The future is cloud-y for engineering data management

Feb 2015

Lately I have been deluged with the announcement of or introduction to a series of cloud based data management systems for design engineering that are also focusing on collaboration. I plan this blog to be the first in a series that explores new PDM/PLM (PxM) solutions for product design.

Before I begin, we need to clarify the differences between PDM and PLM. PDM manages design changes during product development while PLM manages engineering and other changes made after the production release of the product for manufacturing and other downstream processes. Using this definition, PDM can be used to store all sorts of information during the design or work-in-process stage. Such information might include, but not be limited to: product specs, preliminary designs, analyses and simulation, product versions, QC specs, engineering BOMs, material types, etc. PLM manages engineering and other changes made after the release of the product from engineering. PLM systems might include PDM data managed during design as well as other data, such as, manufacturing BOMs, manufacturing instructions, NC data, service tracking, cost data, customer level documentation, etc. I think you get the picture.

PTC’s recent announcement of PTC PLM Cloud, a webinar I attended about GrabCAD Workbench and Onshape’s inherent use of a cloud-based solution — all piqued my interest. I began wondering about the differences between them and how one might choose a solution for a mid sized firm. One obvious differentiator is how cloud based PxM software connects to CAD software, be it desktop CAD or cloud based CAD. By the way, if you have not seen Onshape’s Dave Corcoran’s blog about the “The blue screen of death,” then I urge you to read it now. http://www.onshape.com/cad-blog. Corcoran discusses some of the benefits of a cloud based PxM – CAD implementation.

A true cloud based system allows full use of easily extensible computational capability and virtually unlimited storage

A PxM system cloud based system may not be much different from the tired old server based software that has been promoted for years. Adding a web based interface and hierarchical data storage in the cloud, masks an antiquated architecture. The old approach of bolting external data management software into CAD simply does not work well enough. It’s too laborious, takes extra time, and makes little use of design info developed automatically during the design cycle. It’s lack of adoption to date verifies this assumption.

A true cloud based system should be radically different in architecture allowing full use of cloud system flexibility. For instance, one reason I always disliked the previous generation of PDM/PLM was their outdated reliance on text-based interfaces. I would expect modern PxM systems to be graphically oriented offering comprehensible and visual navigation within the product structure. It should offer a tight connection to related CAD systems and automate much of the data management function. Automatic backup and easy restore of historical data are mandatory functions, as are easily distributed design among partners along with IP (intellectual property) protection.

The vendors are all moving quickly to position (or re-position) their PxM systems as cloud based

The plethora of cloud based data management systems for engineering and CAD include the following (plus some I haven’t yet discovered): Autodesk PLM 360, Onshape, GrabCAD Workbench, PTC PLM Cloud, and Kenesto as well as Dropbox and related cloud drive systems. More traditional software is offered by ARAS, Dassault Systemes and Siemens PLM software. What follows is a summary of how some of these vendors are positioning their software.

  • Onshape promotes distributed design. Using cloud based CAD along with a fully integrated cloud PDM system allows a brand new perspective on how modern CAD systems should work. Essentially all costs for compute power and data storage are greatly minimized, easily increased, even ”borrowed” for a short duration.
  • GrabCAD’s Workbench calls itself “The fast, easy way to manage and share CAD files without PDM’s cost and hassle.” The company goes on to state “Workbench allows teams on any CAD system to work smoothly together by syncing local CAD files to cloud projects, tracking versions and locking files to prevent conflicts.” The enterprise version costs $89 per month.
  • PTC recently announced PTC PLM Cloud, stating “this solution leverages the power of PTC Windchill, while simplifying PLM adoption with a flexible, hosted subscription offering, deployable at a pace that matches the needs of SMBs.” I am not exactly sure what this means, but expect to clarify this when I speak with PTC this week.
  • Very soon, Kenesto plans to announce a cloud based system that, Steve Bodnar – VP of Strategy, calls a terrific solution for small shops, enabling them to replace their server based, in-house error prone, file based systems with a much higher function cloud based system that requires minimal change to the way CAD users work, yet improves the reliability of their data management.

Alas, how can an engineering organization differentiate which PxM technology to buy and invest their time and money in? More detail about various implementations and my assessment of them will be forthcoming in future blogs.

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Ray Kurland — I have returned to consulting and analyzing systems for TechniCom, from an early and erstwhile retirement.

References:

What’s up with Belmont Technology?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to hearing more.

What are your thoughts?

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.

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The Cloud Lives!

18 Nov 2011: Ralph Grabowski proposed his opinion that the cloud is dead. He couldn’t be more wrong. Consider users at the Siemens NX CAE Symposium that ended last week. Virtually all of the eight users at a panel noted that cloud computing would definitely be part of their plans. Assuming that some minor issues such as security, cost, and application software licensing could be solved, all seem to have or want it in their future plans.

Several customers represented companies that already have with HPC clusters. While this ideal “local cloud” met their expectations, the cost of such a cluster is very high and not a solution for smaller companies.

