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.

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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 —-

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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.

Siemens NX CAE Symposium: Users show their love

27 Nov 2011: The week before last I attended an invitation only event in Charlotte, NC, as a guest of Siemens at their first NX CAE Symposium. Designed as a way for users to get together to exchange ideas about how they use NX CAE software, some 80 customers attended the symposium, held at the Joe Gibbs Racing Facility just outside Charlotte.

The overall consensus of the presenters and the attendees I spoke with was satisfaction with the NX CAE suite. Many complimented the breadth of the CAE software, some of which I summarize below. Overall users were most satisfied because of the inherent associativity of CAE models with design models.

Several users told stories about how, in the past, they were asked by the design team to evaluate designs and get back to them. Even with an integrated system, the CAE analysts often spend substantial amounts of time simplifying models, insuring that the mesh is adequate for an accurate design, performing a series of analyses, and making recommendations to the design team, only to find that the design team has moved way beyond the design they were working on. Thus their work had to be scrapped. NX’s CAE and design integrations allow analysts to work on the design model, thus having a better ability to stay synchronized with the design team.

Also, NX seems to play well with external solvers, often integrating them tightly into the design stream workflow. Among these were Ansys solvers as well as specialized fluids solvers, such as those from MAYA.

My reactions:
Siemens PLM Software has a well-focused and wide breadth of solutions for heavy-duty CAE experts. Jon Heidorn, Siemens PLM Software (SPLMS) Vice President welcomed the attendees, stressing that simulation is one of their fastest growing markets, encompassing integrated modeling and solutions, system level modeling, multi-discipline simulation and optimization, and the intensely complex simulation data and process management. Beyond 2010 Heidorn predicted software would be available that would perform topology optimization. SPLMS also announced that their partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing was extended to 2016.

Mark Bringle and Nelson Cosgrove of Joe Gibbs Racing discussed their facility and their focus on engineering. Building their cars from scratch, and their engines almost from scratch, but carefully following NASCAR rules for each car, provides an impetus to carefully hone each major subsystem for optimal performance. Fascinatingly, their design cycle during racing season is one week! The three main groups include chassis and vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, and powertrain. The latest version of NX allows for full chassis FEA modeling. With NASCAR demanding similar car frames and engine performance, their engineers carefully analyze every part to improve weight and aero performance so they can achieve even small advantages over their competition.

Jim Rusk of Siemens PLM Software discussed the latest trends in product development with NX CAE Simulation. He highlighted a few concepts they are working on sand delivering to make it easier than ever. Among these are Synchronous Technology for the CA analyst which makes for easier simplification, workflows for the advanced analyst, continuing improvements in multi-discipline analysis, motion analysis for flexible bodies like springs, multi-solver support, topology optimizations, and HD3D requirements management and validation.

ATK Aerospace, MDA of Canada, and JPL, Proctor and Gamble, and Solar Technologies spoke about their analyses ranging from rocket design to cryo engineering of spacecraft to making 1 million paper diapers to designing complex solar collectors.

Hendrick Motorsports’, Charles Macdonald, discussed detailed part analysis and the tradeoffs they make for lighter, yet strong and most of all highly serviceable parts of a suspension.

Kendra Short, of JPL and the mechanical manager of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), successfully launched just two days ago, spoke eloquently about how having a sophisticated analysis system working directly on the design model enable them to perform many more complex analyses than would have been possible without simulation done directly on the design models. Without the ability to service the MSL (it’s a long trip to Mars), Ms. Short chatted about the enormous planning that goes into having multiple alternatives in the event of a failure. I found fascinating during a break discussion about how the MSL is to be deployed to the surface using a tether. No backup here, just reliable explosive bolts.

One of the symposiums objectives was to have users exchange ideas about how they use simulation. This seemed to be more than fulfilled. If you have a chance to attend the next symposium, don’t miss it.

Disclosure: Siemens paid for my travel expenses to attend the event.

Inforbix $ errata, Autodesk Vault to the cloud

In my previous blog, I made an error on the pricing of Inforbix, which I have since corrected. I wanted to make sure you all have seen that correction. In the pricing example that was given, for a company of 100 persons, with 30 engineers, Vic Sanchez estimated that they might have 100K to 200K files to be indexed. The annual price for Inforbix for that size customer would be $10K to $15K. A great price range for the service provided. In fact one that is very compelling.

In the meantime it looks like Autodesk is planning to announce that their Vault will now be cloud hosted. I have no other details than some early teasers that were provided by Autodesk. It will be interesting to compare these offerings. I am planning on attending Autodesk University and will be there Monday through Wednesday, Nov 28-30. Say hello if you see me. I will report on this upon my return.

Inforbix – a new approach to cloud based PDM

18 Nov 2011: Oleg Shilovitsky, one of the more prolific bloggers in the PLM industry recently announced his new venture – Inforbix LLC.

Last week I had the chance to speak with Oleg, the CEO, and his partner, Vic Sanchez, about what their new offering was all about. Of course, I suspected that the new company, with Oleg’s background as a development manager of PLM systems, might be about PDM or PLM. Of course I was right. But, I wanted to find out what the product was all about, who founded the new company, what its objective was, a little bit about the technology, and who might use it and what it might cost.

Oleg and Vic were most accommodating in helping me understand and ferret out answers to the above questions.

Background

Inforbix began development on its product in early 2010. The product was officially launched in last October, 2011, and has been in Beta since last April. Shilovitsky teamed with a Russian development team to bring the product to fruition.

About the product

In a nutshell, here is what I learned. Inforbix, today, consists of a product data crawler app that is installed onto the target system or local network containing the product data to be indexed. After user customization of the crawler app, which basically tells it where to find the data to be indexed, the app goes to work finding relevant product data, exploring the metadata stored within the data files, and indexing the data. No actual data files are uploaded to the cloud, only metadata and where the files are located. What makes this exciting is that the crawler can crawl through many data types and vaults, and decode the inherent metadata and product structure.

Targeted at small and medium sized CAD companies, the object of Inforbix is to “help people find, reuse, and share product data.”

Both the crawler app and the cloud based search environment are optimized for manufacturing and design companies. I like that non–vaulted data such as Word docs and pdfs can be “related” back the products.

The system today supports crawling CAD and PLM data from Autodesk, PTC, SolidWorks, and Siemens. More will be coming in the future. Also supported are pdf, Word, and Excel files.

A few niceties

It is secure since no files are changed, moved or uploaded. Being cloud based, little maintenance or local support is needed. It is affordable and seems to be priced right – the first 20K files are free. Each 20K files after that cost $600 per year. Sanchez estimated that a typical medium sized company with 100 people and 30 engineers might spend $10K to $15K per year, a seemingly small cost considering that no hardware and no support staff is needed for the service. Also, it immediately allows accessing the data worldwide using a browser. Asked about what happens if indexed data moves, Shilovitsky said that the crawler monitors and tracks the new location, and updates the cloud.

Inforbix offers many ways to present the data to make sense of the product connections. These include Excel like tables and filters.

