering use a co2 laser?

ANDY: Plastics additive manufacturing uses CO2. DMLS uses Diode pumped fiber optic laser, 200W or 400W

RAY: what about finishing?

ANDY: Detail finish out of metal is better due to laser spot size; layer difference, and material particle size. Plastic 60 microns, metal 20 microns. Metal can use even smaller particle size because it’s heavier. Company is exploring micro laser sintering of 1-5 microns.

RAY: what other industries use this DMLS technology?

ANDY: Aerospace, especially in turbine designs.

RAY: Who is the competition in MLS (Metal laser sintering)?

ANDY: The competition is mostly German companies. These include SLM Solutions, Phenix Systems, and ARCAM with electronic beam technology. The DMLS acronym is only used by EOS.

RAY: What makes you better than the competition?

ANDY: Our finished part quality. We are the industry leader with 60-65% of the market share. We have a strong technical base. EOS has about 400 employees with 1/3 dedicated to R&D.

Here are some images supplied by EOS:

A laser-sintered drill guide designed to conform to the patient’s bone geometry. (Courtesy Materialise)

A DMLS-made gas turbine prototype swirler in cobalt chrome. (Courtesy Morris Technologies)

An EOSINT DMLS system laser-sintering cobalt-chrome dental copings and bridges in a batch. Each bridge can be a different custom design, based on dental data from an individual patient (Courtesy EOS)

An EOSINT M 280 direct metal laser-sintering (DMLS) system. (Courtesy EOS)

References:

———————-
 Below is the press release that I quoted earlier:

EOS DEMOS LATEST ADVANCES IN LASERAY: SINTERED ORTHOPEDIC PRODUCTS AT AAOS 

Customization of implants and drill guides provides significant advantages to surgical teams

Novi, MI, February 2, 2012—For proof positive that laseRay: sintering is changing the face of medical design and manufacturing, attendees of this year’s American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) meeting can stop by the EOS booth (#259). The world leader in laseRay: sintering systems is showcasing a working EOSINT M 280 direct metal laseRay: sintering (DMLS) system to demonstrate the extraordinary benefits the technology offers for orthopedic applications. The evidence includes a wide range of innovative medical products and prototypes used for instrumentation as well as spinal, joint, and cranial surgeries. The show is being held February 8-10 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco (California).

“An entire new world of orthopedic treatment and procedures has opened up,” says Martin Bullemer, EOS manager for medical business development. “Because our laseRay: sintering systems can cost-effectively manufacture any imaginable geometry, and any variation on it, they are changing the way we think about medical products.”

Laser sintering is an additive manufacturing process involving next-to-no tooling, molding or machining costs. As a result, devices can be economically mass-customized to conform to the requirements of individual doctors or patients. Orthopedic suppliers use DMLS and plastics laser sintering to create a diverse array of drill guides, clamps, implants, and surgical instruments.

EOS-related activities at the AAOS meeting include:

  • EOS customers C&A Tool (booth 4017), Morris Technologies (booth 359), and Oxford Performance Materials (booth 2821) are exhibiting laseRay: sintered products and prototypes. C&A and Morris both focus on DMLS, while Oxford Performance Materials uses the EOSINT P 800 with high-performance polymers to manufacture customized medical implants.
  • Highlights from WITHIN Technologies Ltd include their FEA/CAD optimization software that works with EOS’ plastic and metal laseRay: sintering systems to create strong, lightweight parts including innovative lattice structures.
  • FHC is exhibiting its new line of patient-customized stereotactic fixtures for cranial targeting. The new fixtures are more accurate and comfortable for the patient than standard stereotactic frames and are suitable for a broad range of head types, and for targets not easily reached with a traditional frame. They also reduce operating room times for the procedure by as much as two hours.

“Many surgeons and medical designers are only just now becoming aware of the breadth of applications made possible by this manufacturing technology,” says Fred Haer, CEO of FHC. “The laseRay: sintered products on display at this meeting are at the forefront of a revolution in personalized patient care.”

About EOS

EOS was founded in 1989 and is today the world-leading manufacturer of laseRay: sintering systems. Laser sintering is the key technology for e-Manufacturing, the fast, flexible and cost-effective production of products, patterns and tools. The technology manufactures parts for every phase of the product life cycle, directly from electronic data. Laser sintering accelerates product development and optimizes production processes. For more information visit www.eos.info

Kenesto: What is it?

