Direct Editing and the Future

Solid modelers like IronCAD, CoCreate, KeyCreator, etc. have been doing direct editing for quite a while. But somehow the entrance of SpaceClaim was the event that got every one’s attention, mine as well. Paul Grayson, Founder and CEO of Alibre, left a comment asking me, “You have been over the top on Direct Editing since SpaceClaim hit the market. I recall your prediction that SpaceClaim would get snapped up by someone for Billions! What happened to that?

I guess SpaceClaim did not (and probably will never) get bought because other CAD vendors decided to “make” instead of “buy”. Maybe the “billions” were the problem. We know that today they certainly are. I may have been wrong about other CAD vendors buying SpaceClaim or their technology. But I was not wrong about the reason for doing so – to add a direct editing solution to their products. Siemens, Dassault and now Autodesk are ample proof of that. I have said on this blog earlier that as far as direct editing is concerned PTC is not sitting idle, which is pretty much all that they will let me say for now.
I believe that direct editing is going to be an integral part of our future. Not just because I believe that it is a good thing. We have discussed its benefits and drawbacks over and over again. But there is another reason that many of you may not have realized. The purpose of this post is to highlight that reason.
If you were an exisiting Solid Edge 20 user (the version just before Synchronous Technology) and you installed Solid Edge ST, you would be given an option of using old history style modeling or direct editing. But if you installed Solid Edge ST on a computer without a previous version of Solid Edge, you would be able to do only direct editing. At least I could not easily find a way of doing history based modeling on a new license. This means that Siemens has already decided for new users how their future will look like. I guess Siemens may have wanted existing users to adopt direct editing as well, but they must have realized that switching to direct editing is not something that can be done in a day.
My point here is to draw attention to the myth that customers decide what the future holds for them. Sure they give feedback, report bugs and submit enhancement requests, some of which are considered and implemented in future versions. But ground breaking changes are almost never decided by customers. The Microsoft “ribbon” is a perfect example. Microsoft simply decided that the menu should be the past and the ribbon should be the future and shoved it down the throats of its customers.
I can go on giving you many such examples, but I think you get my point. Direct editing is an excellent thing. But that is not the only reason why I believe it is going to be the future.
In another comment Matt Lombard said, “CAD manufacturers have shown that they are willing to make the leap, but the other half of the market (customers) are not showing that propensity in significant numbers yet.” I believe that customers don’t need to make a leap. They will simply be airlifted and dropped on the other side.
So when I say things like SolidWorks and Alibre are “stuck in the past”, I do not mean to look down on the companies and their visions of the future. My opinions are based on my vision of what the future will look like, which seems to converge with the visions of the majority of CAD vendors.
Paul Grayson ended his comment by saying, “Why should Alibre, or SolidWorks for that matter, waste development resources on features that their customers are not asking for? Hopefully, we are not expected to write code solely based on what our competitors do and the opinions of industry pundits.
Maybe Paul has a point. It would be nice if Alibre and SolidWorks resisted the movement towards direct editing. At some point in the future, we would then be able to let customers determine which direction was the better one. Or maybe not. Because like I said above, the CAD vendors are taking decisions for the customers, and we already know which side of the fence most of them are on.
  • Anonymous

    Having come on board SE right after SEwST came out I can tell you that both traditional and Synchronous are available and under options it can be set up to reflect both choices and both indeed do work. I have never installed V20 so that clearly has no bearing here. It is true that Siemens is heading towards Synchronous as their primary modeling venue and may do away with history based modeling at some time but that has not happened yet.

  • Anonymous

    Having come on board SE right after SEwST came out I can tell you that both traditional and Synchronous are available and under options it can be set up to reflect both choices and both indeed do work. I have never installed V20 so that clearly has no bearing here. It is true that Siemens is heading towards Synchronous as their primary modeling venue and may do away with history based modeling at some time but that has not happened yet.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Anonymous, thats good to hear. I stand corrected.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Anonymous, thats good to hear. I stand corrected.