I agree that the use of cloud computing for interactive applications is a bad idea. However, the vast computing power, parallel processing, and expected low costs make it a very appealing idea for tasks that require modest bandwidth and have high computational needs. Autodesk’s CEO, Carl Bass, clearly has the right idea. Autodesk, over the past two years has introduced several applications that span the range of interactive hardware and relying on the cloud to ramp up compute speeds. At AU last year I had the chance to listen to Bass and speak with him about his ideas for best utilizing the cloud. As I wrote in that article, Autodesk’s concept is to “Don’t replicate desktop solutions on the cloud. Instead make maximum use of desktop and mobile systems, utilizing the cloud where it makes sense.” Still makes sense today. Here is a link to that article http://wp.me/pvn8U-3e.

Oddly enough, with the possible exception of DS, Autodesk’s competitors don’t seem to get the concept. For example, while I interpreted from Siemens customers that they were excited about potential use of the cloud, Siemens PLM Software, except for licensing issues, seems to have no plans to enable them. The same goes for PTC.

Let me know what you think.
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Creo Freestyle exposes its shape

5 July 2011: Last week I had the chance to spend some web time with Paul Sagar, Director of Product Management at PTC. Paul is in charge of PTC’s surfacing and industrial design (ID) products. Paul’s background is in industrial design (ID) and design engineering in the UK and has spent about 11 years at PTC.

At PlanetPTC, Creo Freestyle was one of the many product announcements that struck me as fascinating. Just the idea of having incredible ID software as a freebie within Creo Parametric was one I wanted to explore further. After searching the PTC site for more detail with limited success, PTC’s VP and PR leader, Eric Snow, organized a web conference that “knocked my socks off!” You will see what I mean soon.

Immediate after my return from PlanetPTC I asked for a clarification as to precisely what Freestyle was and how it worked. Paul kindly responded with this piece of information –

  • “Freestyle is a new feature inside Creo Parametric that allows for rapid freeform surface creation. It is built upon the concept of subdivisional modeling.
  • The result of the Freestyle feature is a quilt of surfaces. The resulting surfaces or quilt can be added to, just like any other surfaces, with tools such as trim, merge, round, etc, or even thicken or solidify to make the model solid.
  • When working with Freestyle you always have to start with a primitive shape. A gallery of primitives is available for you to choose from such as sphere, cylinder, circle, disc, etc.
  • You are always working and manipulating the control mesh that surrounds the primitive. The control mesh can be subdivided up to add more detail or control. Adding more details allows for more control over the shape.
  • The 3D dragger allows for quick and easy manipulation of the control mesh and consequently the resulting geometry shape. The resulting geometry is high quality, curvature continuous, manufacturable surfaces.”

Here is what I wanted to find out about on the call:

  • What it does and what it cannot do,
  • Where it fits competitively,
  • How does it compare to a full ID system,
  • How the designs get started and how they are stored within Creo, and
  • What is sub divisional modeling?

Paul explained that Freestyle is a new freeform surface modeling capability added into Creo Parametric. Called a super feature within the model tree, Freestyle appears as a single feature with the tree. It’s almost like a modeling environment within a feature. It’s a simple and easy tool use, and is designed to be intuitive, interactive and quick. Targeted to industrial designers who want a tool to conceptualize but are not interested in the methodology of building surfaces, which has traditionally been done by building curves and surfaces from those curves. Modifications are made to the surfaces by going back and manipulating the curves. Instead Freestyle is designed to just deal directly with the shape. Thus users can concentrate on the form rather than what’s behind the form.

See the video of the bottle design that Paul downloaded.

The resulting surfaces generated by Freestyle are of high quality. You can take them directly to manufacturing. They can be thickened and brought directly into Creo Parametric as solids. They can be acted on as a normal solid with all solid modeling features, for instance, by adding ribs and bosses and holes. It can be brought directly into machining.

Surface manipulation. Can you control how the resultant surfaces by, for instance, controlling tangencies or other typical surface controls? His comment: “No. That is not how sub-divisional modeling works. It does not use normal surface patching techniques.”

A design starts with a primitive. Each primitive comes with a control mesh.

Creo Freestyle Primitives

Each mesh has edges, vertices, and faces. You can push or pull on them, or you can subdivide it. For instance, you can chose and edge and “split this edge,” and Freestyle will add more controls on that edge. The more controls, the more flexibility to manipulate the surface.

Each face of the control mesh corresponds to an actual patch in the resulting geom. that is created. Each patch is curvature continuous, resulting in a smooth model. Surfaces are G2 continuous, with some exceptions.

In the movie file of the bottle design, you should be able to see the design being developed. Unfortunately there is no audio file describing the workflow, but I am sure our readers can follow the concepts of Freestyle from watching the movie. Note that the design starts by building a solid model from a scanned sketch.