18 Dec 2011:  Just a few weeks ago Mike Payne, one of the founders of PTC, SolidWorks, and SpaceClaim, noted on his LinkedIn page that he was un-retired. I found this exciting enough to reach out to Mike to find out about his new company. As a result Mike Payne, Kenesto CEO since March of this year, hosted me earlier this week at their offices in Waltham, MA. He and some of his staff filled me in about the product and where it’s heading.

Basically, the product is the antithesis of Payne’s formerly complex products in the CAD arena. Aimed at the category called business process automation, this cloud-based application allows asynchronous spawning of processes. Different from similar systems that try to model processes, Kenesto builds processes on the fly. Users wanting to track a process they are initiating, for instance an ECO, initiate a process, attach documents to it, and add users to the next process by adding their email addresses. Different types of “next processes” can be defined, such as “review and approve.” At each step in the process the recipient can add additional processes that add steps to the overall process. Kenesto builds the process diagram as steps are added. Note that this differs significantly from the BPM (Business Process Modeling) approach that models processes using a cumbersome programmatic approach. Kenesto calls it Business Process Automation (BPA).

We spent a fair amount of time discussing security and about control of attached documents. Jerry Meyer, Kenesto’s chief product officer, explained that most documents  (CAD images, docs, pdf’s or other related files) could be made view only, limiting the need for most security. In addition, Meyer and Payne both emphasized that ideally Kenesto would point back to the primary data vault, which provides primary security for collaborative data sharing. Users would most likely, if needed, upload to Kenesto more concise files, such as JT.

Each user of the process can examine all of the process steps, and see who did what and the entire process status. Processes can complete, but are left in the system for inspection and review. This brings up many possibilities of additional value. Different than is done in most cases today, each Kenesto process contains value in that the steps are recorded as to who did what, when it was done, and the reasons for certain decisions. Imagine, as might be the case for an FEA analysis of a product during the design cycle, if you could record the various simulation alternatives and capture the alternative finally selected and the reasoning behind it. IMHO, this might be easier than the complex simulation capture and record systems being proposed by many CAE systems such as Simulia and Siemens’ PLM Software.

Product status: Kenesto is approaching their first Beta and will use this to refine their product and its UI. Right now the user interface appears to be very simple. Being cloud based, and storing little or no CAD data, implementation involves signing up for the product and picking some areas to begin using the system. Ideal areas would be those that require tracking of the process status.

Pricing is not yet available. Payne described that the company is searching for a pricing schema that encourages the use of the system rather than the alternative. Kenesto is building up its staff. Currently the company is small, with development in Israel.

I like the approach. Clearly the system is evolving rapidly. Not too different than Autodesk’s 360 Nexus approach, the idea of fitting in to the way organizations work rather than forcing each company into using “best practices” should simplify implementations. Most importantly, Kenesto enables tracking the flow of information across organizational boundaries and can insure that critical design and review steps are not lost in the day-to-day miasma of paperwork and deadlines.

You can find put a bit more at http://www.kenesto.com and download a paper describing generally describing the product.

——

Autodesk 360 and Nexus – PLM 1.0: not perfect – but a great start

3 Dec 2011: Errata. I was incorrect in stating that Buzzsaw was a local PDM vault for AEC/BIM. Several people have written me about this, one being Stephen Bodnar of Autodesk. Bodnar stated that “Vault is the on-premise DM solution for both industries, whereas Buzzsaw is cloud-based and is also built on Autodesk’s Cloud, and is intended for design file collaboration between partners/suppliers and other users and does, in fact, have bi-directional push/synchronization with Vault)”

1 Dec 2011: I am on my way back from Las Vegas, where AU 2011 was held. The highlight of the event, at least for me, was the announcement of what I am calling Autodesk PLM 1.0. The announcement was not a well-kept secret, but the content of the announcement was closely held.

Monday’s media day preceded the conference. The actual PLM announcement came late Tuesday morning. Carl Bass retracted his oft quoted remark about PLM not being something customers worried about; instead, it was revised to mean “until the technology was right.” I couldn’t agree more with his reasoning. Most of Autodesk’s competitors PLM systems offer expensive, difficult to use, and almost impossible to install PLM systems, that rarely have met expectations. Even then, it is often at the cost of massive consulting assistance, rarely meeting anticipated timeframes, AND generally involves the implementation of substantially revised business processes.