  • Anonymous

    How much does it cost to develop a system like SpaceClaim has right now? Billions?

  • Anonymous

    How much does it cost to develop a system like SpaceClaim has right now? Billions?

  • Anonymous

    I also installed SEwST (without v20) and got both traditional and ST. Siemens realized that they are not ready for prime time.You’re right about developers cramming crap down the throats of customers. You’re a developer, I’m a customer, and I guess we each like to think we are the group who should prevail in the end. There are another set of examples you can give, though, like SolidWorks 2009 and Windows 7 where bullies who crammed bad ideas down customers throats backed down because the customers revolted. It is well known that SolidWorks creates a lot of stuff that customers don’t ask for. Sometimes you can get them to brag about that point specifically, and sometimes they still insist they are a customer driven company. SW is fond of citing Henry Ford in saying that if you give the public what they ask for, I’d have given them a faster horse or words to that effect. I believe that direct editing has a long way to go before it shows me that it can replace history modeling. History modeling is full of flaws of execution, but the concept doesn’t leave me out in the cold. Direct edit has some conceptual flaws, which I think leave out areas of design.I think direct editing market share will increase, but I don’t think it will eclipse history modeling, at least for the next 5 years. Some combination of history and direct would be nice, but we already have that.Matt Lombard

  • Anonymous

    I also installed SEwST (without v20) and got both traditional and ST. Siemens realized that they are not ready for prime time.

    You’re right about developers cramming crap down the throats of customers. You’re a developer, I’m a customer, and I guess we each like to think we are the group who should prevail in the end.

    There are another set of examples you can give, though, like SolidWorks 2009 and Windows 7 where bullies who crammed bad ideas down customers throats backed down because the customers revolted.

    It is well known that SolidWorks creates a lot of stuff that customers don’t ask for. Sometimes you can get them to brag about that point specifically, and sometimes they still insist they are a customer driven company. SW is fond of citing Henry Ford in saying that if you give the public what they ask for, I’d have given them a faster horse or words to that effect.

    I believe that direct editing has a long way to go before it shows me that it can replace history modeling. History modeling is full of flaws of execution, but the concept doesn’t leave me out in the cold. Direct edit has some conceptual flaws, which I think leave out areas of design.

    I think direct editing market share will increase, but I don’t think it will eclipse history modeling, at least for the next 5 years. Some combination of history and direct would be nice, but we already have that.

    Matt Lombard

  • Deelip Menezes

    Matt, I am reading about some stuff which LEDAS (www.ledas.com) is doing in this field. The kind of combination of history and direct that you are talking about. They don’t have anything to show yet, apart from a bunch of bold ideas in a whitepaper. But I intend to keep an eye on them.

  • Deelip Menezes

    Matt, I am reading about some stuff which LEDAS (www.ledas.com) is doing in this field. The kind of combination of history and direct that you are talking about. They don’t have anything to show yet, apart from a bunch of bold ideas in a whitepaper. But I intend to keep an eye on them.

  • Kevin Quigley

    I have a genuine problem with direct editing, no matter how smart it seems to be. I think the key word there is “editing”. A lot of the promotional material churned out by CAD companies in recent years relates to editing. Siemens with ST and “100x the speed” claims. SolidWorks with Instant 3D, Dassault with CATIA v6 direct modelling, Autodesk, PTC with CoCreate etc etc. All about editing, little about creation. Think 3 built an entire marketing strategy on editng with global shape modelling.And there is the problem. What many (most?) users want or need are excellent geometry creation tools. Editng is great but if you cannot create the geometry to start with you cannot edit anything.I see nothing in ST that enables great geometry creation. How much innovation has there been in geometry creation in the last 10 years?Possibly the work at Impact Xoft (now part of CATIA). Definately Imagine and Shape (also part of CATIA). T Splines. Freedimension? Then there are the haptic feedback products from SensAble.Comibine these with the best of history and ST type products and you do have innovation. And you do have what users want.