I see a few drawbacks and improvements needed

The original data still needs to be maintained along with support and local data backups. A local PDM system might still be needed to support applications that depend upon understanding the product data structure. Further discussions are needed as to how the system allows role-based access to the data. For instance, how can suppliers access the data? Data being relocated might have a delay before the indexes are updated on the cloud.

Conclusions

I really like the concept and the possibilities for extending the concept to other areas of a company. It seems that it would be relatively straightforward to have different crawlers looking for different data types. Think of it as a private Google for the data in your entire company or how to get organized without the fuss. If you are a company without a PDM system (and some 75% of companies are), then this is a perfect way to get started.

Try it out

With a free entry price, it makes sense to give this a try.

A few ways to learn more

The company: www.inforbix.com

The latest press release: http://www.inforbix.com/inforbix-launch-press-release/

Oleg shows how to start using Inforbix in 20 min: http://www.inforbix.com/how-to-start-using-inforbix-in-20-min/

Industry Siemens PLM Software Analyst meeting 2011 Notes

Acting more like the tortoise than the hare in the fable; Siemens PLM Software (SPLMS) has plodded and plotted its way to the leadership position in the PLM software industry. Sticking with its “never let a customer fail” strategy as well as other newly elucidated goals has enabled the company to maintain a steady pace in gaining customers and revenue over the years.

At the Industry SPLMS Analyst meeting held on the 7th and 8th of September in Boston, Tony Affuso, CEO and Chairman, revealed substantial growth for the company. SPLMS experienced strong double-digit license revenue growth, following five previous quarters of steady growth and exceeded profitability and cash flow targets. SPLMS does not reveal its precise numerical performance. Acknowledging that most of the growth was organic (not from acquisitions) and since their growth considerably exceeded that of the market, the difference had to come from gaining market share growing their business within existing customers, from new markets, and by winning business from their competitors. Affuso discussed recent competitive wins against Dassault Systemes (DS) and PTC. His conclusion and that of the speakers that followed credited their strategies of openness and never outmoding customer data, quite different than PTC and DS. DS, in particular forced customers to endure substantial conversions in going from V4 to V5 and now to V6. At PTC, Creo appears to require a massive data migration as well. Instead, SPLMS has deployed SOA and XML to maintain a pipeline between new and existing applications. Using such “data pipelines” allows connections between disparate applications, the drawback being a modest degradation in performance for the additional work required by each application. This has been made relatively unimportant by the tremendous growth in hardware that has continued unabated all these years.

In speaking with one SPLMS executive, being a part of Siemens has allowed a stability and financial base that allows continued heavy investment in R&D, even in difficult economic times. Both Affuso and President Chuck Grindstaff cited Siemens devotion to innovation and not retreating on R&D expenditures during difficult times.

Announced last year, HD PLM seems to be making real headway. Designed as a graphic way to present Teamcenter data visually, we may at last be beginning to see the demise of the numbingly tedious display of tables of data – instead to be replaced with graphic views of the product. For instance, why look at a table of components that are over cost targets? Instead show the out-of-whack components using a color scheme on the assembly view of the product. Grindstaff described this as a way of showing the “semantics” of the product data, or relating data relationships. While I am sworn to secrecy, I can tell you that Siemens is exploring methods for the average user to generate his own views of data he might be interested in. More on this later this year.

More to come in Part 2.

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DS clarifies DARPA crowdsource win

A few days ago Dassault Systemes (DS) released a press release announcing that the first online, co-created military vehicle was delivered through the collaboration of Local Motors, DS, and 12,000 community members.

I was really interested in this announcement because of the concept of crowdsourcing, I had never heard of Local Motors, and what in the heck was a co-created military vehicle? After delving into more details about Local Motors, and trying to find out if this military vehicle could withstand IED’s (improvised explosive devices, as often used in Iraq and Afghanistan) I was a bit confused. The DS PR people were kind enough to put me in touch with Al Bunshaft, Managing Director of DS North America.

Al and I spoke recently, and you might be interested in what I found out.

First of all, this is a DARPA initiative (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). By the way, DARPA is the agency that provided the early funding for what later became the Internet. So, when I hear that DARPA is involved my ears always perk up. This project appears to be one of a series of projects DARPA is initiating to see if there are better ways to provide defense sourcing differently than in the past; namely, cheaper, more rapid development, faster deliveries, and the delivery of specialized vehicles without a massive dollar commitment.

Here is what DARPA had to say about the requirements for this vehicle. “It is important to note that even though this is a militarily relevant vehicle, this is not an offensive fighting vehicle. The goal of this vehicle will be to transport items and/or people around quickly and efficiently in a potentially hostile but mobile environment.” I found it interesting that the design requires no body armor to protect against IED’s. Apparently the military feels that a fast off-road vehicle for emergency transportation can be effective, especially if it can avoid heavily traveled roads. This winning design appears to do just that.

DS was heavily involved with Local Motors, supplying much of the core CAD, CAE, and PLM technology, namely Catia, Simulia, Enovia, and visualization tools. The winning design was based on Local Motors’ Rally Fighter chassis, a street legal rally vehicle. Contributors were invited to submit their design concepts using any design tool, even paper based drawings and ideas. Both Local Motors and DS personnel were heavily involved in converting and assembling the submitted designs into a workable CAD model. To vote on the final designs a panel of military and commercial experts was assembled.

Then Local Motors sourced the components and assembled it at their micro factory in Arizona. Here is what it look like.

XC2V winning entry

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Click here for the DS press release.

Related websites for more information:

About the DARPA design challenge:

http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/News/DARPA_issues_Experimental_Crowd-derived_Combat-support_Vehicle_(XC2V)_Design_Challenge.aspx

About Local Motors and their participation:

http://www.local-motors.com/XC2V Click on the description for an excellent description of the vehicle mission.

Check out the video on this page of the XC2V being assembled:

http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2011/2011/06/24_DARPA%E2%80%99s_Defense_Manufacturing_Efforts_Support_White_House_Vision.aspx

PlanetPTC 2011: Its all about Creo and MKS

Earlier this week I attended PlanetPTC. I attended some of the keynote speeches in the main event and PTC held special events for the media and press. We had the opportunity to rub elbows and hold private meetings with some of the executives from PTC. I found them to be open and earnest in their plans for the future.

It all starts with Jim Heppelmann, CEO and President. Jim described a strategy meeting he held with his executives to plot the resurgence of the CAD offering. He honestly said, several times, that development lagged for the product during the last decade and they found themselves adding more and more complex features to the already existing, difficult to use Pro/ENGINEER. [A situation many of their competitors are in also] The architecture was antiquated and all agreed a new approach was needed — one that might serve PTC well for the next decade or two. Thus was born Creo!

One might ask the question, as one did at a media Q&A event with PTC executives: “Why rebrand the product line? Why not use the famous Pro/E brand and go on from there?” Replied Rob Gremley, EVP of Marketing, “because it is not Pro/E, because customers said that it was far different, and to call it Pro/E would be a mistake. Thus, we needed a new brand, even though it might confuse people at first.” My reaction, they are right, even though I sometimes struggle to properly name the new software products. For example, changing the name of CoCreate to Creo Elements Direct is enough to confuse anyone.