A sketch of the bottle

Trace Sketch allows importing the image and manipulates it, such as for fit or scaling, the objective being to use the image as an underlay for the design. A sphere is used to start designing the solid model using Freestyle. Special features during the process such as “connect” joins two faces together for completing the handle. Other operations such as a crease can generate either a hard or soft edge. Also note that Creo does not capture the history of the Freestyle design; only as a single Freestyle feature.

The 3D model of the bottle

Other sub-divisional modelers like Maya and 3D Studio Max, use sub-divisional modeling, but none of these modelers create NURBS surfaces — Creo Freestyle does. It creates regular Creo Parametric surfaces. Similar capabilities to Freestyle exist in Rhino’s T-Spline models and CATIA’s Imagine and Shape.

Conclusions:

  • You can build geometry very quickly with Freestyle.
  • It’s full integration with Creo Parametric integrates Freestyle design into the traditional design workflow.
  • It has only a few commands and should be relatively quick to learn.
  • The resulting geometry is of high quality and thus not throwaway work.
  • The resulting surface geometry can be operated on directly using Creo Parametric surface commands or converted directly to a solid and manipulated with traditional Creo Parametric commands.
  • With Freestyle free and relatively easy to learn, we recommend that users who do any industrial design begin using Freestyle right away.

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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PTC Creo, my thoughts and observations

29 Oct 2010: Yesterday, in downtown Boston and worldwide via the Internet, PTC announced Project Lightning, now renamed Creo. CEO and President Jim Heppelmann, noted that Creo is the Latin root of the word for creativity. The announcement lived up to its name. I was present at the live event in Boston. This gave me an opportunity to follow up with some questions in person.

By now you have probably seen or read about the announcement. If not, you can see more at http://creo.ptc.com. I want to give you my thoughts and observations on the product and how it might change the CAD game.

First I was surprised. I had expected a much more mundane announcement. What PTC did was fundamentally change the direction of their approach to CAD.

To put it simply, PTC is marrying its Pro/E, CoCreate, and ProductView technologies, mixed in with a connection to Windchill for managing complex BOM assembly configurations. It turns out the ProductView is a key element to the AnyData strategy. Similar to JT, ProductView enables storing summary and detailed model data from 130 or so data formats. This will form the basis of the common data model mentioned in passing by Jim Heppelmann at an afternoon press conference.

4 new technologies were described that net out Creo’s ambitions:

  • AnyRole Apps
  • AnyMode Modeling
  • AnyData Adoption
  • AnyBOM Assembly

AnyRole Apps approaches the problem of CAD being too difficult to use and train, except for power users. For most other users the power of a CAD system with its myriad of menus and options is too daunting even for less complex usage. AnyRole Apps approaches the problem by implementing a wide variety of applications, each with a simple UI, designed only for specific user roles. AnyRole Apps are expected to come from PTC as well as its partner ecosystem. This concept generated a variety of questions. What might the apps cost? Will they be customizable by customers? If similar in concept to iPhone apps, what developer systems will PTC offer? Will there be an app store?

Three partners at the announcement were able to answer some of the integration questions. Luxion, Simpoe and Vistagy, all third party partners, were able to completely integrate their applications within Creo and demonstrate it today, after only a three-week lead-time. I had a chance to view the Simpoe plastic mold flow application. It operated totally within the Creo UI and directly read and wrote to a common data model. Options windows opened to allow input to the application. Vistagy claimed s similar, easy to integrate experience.

AnyMode Modeling ties together parametric (history based), direct 3D modeling and 2D. The concept is to allow designing in either mode, or a mixed mode. Designs can “float back and forth with no loss of design intent or flexibility.” The difficulty is usually in working with direct models in parametric mode. The technology for AnyMode Modeling was not discussed and I was left with the impression that most PTCers I spoke with either did not know any details about how worked or were purposely vague about it. I questioned a few about how similar it might be to Autodesk Fusion which converts direct model changes to parametric models and the answer I typically got was: Creo’s direct-parametric modeling was more robust.

AnyData Adoption recognizes the proliferation and need for data from multiple CAD systems. PTC describes that as allowing all types of data to flow in. More than just understanding non-native CAD data, Creo “adopts” the data and treats it as a legitimate family member. The data is treated as much more than an unintelligent blob as most systems do. Using the beauty of direct modeling Creo can change the non-native data by recognizing and allowing alterations to its inherent geometry constructs. Modifications can be exported to the originating system. Originating system changes can be brought back into Creo, although it is not clear how this would work since Creo may have already modified the geometry.

AnyBOM Assembly optionally incorporates Windchill to allow serial number configurations. This should make the hardware vendors happy because this usually generates massive amounts of storage needs.

PTC is also rebranding the existing 3 technological apps as follows:

  • Pro/ENGINEER becomes Creo Elements/Pro
  • CoCreate becomes Creo Elements/Direct
  • ProductView becomes Creo Elements/View

Availability

PTC expects to ship Version 1.0 in the Summer of 2011 and Version 2.0 in the Fall, preceded by a Beta version in the Spring of 2011.

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