  • Kevin Quigley

    I have a genuine problem with direct editing, no matter how smart it seems to be. I think the key word there is “editing”. A lot of the promotional material churned out by CAD companies in recent years relates to editing. Siemens with ST and “100x the speed” claims. SolidWorks with Instant 3D, Dassault with CATIA v6 direct modelling, Autodesk, PTC with CoCreate etc etc. All about editing, little about creation. Think 3 built an entire marketing strategy on editng with global shape modelling.

    And there is the problem. What many (most?) users want or need are excellent geometry creation tools. Editng is great but if you cannot create the geometry to start with you cannot edit anything.

    I see nothing in ST that enables great geometry creation. How much innovation has there been in geometry creation in the last 10 years?

    Possibly the work at Impact Xoft (now part of CATIA). Definately Imagine and Shape (also part of CATIA). T Splines. Freedimension? Then there are the haptic feedback products from SensAble.

    Comibine these with the best of history and ST type products and you do have innovation. And you do have what users want.

  • Rick Stavanja

    If we lived in a world where vendors waited for users to dictate the direction of the market based on what their customers *wanted*, we’d have a world where users still ran AutoCAD R12 in DOS while smoking in their cubicle, before driving home in their new V8 Hummer to eat three meals a day of ‘healthy’ red meat.

  • Rick Stavanja

    If we lived in a world where vendors waited for users to dictate the direction of the market based on what their customers *wanted*, we’d have a world where users still ran AutoCAD R12 in DOS while smoking in their cubicle, before driving home in their new V8 Hummer to eat three meals a day of ‘healthy’ red meat.

  • Paul Hamilton

    Just a little clarification and to Kevins point above, direct editing is available in both history-based and history-free CAD systems. This technology is usually sold as a much more flexible way to “edit” geometry. History-free CAD, like SpaceClaim or CoCreate, is much more than direct-editing. It brings much flexibility to the “geometry creation” or “design” process. Check out “History-Free CAD, Much More than Direct Editing” at http://tinyurl.com/dhb8jq
    Paul

  • Normand C.

    @ DeelipI recently made a fresh install of Solid Edge ST on a machine and it indeed shows only synchronous templates.You have to go to Solid Edge Options –> User Profile, and then in the User Type choose "Traditional and Synchronous".To the legion of "Anonymouses" posting here (or are you the same person?): how hard is it to choose the Name/URL option and type an alias?!?

  • Normand C.

    @ Deelip

    I recently made a fresh install of Solid Edge ST on a machine and it indeed shows only synchronous templates.

    You have to go to Solid Edge Options –> User Profile, and then in the User Type choose "Traditional and Synchronous".

    To the legion of "Anonymouses" posting here (or are you the same person?): how hard is it to choose the Name/URL option and type an alias?!?

  • Kubotek Creation Engineering

    Paul Hamilton is correct. History Free or Explicit Modeling is terrific for initial design because of the freedom you receive when you are not locked down by history. It is also very important downstream in manufacturing when suppliers are given a “dumb” model to manufacture.

  • Kubotek Creation Engineering

    Paul Hamilton is correct. History Free or Explicit Modeling is terrific for initial design because of the freedom you receive when you are not locked down by history. It is also very important downstream in manufacturing when suppliers are given a “dumb” model to manufacture.