The rebranding and new product rollout was not without risk. In fact it was very risky for PTC. Oftentimes companies are reluctant to change their cash cows. This is clearly spelled out in the book “The Innovators Dilemma.” Such a strategy often leads to a company’s demise, with their refusal to take risks. Heppelmann should be applauded for taking this very large step. Further, Heppelmann was emphatic that existing customers would not be hurt; they would not have to buy new software to support their installations; any upgrades would be painless. Apparently, the customers bought into this and the promises for Creo futures. In the last few quarters, PTC experienced its highest revenue growth (12%) in more than 10 years, with Creo Elements Pro up 40% in license revenue. CoCreate and View also saw substantial revenue gains.

As an aside, the sessions, both main and media sessions, focused on Creo and the MKS acquisition, with little attention being paid to Windchill – the best kind of focus for a modeling dude like me.

While PTC spent a great deal of time on Creo, there was very little depth — at most a few 5 minute AVI’s. So I am using these short videos and some conversations to form my opinion. PTC promised me a more in-depth look later at the products, and of course most of the new apps are shipping now. The primary apps, Creo Elements Pro and Creo Elements Direct, aside from UI improvements are pretty much the same as they were with Pro/E and CoCreate, the exception being the new apps that extend Elements Pro. These new apps show the promise of where Creo is heading. And it’s exciting.

Architecture

Here are 2 slides from Mike Campbell’s (DVP, Creo Product Development) presentation:

  • Evolve existing, monolithic products into
    • –A scalable suite, of
    • –right-sized, interoperable, integrated design apps,
    • –spanning the entire spectrum of product envelopment
  • Built upon a common data model, managed by a common PLM backbone, and delivered with a common user experience
  • Protect existing customer investments
    • –Commercial software licenses, and packages
    • –Existing Product Development (CAD) data
    • –Capabilities, best practices, working methods
  • Extended by a broad range of complimentary 3rd party apps
    • –Strategically selected partners,
    • –Reflected in our Product Strategy

Here is a summary of the Creo Products delivered in Creo 1.

1. Creo Parametric, the successor to Pro/E. A full-featured parametric modeling application.


2. Creo Direct, a new application.  Delivering a direct modeling experience. This app provides an intuitive way to easily modify parametric models.


3. Creo Sketch, a new app for sketching. This allows artists in the organization to capture their early thoughts about the way product should look, oriented towards industrial design of products.

Creo Sketch enables simple “freehand” drawing of ideas and design concepts in 2D

4. Creo Illustrate. a new app for use by the service organization to capture the service procedures such as assembly and disassembly in an intuitive way using Creo 3-D models.

With Creo Illustrate, users can easily create 3D technical illustrations by importing design data from all of the major CAD systems

5. Creo schematics, an app for schematics capture.

Creo Schematics users can create 2D routed systems diagrams for piping and cabling designs

6. Creo Simulate. An app for the analyst. Allows the professional analyst to analyze structural and thermal characteristics of models, created within Creo or external models.

7. Creo View MCAD

8. Creo View ECAD. Continuing the theme of openness are two more applications–Creo view MCAD and Creo view ECAD. These apps are used for viewing, markup and measuring data from either Creo or other CAD applications.

Visualization of both the 3D model and the ECAD PCB Layout inside of Creo View

9. Creo Layout, an application designed for the early conceptualization of the product.

What about deliveries? Creo 1 is shipping now. An update will add some apps later this year. Creo 2 will ship in March 2012, Creo 3 in March 2013.

Other thoughts

So, overall, what do I think about Creo? It’s innovative, I like how Creo Direct works to add features that change the model directly; the UI looks much easier and mimics that of Microsoft Office apps.

Some additional thoughts:

  • While PTC is working hard on importing any CAD system’s data into Creo, interoperability is a one-way street. Data is brought into Creo, but plans are murky to allow exporting data.
  • A user from Systems Spa, described how they planned to switch from parametric modeling to direct modeling now that they had a real choice and still stay within the same software architecture. After testing they concluded that direct modeling offered a greater that 30% productivity gain. I found this very interesting and wonder how many other users bought into parametric modeling because it was essentially, the only game in town. Now that’s changed.
  • Eventually Creo Elements Direct will merge completely into Creo Direct. On the subject of Creo direct, I cornered Mike Campbell in a hall and asked how Creo Flexible Modeling, a Creo Parametric extension can add direct modeling to a parametric model. For instance, what if a parametric feature disappeared after direct changes? His concise answer was that they never change the parametric model; direct modeling just adds features that change the model. Huh? Removing a pocket fills in the pocket with a new feature. Changing a face angle adds a feature that does that. He indicated there were special commands added that perform functions like this.
  • Future plans call for Creo 1.1 due Nov 2011, Creo 2.0 due March 2012, and Creo 3.0 due Mar 2013.
  • Creo Freestyle, discussed only briefly, and included with Creo Parametric and Creo Direct, allows morphing the surfaces of a solid into quite a complex shape. Instead of operating on curves, as does Alias Design, Freestyle operates directly on the solid model. Very impressive, but I am have little information about what it can really do.
  • Relex will be rebranded into Windchill Quality Solutions
  • PTC briefly discussed the ability to perform selective data reading from other CAD systems, With the advancements in AnyData it appears to be capable of isolating specialized modeling functions (such as body-in-white?) from other CAD systems. Could this be an opening for PTC to capture large OEM’s?
  • MKS’ Integrity software, now specialized for software, especially embedded software, offers leading edge capabilities for testing and the application of requirements, thus opening the door to advanced systems engineering. Stay tuned here. The PTC executives were very excited about the possibilities.

Pricing and packaging

Getting this information from PTC was like pulling teeth. It hurt, but they eventually relented. The packaging is divided into Creo Applications (such as Creo Direct and Creo Simulate), Creo Extensions (to an App, such as Creo Advanced Simulation Extension), and packages which combine Apps and Extensions (such as Creo Engineer). Shown below are some examples. There are many more.

Creo Parametric is similar to Pro/E, where Pro/E Foundation starts at $4995, US pricing for quantity of one. Creo Direct is $3500. Creo Simulate is $7995 without the non-linear extension. Other prices are available for PTC. Prices may be different outside the US. Creo Parametric with Flexible Modeling, really desirable offering is $5995.

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Ray Interviews SpaceClaim’s Blake Courter about their success with CAE customers

06 JUNE 2011: [The Bold questions are from Ray. The not bold replies are from Blake.]

Blake Courter

I wanted to explore the marketing thrust you have about improving product development time in CAE analysis by using SpaceClaim.

Sure!

It looks like it’s a pretty interesting idea, actually. So maybe you could tell me a little bit about what it is, how it works and what users need to make it work.

Well, CAE is one of our biggest markets. Not because SpaceClaim itself does simulation, the way people expect CAE tools to, but we serve CAE users’ geometry needs in a way that I don’t think any other product does. And we do that in two ways.

If you just start thinking about it for a second — the profile of someone that does a lot of simulation — you’re typically talking about someone who thinks about physics a lot. Part of that is really caring about the quality of geometry they use to create their meshes for FEA, for CFD; you name it. It’s going to be different for every study.