Different than my analyst peers I have always been skeptical of such large and costly projects. Not being on the implementation side, I could afford to be skeptical. Many such projects, aside from basic PDM, seldom actually get implemented. Most stall. Autodesk estimates that most deliver only PDM. To test this thesis, I tweeted my followers and asked what they had accomplished. With just a few responses, this is hardly scientific. Several stated that did not yet have even PDM fully implemented!

So what was actually announced? The system is being called Autodesk 360. It is based on having locally installed PDM. For mechanical and for AEC this is Vault. Buzzsaw, a cloud based application provides design file collaboration for AEC teams. The third, and new software piece is called Nexus. The dictionary describes the word nexus as a “connector.,” and is a good description of what the software aims to do. In the following discussion I concentrate solely on mechanical PLM. For information on Buzzsaw and how it uses Nexus readers will have to go elsewhere. Try here.

Nexus is cloud based, and comes with 140 or apps. Each app looks like a series of specialized templates, along with customizable (by the user) workflow logic. Delivery is expected by the end of March 2012. No pricing was announced, however, the implications were that it would be modest. It will be sold on a per user subscription basis. All Nexus data and apps will be run in the cloud, using an ordinary browser. The mass of data will remain locally hosted using Vault. Having and maintaining Vault locally solves the issue of loading very large cloud based data while still maintaing some degree of interactivity.

How will it interface with Vault and other PDM systems? Very well with Vault. No connectors were announced to integrate with other PDM systems. Autodesk hinted that this is a good opportunity for third party developers and VARs. Connections with Nexus could be implemented via as yet unannounced APIs.

Today, the connection between Vault and Nexus is one way. CAD data cannot be sent from Nexus to Vault. Nor is it synchronized among Vaults, as is done among Apple’s iCloud apps. However, Vault data is automatically synced up to Nexus. Expect bi-directional sync in the future.

Is it easy to install and operate?

Keep in mind that my total exposure to Autodesk 360 Nexus comes from a 30 minute, main stage presentation, followed by a 60 minute working session where about 20 people per workstation watched a very capable Autodesk developer demo and responded to questions, often by showing us how Nexus would solve the proposed question.

Nexus appears to be an out of the box system. Nexus comes with predefined templates and workflows. Yet they can easily be added to and/or modified. Fields within templates (apps) can be defined on the fly and their characteristics (such as numeric, values, dates, etc.) as well. A Visio like graphic interface defines workflows. Many are offered in the starter system. A typical administration system allows assigning users to tasks and roles. Somehow, data fields can be interconnected, allowing visibility to see what drives or is driven by what.

So. There you have it. I imagine Autodesk will soon, if not already, have many seminars and pre-recorded AVI’s showing the software. Try here: http://usa.autodesk.com/360-lifecycle-management-software/

My conclusions

I think the product is outstanding. Being cloud based resolves many operating issues. Some users might question the security aspects of hosting much of the data remotely, and would do well to satisfy themselves that either this is not an issue, or otherwise. I think, that perhaps except for very special circumstances, the cloud-based security might even be vastly superior to what they could do locally. I think this is a non-issue.

Cost wise, I think this will prove to be much less expensive, long term, than most of today’s solutions. Again, this is a non-issue. Just take a look at the slide Stephen Bodnar of Autodesk, VP of Data Management, presented below that compares some costs for a 200 user deployment.

For collaboration, data can be uploaded, either in summary format, or detailed CAD files. Nexus has controls over what user sees what data.

Included are project management capabilities that allow rolling up from completed sub-tasks automatically. Defining projects involves defining sub-projects with easily configurable tasks and reporting procedures. If you have already implemented workflow as part of Vault, then is should be redone using Nexus. It allows more flexibility and better visibility.

If you want visibility by projects, by project managers and contributors, with flexibility to change workflows and processes to meet how you do business, it’s all there. My only question is how soon can I get it?

Ray with his skeptical face during AU2011 —-

—-

Here are a few slides from the presentation to give you an idea of what Autodesk presented. Sorry for the quality – I used my phone.

The overall concept of Autodesk 360.

Stephen Bodnar discussing their view of PLM:

Why is it called 360? Showing how the Vault and Buzzsaw make up local PDM systems:

Brenda Discher discussing why users don’t like competitive PDM systems.

What Autodesk is doing about it with Nexus.