  • Kevin Quigley

    Sorry guys, I don’t wish to get into a bun fight here about the merits of history vs direct modelling – both methods are needed. My point is that as a modelling methodology direct editing is not new. If you are talking about direct modelling that is certainly not new – I was doing it on a mainframe using ROMULUS back in 1984. Pretty much all entry level modellers up until well into the 2000s were direct modelling – history free.Let us go back to the late 80s early 90s and look at what PTC brought with parametric editing, then polished off by SolidWorks with the Feature manager. At the time it was sold as a revolution in editing allowing users to model freely THEN change things.My point was that there are no, or very few true innovations in geometry creation. I do not classify what Spaceclaim or Kubotek or IronCad or CoCreate or SolidEdge ST do as an improvement for geometry creation over anything you can do in SolidWorks or any concept modeller product. Rhino gives you plenty of flexibility in creation but the toolset is nothing new (there are some nice tools yes and Grasshopper is excellent). When it comes down to it we are still talking sketch, extrude/revolve/sweep etc.I am looking for more than this. Have the CAD vendors lost sight that the important thing here is geometry creation. If I want to model filleted and shelled boxes all day ANY modern 3D CAD system will suffice – ANY. If on the other hand I need to model complex subtle surfaces with intricate detail very very few will suffice.When it comes to editing I’ll say this (as I’m sure many designers will who actually use this stuff rather than sell it or develop it)…..it is 100x easier to rough out something, get the shape more or less right then rebuild it “properly” from scratch than to try to edit it to perfection. Remember that we are talking design here – it is an interative process.

  • Kevin Quigley

    Sorry guys, I don’t wish to get into a bun fight here about the merits of history vs direct modelling – both methods are needed. My point is that as a modelling methodology direct editing is not new. If you are talking about direct modelling that is certainly not new – I was doing it on a mainframe using ROMULUS back in 1984. Pretty much all entry level modellers up until well into the 2000s were direct modelling – history free.

    Let us go back to the late 80s early 90s and look at what PTC brought with parametric editing, then polished off by SolidWorks with the Feature manager. At the time it was sold as a revolution in editing allowing users to model freely THEN change things.

    My point was that there are no, or very few true innovations in geometry creation. I do not classify what Spaceclaim or Kubotek or IronCad or CoCreate or SolidEdge ST do as an improvement for geometry creation over anything you can do in SolidWorks or any concept modeller product. Rhino gives you plenty of flexibility in creation but the toolset is nothing new (there are some nice tools yes and Grasshopper is excellent). When it comes down to it we are still talking sketch, extrude/revolve/sweep etc.

    I am looking for more than this. Have the CAD vendors lost sight that the important thing here is geometry creation. If I want to model filleted and shelled boxes all day ANY modern 3D CAD system will suffice – ANY. If on the other hand I need to model complex subtle surfaces with intricate detail very very few will suffice.

    When it comes to editing I’ll say this (as I’m sure many designers will who actually use this stuff rather than sell it or develop it)…..it is 100x easier to rough out something, get the shape more or less right then rebuild it “properly” from scratch than to try to edit it to perfection. Remember that we are talking design here – it is an interative process.

  • Kevin

    CAD vendors do enhance their products per customer requests but clearly users didn’t say “I want direct modeling”. What they said was “I hate rebuild errors” and “why can’t I make the changes I want”. Just like car buyers didn’t ask for fuel-cell cars they just wanted gas-alternatives.

  • Kevin

    CAD vendors do enhance their products per customer requests but clearly users didn’t say “I want direct modeling”. What they said was “I hate rebuild errors” and “why can’t I make the changes I want”. Just like car buyers didn’t ask for fuel-cell cars they just wanted gas-alternatives.

  • Paul Hamilton

    Just a little clarification and to Kevins point above, direct editing is available in both history-based and history-free CAD systems. This technology is usually sold as a much more flexible way to “edit” geometry. History-free CAD, like SpaceClaim or CoCreate, is much more than direct-editing. It brings much flexibility to the “geometry creation” or “design” process. Check out “History-Free CAD, Much More than Direct Editing” at http://tinyurl.com/dhb8jq
    Paul

  • At least I could not easily find a way of doing history based modeling on a new license.

  • I guess Siemens may have wanted existing users to adopt direct editing as well, but they must have realized that switching to direct editing is not something that can be done in a day.