There are two workflows we see the most. One is when simulation users unfortunately have to do simulation after the CAD models have been made — which is usually a bit more work. And then there are the cases where companies use simulation before CAD to drive product development. That’s obviously a much more efficient strategy.

But I’ll start with the latter, because it happens all too often.

Ray: You know, of course, that post-CAD simulation is almost always required to verify the design. Right?

Blake: It can be a validation requirement.

Once the detail designs are done, they normally have so much junky geometry on them that’s really designed for the manufacturing specifications that it’s irrelevant to the engineering analysis. Rounds, small features and often the parts are more complicated.

Now we know that traditional CAD does a great job at producing those manufacturing-perfect models for machining, and represent how the part will actually be. But those are usually unsatisfactory for doing engineering. They’re just too darned complicated; the meshes blow up and there are other problems, as well.

So simulation users are faced with the challenge of reverting back to the engineering model from the manufacturing model that’s created in CAD. We’ve made SpaceClaim with help from our friends at ANSYS, as well as other vendors, to make SpaceClaim the best tool to turn the manufacturing model back into the engineering model, so it’s the right level of complexity for whatever simulation engineers want to do.

We have two whole toolbars of features for cleaning up dirty geometry and for extracting data. One good example of that is extracting mid-surfaces, which is often a much more efficient way to do simulation than a solid type of meshing.

Then we also have the ability to use our future-recognition technology to find things like… We can take a beam structure — a truss structure — that is all mitered and has the holes drilled in it and all that complicated stuff documented for manufacturing, and revert that back to actual engineering beam elements; trimming the corners together so they’re real beam nodes. And we extract from that solid geometry the cross-section.

We can automatically detect these and automatically extend them and move them into simulation tool, with all the right properties.

I mean they’re really killer features for people who do simulation.

In regard to these features, when have they been there since? Are they new for 2011? Or have they been there for many releases?

I believe that our first release to take a real focus with this was based on 2009. And we’ve made them better and we’ve added more, every step of the way.

We have a very close partnership with ANSYS, where we provide to them a private-label version of SpaceClaim that they sell to their customers as one of their geometry tools. For us directly and through our resellers, this is also a big market.

There’s just so much pent-up demand for simulation users. Because the CAD tools just aren’t very good at these things. And we’ve made it push-button simple.

So for any simulation user who wants to not only simplify geometry but edit it however they see fit, to do “What if?” studies and optimize a model — to put whatever parameters that want on the model — drive it through closed-loop iterations… These are the types of things that they haven’t been able to do before.

I would think that any CAD user would be able to do these kinds of operations directly on a typical CAD modeling system.

Well, what we hear the most from our simulation customers is that with SpaceClaim, they can actually reuse the CAD geometry, rather than having to remodel it from scratch. Here’s a good example… Let’s say you have something like a typical aerospace bulkhead. The CAD model probably has every little pocket and the bulkhead is probably developed with the same web thickness on the bottom.

On the other hand, a simulation user would typically want to optimize that to make the webs only as thick as necessary, given the stress on the model. So they’re going to want to change the depth of every pocket.

There’s no single parameter they can use in a CAD system to do it. They can hack it with offset features and something like that, but that’s ugly. In SpaceClaim, that’s a really simple thing to do.

Do you have any other examples?

Well, I should make another point, based on your comment. The CAD vendors have been selling and acquiring analysis companies — often lower-end analysis companies — for the past decade and a half, as a way of moving more product through their channels, as an ala carte offering. They all will make some version of a claim that says, “Hey. To do simulation, we’ve made it so easy that you can just use this little wizard and get results.”

It’s absolutely true that users can get results. We find that a lot of the time, without really a strong engineering background, it’s hard to know how accurate the results are. I find it fascinating talking to people whose career is dedicated to simulation when I ask them questions like, “How do you know how accurate your results are?” They’ll tell me about the work they go through to make sure that they’re confident in the system!

There really seem to be two use concept out there. There’s the use concept put forth by the CAD vendors, which is for someone who doesn’t know what the units of stress are — they can do simulation. Or they can do the fluid dynamics without knowing what a Reynolds Number is. There’s an argument that they might say, “You can get insight,” but without knowing the accuracy, I’m not sure what the point is of doing the simulation.

Then you have the other use concept, which is, “I want to have accurate answers.” As the vice-president of engineering, I’m going to hire someone who is a PhD at doing this type of work, to make sure that I know when I turn to this person for results, that person put error bars on it and lets me know how confident we can be that this is going to work. Obviously I’d like to have that person working on this problem as soon as possible, rather than as late as necessary. That’s a very different philosophy.

So organizations that really want to innovate and want to maximize the efficiency of their engineering process are going to invest in tools and training to get the results that they want. Those companies tend to buy the more-dedicated simulation packages, like ANSYS. The ones where someone is going to have dedicated CAE users who need to work with that geometry. That’s predominantly our market.

I just want to explore that for a minute. I’m just trying to get really to the heart of this matter, and I think you’re saying it quite succinctly.

But all the CAD systems can export their models to analysis software. Right? So if you have a user running on, say, CATIA, he could buy external analysis software and run it using his CAD model. Right?

Then I guess the difference here is whether you’re going post-CAD model or pre-CAD models. If you’re running it through for validation, then don’t you want to stick with the design data that’s been already built within CAD? Put some additional features in to simplify the model, and then drive it through CAE analysis? I mean all of these vendors support that kind of meshing and submission to external analysis solvers. Right?

But the added benefit they seem to have is that they’re in the mainline stream of design changes. So if a design change came along, it’d be easy to just rerun the analysis.

Well, that’s theoretically the situation that almost all of our customers are in before they buy SpaceClaim. I can tell you why they buy SpaceClaim. One, because that situation is a nightmare.

You mean it really doesn’t work. Right? Or it doesn’t work well enough. And doesn’t it require the CAE user to be a CAD expert then? Is that what you’re saying, as well?

Well, that’s one of the problems. And typically, the CAE guy is not going to be a CAD expert. Typically, if they’re using the in-house CAD system, CAE users are remodeling things from scratch. Because it’s almost impossible to simplify the model.

More typically, they’re asking the CAD team to do it. Which means every time they want to model a new feature or every time they want one little rib moved, they’re looking at a week-long iteration cycle, just because that’s the nature of it.

You go to the CAD guys and say, “Hey, can you make this change for me?” They’re like, “Yes. We’re busy. We’re in the middle of this other ECO. We’ll get to in a couple of days.”

Then you have to remind them again in a couple of days. Then a day later, they get back to you.

So for situations where the CAE users aren’t able to use the in-house system… And keep in mind that often some companies like a Tier 1 automotive supplier will have three different in-house CAD systems. Those three different CAD teams, where the people are trained on the different systems. Right?

Yes.

There’s no way the simulation user is going to be able to use all three.

Right.

So we can go up and answer a simple question in a half-hour, where otherwise they would’ve had to wait for a week. That’s a huge improvement.

They can go through many more changes and they don’t have to be as selective about what parts they can perform simulation on.

So what happens if they read a CAD model and perform a simulation and run it through optimization and they say, “Aha! This is what I want!” Then how do they get that back into the CAD system?

Well, let’s talk about how they did this before SpaceClaim. So we can understand how bad the problem is.

Okay.

What they’ll typically do… To simplify, let’s try to start with suppress or delete features. That will inevitably, for any real part, cause regeneration failure. Because it’ll delete a little hole. But something’s aligned to that hole. So then a child feature fails. And then the model starts to blow up.

So you can’t really do that.

Typically, the approach to use is to create features that sort of fill in features by creating extrusions and to add material. That isn’t a very elegant way to do it.

Then there’s the other problem.

By the way — let me interrupt you, Blake. Is that true for all the CAD vendors out there, including Solid Works?

Any history-based modeler is going to have the problem that when you suppress a feature, in large part, there’s a pretty good chance that other features are going to depend on that. And you’re not going to be able to suppress the features. This is extremely typical.

Yes. Okay.

The other thing that can happen is when edges get referenced… You see things where the geometry can actually shift because you suppress a feature.

A good example of that is if you suppress a round. Sometimes a dimension that referenced the rounded edge now references the original edge, and a wall moved.

So when you go around suppressing features willy-nilly, it’s hard to be sure that the geometry you end up with afterwards is actually a fair de-featured reflection of the original part. It’s a very risky business. That’s why most CAE users find it’s easier to remodel from scratch.

With SpaceClaim, our de-featuring tools don’t have that problem, and you can read in that complex geometry and get a simplified model without a lot of sweat.

The point I’m trying to make is that if they manage to get that old feature model turned into the new one, the model that they make is going to have so many — “hack-and-stack,” I think is the industry term — features at the end that the CAD guys are going to have to remodel it off the original part, anyhow.

We didn’t even talk about re-parametrizing the model so that it has the right design intent to do their optimization. Which can involve re-constraining. It can be as simple as re-constraining sketches, if you’re lucky. But often, the change you want to make isn’t conveniently found in one sketch. You want to look at it in some other cross-section or you want to create mid-surfaces. There’s so much that goes into it.

We would put forth the idea that I think a lot of systems engineers have come up with — which is that the CAD guys are the ones that are the right professionals to know how to make those changes to correctly reflect the model-base definition correctly. To get managed into the PDM systems and have the right parent-child relationships and external dependencies and design-intent and constraints. All those good things that you can use to build really rich CAD models; if that’s done correctly by the right people. They’re going to use whatever comes out of CAE, regardless, of simply a specification for that.

SpaceClaim makes it much easier, because we give them two things, so they can get back to the CAD team. One, you have a precise, solid model at the end of the day, and you can overlay that in your CAD system with the original, and make the changes that you need to make.

Now it’s not going to have all the features. The rounds are going to be removed and the other things are going to be optimized. But they pull that up right next to it and make sure that they get the changes right.

The other thing is, we have this “track changes mode,” like in Microsoft Word, where it red-lines what’s changed. We can actually save that as a set of PowerPoint slides that show the different views of what changed; including dimensions that say, “This used to be this size; now it’s that size.”

I don’t think I know about this capability. Is this something new?

Oh, it’s awesome! We make these 3D mark-up things that show every face that’s been added, removed or deleted.

And what do you do? Do you do that by comparing the original model and the one after you’ve modified it a certain number of times? How does that work?

Exactly.

I can show it to you. It’s kind of what you’d expect. The things that move get colored, and then we can throw dimensions on it to show “Is this value; was that value.”

So this is something that might be done afterwards to document the CAE changes. Right?

Exactly. We see it used in a lot of other contexts like design reviews.

Well, since you’ve stripped all the nuts out of the model to run it through CAE… a lot of the details… right? Is that still valid?

Well, it was a valid engineering model to do the CAE calculation.

Yes. But compared to the original CAD model, it may be a LOT different. Right? Half the features could be missing. Maybe more.

Well, exactly. Certainly I’ve seen parts that have more round features on them than everything else put together. And all of those are gone.

Obviously there’s going to be some remodeling, but the important thing is that the simulation user can concentrate on doing simulation and getting answers and results, which is how they add value to the organization.

And the CAD team can make the changes correctly once, rather than having to make 4 or 5 different changes once a week of what the CAE user dreamed up. They can make those changes only once, once the CAE user is done, and save a lot of time by doing that remodeling only once, with a really well specified design for it.

Have you got any good productivity stats or info from users, other than generic, “This is x-percent faster?” Anything interesting that’s usable?

Sure. I could just come up with quotes. I can tell you how it averages out. But we have — I don’t know — many, many case studies from simulation users, at this point, to talk about how much faster they are.

Sometimes customers are hesitant to specify the precise detail. You know?

Well, I hold their feet to the fire when we have the opportunity to write up a case-study and get a real metric out of them. I can tell you that there are two pretty common themes, and I’ve already given you some of them.

When the CAE users aren’t using CAD themselves and must rely on the CAD team to make changes, their cycle times go up by a factor of 10. I hear that when they are doing their own 3D, the geometry is 3/4 of the work of getting a part ready for simulation. And that’s the major bottleneck. When we remove that bottleneck, they’re typically able to get twice as many simulations set up in the same time. And assuming they have the compute power, twice as many simulations running in the background at the same time.

Those are consistent. I’ve heard those numbers pretty much from most of the people that do simulation. And you’ll see quotes like that in the case studies.  (http://www.spaceclaim.com/en/Resources/CustomerSuccesses.aspx)

If I want to take this route, what are my options? Obviously, SpaceClaim. By the way, you have only one product, now. SpaceClaim Engineer?

That’s right. We also have variants that we make for folks like ANSYS, and so forth.

Yes. I know they have something called ANSYS SpaceClaim Direct Modeler.

Right.

But here’s my question, then.

If somebody decides to go this route, what are their options in terms of CAE vendors? Can they use their existing ones? I mean let’s suppose that I’m again a CATIA shop. So I could go out to SpaceClaim, but if I already paid for a license of, say, MSC… or NASTRAN… Is it just as easy to use that as ANSYS? What are some of the alternatives for a user?

There are three different paths. The bottom line is that the amount of productivity benefit you get using SpaceClaim to create new concepts for simulation or to prepare models is so much faster. The integration itself is probably the least-important part of the value that we add.

In other words, if we can make it so that you can get a new simulation running in an hour instead of a day, whether it takes a minute to transfer or five minutes to transfer isn’t that big a deal.

But certainly we’ve gone to great lengths to have integrations. There are several vendors with which we have direct integration with SpaceClaim. In addition to ANSYS, Thermal Desktop, COMSOL for multi-physics, EnMesh, and Autodesk CFdesign, to name a few.

So these vendors have made, or I guess you both have made, modifications in your software to make passing down the data easier. Right?

Yes.

Do you support assemblies?

Yes.

Or assemblies within a model of an assembly? How does that work? Does it work like SolidWorks does, where you have an assembly attached with attached models to it? Or what?

Sort of. Our data model’s a little more flexible, so we don’t have a different assembly part or part parts. The other thing is, we don’t have any requirements that every part lives in its own document, the way most feature modelers do — including SolidWorks. Which is a major pain in the butt, when you want to restructure an assembly.

So we just sort of did that right. We have one type of document, and you can insert documents into documents.

When you import assemblies for most CAD systems and from STEP, we do the right thing when it comes to instancing. I downloaded [a bearing] the other day from this company. Anyway, what they ended up sending me a Pro-E assembly. So it was a Pro-E assembly with a couple of parts. And it had instances, but of course with SpaceClaim, each roller bearing in the bearing was an instance-of the same part. We only had to read that in once, of course. So we get all that stuff right.

I was just wondering about… You don’t combine any pricing or anything. Right? There’s no combination. I guess ANSYS might have one, but I don’t know… I’m just trying to get a handle on what this stuff might cost.

It’s reasonable! I mean it’s less expensive than a CAD system, or than most CAD systems, anyhow.

What — the solvers and the meshers? You don’t do any meshing. You have external meshers, right?

Meshing is not a simple thing. It’s really better that meshing be coupled with the simulation code.

Right. So that’s for the CAE guys. SpaceClaim does not provide that – right?

Our goal is to get geometry exactly where you need it to — to your mesher. The folks who really know simulation know how their geometry needs to look to make best use of their meshing and analysis software.

I wanted to finish my last thought about the integrations. I talked about the direct integrations. But to point out the second step that we see a lot —  MDAO tools.  Multidisciplinary Design Analysis and Optimization. These tools integrate with a number of different CAD and CAE systems to allow you to do just that. Some of the ones that are popular today… One is called “Optimus,” made by Noesis (www.noesissolutions.com). There’s another one called modeFRONTIER made by ESTECO (esteco.com). Of course, ANSYS Workbench is another product like this, that mainly integrates with ANSYS products. (ansys.com).

Right.

But with these tools — the Noesis product and the ESTECO product — work with SpaceClaim. So when customers have some special tool or maybe even an in-house tool, and they want to be able to do this multidisciplinary optimization on it, they can do that with SpaceClaim. That’s a way of integrating with many, many, many more CAE tools such as you were mentioning MSC or something from a CAD vendor. Where we may not have a direct partnership, like ABACUS.

So that’s a valuable path there.

How does that path work? You pass the geometry to these applications?

Well, those applications stand at the center and they can send parameters back-and-forth. They can read and interrogate geometry and act as the broker between all these different systems.

They typically have really beautiful visualization tools to map out Pareto frontiers and do sensitivity studies and that kind of thing.

I don’t know all the details of that, but you know, we have one of our case studies that involves someone using a SpaceClaim and Moldflow through Noesis Optimus. We didn’t have a direct integration. But those folks were able to wire it all together so they could have closed-loop optimization.

Well, what interface would you need? Wouldn’t you just export IGES or STEP to Moldflow and let them bang on it from there? Or what?

Absolutely. You can always do that. There’s always some route that way.

But if you want to have the parameters go back-and-forth and do optimizations and figure out what wall thickness you could have to minimize material and still have it pop out of the mold without getting too cool — or something like that… Then you’d want to have the full circle all managed in one environment. That’s what Optimus does.

Focusing on the market, it looks s like you’re having good success. Could you discuss that?

Sure. The answer is, “Yes.” We’re having good success in the market.

We don’t do absolute numbers. But I can tell you that… I probably told you that we’ve been more than tripling our revenue year-over-year for the past two years. Our licenses have been going up probably at around the same rate. There seems to be a lot of pent-up demand.

Do you have any idea what percentage of your sales would be in this market?

I think between quarter to a third, right now. But that’s a guess.

So you’re saying 1/4 and 1/3 of your new licenses are in the CAE analysis area?

Yes. It’s probably less than it used to be. But keep in mind that we have ANSYS selling SpaceClaim, so that’s a big part of it. And there are other CAE vendors who now sell SpaceClaim. So it’s a good market for us.

Yes. I’d say it’s a fantastic market, with those kinds of numbers.

We are also seeing a lot more sales now in concept modeling, bid modeling and manufacturing.

But yes, that is definitely where we found our stride with the Company. Also, it’s our inroad to getting to engineers. If we step back for a second and take a look at what we’re achieving as a company, it’s to make 3D as universal an idea as email or a spreadsheet. I think we can all agree that at some point in the future, every engineer is going to be able to scratch out basic problems in 3D.

As far as I’ve ever seen, SpaceClaim’s the first tool that really lets them do it without having to become real CAD-dedicated draftsmen.

We do this very effectively in large organizations where many engineers just haven’t been able to answer basic questions in 3D, before. And we have customers like Tyco, who have bought into this and deployed SpaceClaim far and wide to enable as many engineers as possible, just to be able to do a little basic thinking in 3D.

We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re not trying to be another detailed design tool. But we’re keeping SpaceClaim as simple and accessible and affordable as, in a TCO [total cost of ownership]. Affordable enough that SpaceClaim can really be broadly deployed throughout engineering organizations.

Does Tyco and Samsung represent a particular industry segment? Are they both one-up design companies. If so, they would be immediately attracted to a direct modeling system, one would think.

Well if you’re comparing, and if you look at sort of the pre-Creo or PTC rhetoric, they talked this way. They’ve changed their whole story right now, of course.

But it’s true that if you’re buying a really complicated, full-Monty drafting system for detailed design in manufacturing model creation, you might look at a direct model. Or one like the previous generation in a direct modeler. Like CoCreate, to do that, if you’re doing a lot of custom design. It didn’t make sense to invest in all the complexity of the design intent that you’d have to do to wire up a history based modeler correctly, like you would in Pro/E. That’s why you see certain industries have gravitated to direct modeling for their production CAD. And you do see that in the printer business and in some machine-design accounts.

It was probably the right decision not to go with feature-based modeling just because it’s so darned complex. If you’re only making one shape, that’s a reasonable way to go. But, we’re not pursuing that market. It’s true that SpaceClaim is a direct modeler, but the things that differentiate SpaceClaim are its intuitiveness and its low TCO. Now I think one of the things that we can lean on pretty strongly is, we’ve been so focused on doing it well. A big part of SpaceClaim’s simplicity comes from its ability to just work, rather than having to really put a lot of elbow-grease into making edits. I think you’ll find that for making edits to models or even better, editing parts, is something we’ve made much easier.

So although our modeling is industrial strength, the market opportunity for us is empowering engineers to answer questions in the process. And the business benefits that go along with what happens to an engineering organization where people don’t have to become dependent on the CAD team every time they want a basic answer about, “What if this,” or “What if that?”

That’s a real good summary. 

I’m saying some things here that I think could be taken as a little controversial. And I’ve been sort of quoted out of context in talking about things like how CAD users can’t do simulation and something like that. That’s not what I’m trying to say.

But I do think that gets people’s attention, because it’s so different from what they’re hearing from a lot of CAD vendors who have this really self-serving strategy of selling products without thinking about whether they’re the right products for whom they’re selling them to.

I think one of the things we’ve seen in this business is, the CAD vendors have really strong marketing organizations that can say whatever they want. And the folks that really understand engineering tend to just be more focused on getting the job done rather than listening to vendor claims. I try to do what I can to rectify that!

CAD vendors have always had their successes in large integrated, single-team design jobs like automotive and aerospace. Do you see any penetration in those areas?

Our biggest markets are automotive, aerospace and defense. Next would be medical devices.

I’ll bet that that concerns the big vendors!

You know, I’ve heard stories of… Obviously I’ve been in this industry for a while. I have a lot of good friends in CAD companies, and every once in a while, I hear stories of high-blood-pressure moments of certain CAD vendors, because of our presence in their accounts.

I think that’s unfortunate. But they’re used to thinking about CAD in an old-fashioned kind of way.

Yes. Well, they’re all thinking about what other upstart companies that were seemingly point solutions did to them in the past.

Yes, and I understand that. We have a great solution for concept modeling. Everyone hearkens back to when PTC played the concept-modeling card on Computervision and those guys. They did find a different market.

We actually think we have the right tool for this. I haven’t talked to anyone who doesn’t have the vision that in 5 to 10 years, every engineer wouldn’t be doing some basic work in 3D.

What happens if we change vendors? What happens if we change materials? What are we going to do for the next program? Hey — let’s make a little mockup that we can send to our customers to make sure that this is going to work for them. They can try it out in their assembly.

It makes sense. It wouldn’t make sense to be investing in a heavy-duty CAD model for this kind of work. Of course, this is the way people should work. We are the closest that anyone’s come to realizing that vision. That’s why we see these great expansions.

But when you look at our presence in these big, stalwart accounts, you will see us there on the simulation user’s desk. Not the CAD guys, as much. Although some CAD guys do like us for getting the concepts right before they put all the design in to make a real model.

Yes. Well, I’ve been beating on the CAD vendors for years to do this kind of concept modeling. And they don’t either seem to be able to do it or aren’t interested in it.

I’ve seen the mentality in CAD vendors. Take any serious CAD product — any one of the big-4 flagship products. Go to one of their application engineers or someone on their product-management team and says, “Hey! We saw a demo of SpaceClaim. Can you do this change in your software?” It’ll be like, “Yes. Give me a second.” They come back later and it’s like, “See? I can make the change!”

It took a couple minutes of thinking, and someone had to make a new model that was able to exclusively make that change. Because that’s the way feature based modelers work.

And it’s true. You can do absolutely anything in the big CAD systems. But no one dares measure how smart or knowledgeable in that CAD system you had to be to do it. Or, how expert in that CAD system you’d have to be to be able to do it. But once that box is checked off, I think the executives of the CAD company sort of say, “Hey. But we can do that! So we don’t need to do what SpaceClaim can do.”

Then we show them how, with SpaceClaim, with minimal training and with minimal effort, we enable users to answer questions in 3D, when they otherwise wouldn’t have had the experience and training required to do in a CAD system. Then we make a sale.

I think it’s that type of rationalization that leaves this market wide open to us.

Just to editorialize here a bit. As an example, take a look at what PTC appears to be doing with Creo. While I haven’t seen exactly what they’re going to deliver, it seems to me that they’ve changed the names, but as far as I can tell, they are putting forth the idea that you could have feature modeling and direct modeling so that CAD models can go back to Pro/E and survive the round trip, with all the features and parameters intact. If that’s really the vision they’re selling, then they don’t understand what direct modeling’s all about. When you chop up a model into 50 different pieces and rearrange the pieces and then merge them all back together in some unique way, there’s no sensible analogue in a feature modeler for doing that.

Isn’t that what Inventor Fusion does?

Yes, and if you look at reviews from other analysts that tried to do anything other than the most trivial little tweak with Inventor — they said that it didn’t work. Because you’re changing the design intent so fundamentally, there’s no way of putting that back into the old feature model. You need to build a new one.

And again, it’s a nice story, and I can see how some marketing person that hasn’t used CAD for 10 years could cook that up and say, “Hey. This is going to be better than the SpaceClaim version of the Round-Trip story.” But benchmark it! Try it on a real-world design change, and it falls apart.

I think that’s unfortunate, in summary, because it creates a chilling effect against direct modeling. But luckily, most of the people who buy SpaceClaim are smart enough to take a look at the big picture and say, “Wait a minute. We’re able to do an iteration in under a day, where we used to do five iterations before, and each one took about a week. Oh, my goodness! Isn’t this a huge process improvement even if it involves a little remodeling.” Not that the competition had anything other than remodeling to offer in the first place.

Yes. Interesting. Okay.

But yes, there’s certainly a lot of FUD out there. All I can say is, “This is the year!” There’s been a lot of talk, but PTC’s cards are on the table and they’re about to turn them over at their user event.

Autodesk has said where they’re going. I think they’re probably the sanest of all the CAD vendors in terms of product strategy and what they’re doing with Fusion and the bundling.

The other guys have some sort of strategy, as well. The Siemens guys have said that for them, synchronous technology isn’t about growing the market, but just about providing direct-modeling tools to their CAD users. Which I think is shockingly honest.

Well actually, I was at the Siemens conference a few weeks ago. I said to a number of the people who really knew what the technology was… “Tell me more about how synchronous technology enables direct modeling.” They, to a man, said, “It’s not direct modeling, at all.”

Hmm. One of the things that I really respect about the Siemens guys is, they are really honest and practical. Unlike some of the other companies, they’re not going to succumb to ridiculous marketing hype. And they understand their customers and they’re going to give them good tools.

I think that’s part of the reason why we see NX customers, in particular, so enchanted with SpaceClaim.

I think another thing, to Siemens’ credit, is that they’ve done a wonderful job with JT. They’ve really made it open. JT and Teamcenter work incredibly well together. I see it in a lot of different accounts. Even if NX isn’t the CAD system of choice, of course, SpaceClaim is a beautiful JT editor. We can read and write JT natively with Teamcenter.

So Siemens has created a beautiful ecosystem that’s created, more than any other vendor, a level playing field. And I think that’s why we have so many very happy mutual customers.

Interesting.

Because many users will be importing CAD models, it seems you have a bevy of data translators. Right?

Yes. We offer separate bundles. They work really well. They’re a technology that we developed with our partners. They range from about $550 for a package of some of the more basic ones like SolidWorks and Pro/E and range up to $1200, with the top price for a CATIA translator that can read from and write to CATIA. SpaceClaim includes a lot of translators, such as STEP, IGES, ANSYS, Rhino, PDF, and ECAD. You can then add on others, such as Data-Exchange Package 1, which includes Pro/E, Inventor, CATIA V4, and VDA, for only $555. Data-Exchange Package 2 include Parasolid, SolidWorks, and NX, priced the same.

These are very reasonable prices.

It looks like SpaceClaim is re-defining portions of the engineering market. It’s definitely a different approach. Congratulations. It sounds like things are going well for SpaceClaim.

Yes. We’re happy! We’re having fun, and it’s probably the most interesting year the industry has seen in some time. So we’ll see how it shakes out.

Blake, thank you so much for being so cooperative and responsive. I really appreciate it.

It’s always a pleasure. Anytime.

Blake Courter is a co-founder of SpaceClaim Corporation (www.spaceclaim.com), where he helps product development organizations make 3D more accessible to all engineers. Blake started his career at PTC, where he held a range of product management and business development positions. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Princeton University in 1996.

Notes from Siemens PLM Connection 2011

A few weeks ago I attended the Siemens PLM Connection 2011 conference in Las Vegas. Since returning I have been busy with all kinds of matters, but I wanted to get some of my thoughts on the conference to you, my readers. Siemens promised me copies of the slide presentations, which I have recently received. As any of you who have attended similar conferences, the slides go by so fast that there is little time to write the key points down.

Arriving at the hotel on Sunday, May 1st, the event started with a small cocktail party of the media with some Siemens executives. I had a chance to meet with a briefly speak with some executives before going to my room exhausted from traveling and standing on my feet for three hours. Among the execs I had a chance to speak with were Eric Sterling, Dave Shook, Kris Kasprzak, Tony Affuso, and Dan Staples. The mood was decidedly upbeat and all were excited about their performance the previous year and so far in 2011. I was unable to get specific details, as is Siemens’ custom.

At the kickoff keynote the next morning Dave Shook, Sr. VP Americas, opened the session and introduced keynote speakers from Microsoft and IBM. These were the usual pitches from cooperating vendors. Instead both companies discussed interesting technology challenges; Microsoft discussing how unstructured data can be managed, and IBM discussing the challenge of hyper digitization and the need to close an innovation gap with the velocity of change accelerating.

Tony Affuso, Chairman of Siemens PLM followed with highlights of the company’s year. Basically Siemens PLM is on track after five quarters of growth, now with 68,500 customers, 7.2 million seats, and double-digit license revenue growth. This compares to Dassault Systemes (DS) real growth last year of 7%, less the temporary revenue bump from the IBM PLM acquisition. The company has a good backlog and is executing across the board and winning substantial accounts. Following Tony was Claus Oesterschulze, describing Siemens extensive effort to internalize the use of their own software (NX, Teamcenter, and associated apps). No easy task, as in most customers, organizational changes are required along with process changes. Convinced that “IT is a big lever for business” Siemens is aggressively moving ahead and focusing on how to manage complexity. Below are a few slide from the Oesterschulze presentation.

 

Later in the morning Chuck Grindstaff, President and CTO of Siemens PLM Software presented his “technology vision.” He viewed where they are today in fully integrating Teamcenter across an enterprise to fulfill its PLM needs: view models fully and anywhere, check a model against its requirements and be able to trace these on the products; review and initiate simulations against specs directly in the CAD environment and to ask highly complex questions; ability to optimize the design for performance including cost and sustainability; using Tecnomatix to insure that manufacturing has correct models, processes and allowable variations thus enabling what-if manufacturing studies. Thus his focus on a fully integrated system, much of which is already in place today, with more coming shortly, as evidenced by the NX, Teamcenter, and Tecnomatix presentation we saw later in the week. Grindstaff feels they are far ahead of their competitors and that customers can now see that. A strong point in his direction is the ability to implement continuous changes in the product rather that the discontinuous changes that the competition [Dassault Systemes] makes. An interesting point about his thinking was his comment that “If we [Siemens PLM] can formulate the value proposition correctly then customers will listen.” His key investment areas are in intelligently integrated information, continuing their future proof architecture using SOA and XML that isolates and allows ready integration of new software, expanding their TC HD experience, systems engineering expansion, integration of domains such as MCAD, ECAD, software, plants, etc. and continued openness.

Joan Hirsch, VP of NX Products, and Paul brown, et al reviewed their thinking about the future of NX. Some of their goals include: building an effortless UI, improving complex product visibility by allowing viewing of multiple data sources and using HD3D visual reporting, integrating multiple design disciplines together, allowing front loading of best practices and knowledge, and requirements management and validation. The chart below summaries much of what they discussed.

What I found most impressive was their emphasis on non-disruptive improvements and Siemens focus on using making HD3D easy to use to “bring to life” the enormous reserves of data stored within TC. This is their 4th release of synchronous technology (ST) within NX and strides continue to be made in its use, some of which I hope to explore in more detail in an upcoming report.

Later Steve Bashada, VP of Teamcenter Products and Bill Boswell, Director, gave a Teamcenter update. New versions are due next February, with a “more visionary” version due next September 2012. Bashada viewed their key investment areas as the following: systems engineering, corporate social networks, cacheless search, massive model viewing, HD-PLM extensions, and thin client access. A Teamcenter mobility app for the iPad was announced. I downloaded it, but have yet to try it out, because I need to sign into their TC central demo app and database. I may report on this later. Think it’s complicated? Take a look at their portfolio list below.

Getting tired from furiously scribbling notes, I then attended a Velocity business update starring Karsten Newbury, SVP and GM of the unit. Newbury discussed their business momentum, noting that in 2010, their growth in licenses was 30%, with Solid Edge (SE) accounting for 50% of that. He is investing in an expanded presence by adding resources [people], channel enablement [his words], and a focus on community for a bigger academic presence and mode direct feedback events. ST3 was well received due to its ability to support both ordered and synchronous approaches.

Mario Joyal, of Matritech, a small company in Quebec, described his results using SE with ST3. A recent design took 50% less time and other users found it easy to use. Kris Kasprzak, product manager for SE, described ST4 which is due to release on June 15. We are allowed to discuss some info about the upcoming release of ST4. New tools and functions coming include those for: advanced machine design, expanded collaboration, simulation for sheet metal, and improvements to their already impressive drafting.

After a delightful dinner and cocktails for the press and analysts Monday evening on the top floor of the Rio hotel, we finally ended the day.

On Tuesday we heard a digital manufacturing (DM) strategy update from Ziyon Amran, VP of digital manufacturing software, followed by an amazing presentation by Gene Coffman of how Ford performs virtual manufacturing. Siemens still leads the industry in revenue by a wide margin, as shown in this chart.

Key manufacturing technology domains include assembly planning and validation, robotics and automation planning, part manufacturing, and plant design and optimization. Amran discussed many of the new capabilities in each of these areas. Amran summarized what Tecnomatix offers their customers

  1. Breadth and depth of offering addressing all DM functional Areas
  2. Focused industry and domain Solutions
  3. Integrated Knowledge Management through single source of Product & Manufacturing data as part of the Teamcenter PLM platform
  4. Advanced technologies for Machining, Robotics and Human Simulation and for Enterprise Process Authoring

Coffman’s presentation focused on how Ford makes virtual manufacturing work at Ford (it isn’t easy) and how it contributes to Ford’s profitability and design to manufacturing cycle reduction. Here is one example of the continuing benefits shown by Coffman.

And finally, to wrap things up I met with Al Hufstetler, VP Quality Planning and Validation, who took me to task on a comment I made in my blog about the DS acquisition of Intercim. I stated that “In shop floor analytics DS now has the edge.” Hufstetler pointed out that Intercim’s solution uses analytics to isolate issues, whereas, Siemens solution uses a better solution, a feedback system that not only can detect quality issues, but can actively correct them. For more details on this, contact Siemens PLM Software.

www.siemens.com/PLM

Disclosure: Siemens paid for my hotel and conference admission. TechniCom paid my other travel expenses.