Direct Modeling Is Changing Everything

I just spent two hours on a web meeting with Dan Staples, Director of Solid Edge, wherein he took me through all the new stuff in Solid Edge ST3. The most interesting stuff is under embargo till 13th October, the day when Solid Edge ST3 will be launched. If you want to know what’s new in ST3 that Siemens PLM is willing to disclose you can read the five part series I wrote back in July titled “What’s New In Solid Edge ST3“.

As Dan was explaining the improvements to Synchronous Technology something struck me and I interrupted him to ask get his opinion. Not surprisingly, he agreed with me. Here’s the thing. Not too long ago, before SpaceClaim arrived on the scene and brought attention to Direct Modeling, all history based parametric modeling systems used to work pretty much the same way. I mean you started by selecting a plane, creating a sketch on it, extruding it, then maybe creating another sketch on one of it faces, and so forth till you ended with a long history tree on the left and a parametric model on the right. Of course, each history based parametric modeler was different in some way or the other. But if you knew one, you could basically figure out your way in any other. For example, I started learning the history based parametric modeling approach to solid modeling in SolidWorks. When I fired up KOMPAS-3D from ASCON for the first time, all I needed to do was find the equivalent commands in the UI and I could start modeling immediately.

But not any more. Each history based parametric modeling MCAD vendor has taken a different approach to Direct Modeling which had ended up in changing the way their software works. Autodesk is going the way of Fusion where the software is made so smart that it automatically modifies the history tree for the user. If you think you knew what Siemens PLM has done with Synchronous Technology, you will think again on 13th October. I am not allowed to say anything about Project Lightning  but it is my belief that on 28th October the world is going to treated to a feast of geometric goodness. I have some idea about what Dassault Systemes is doing with V6, but not enough to be able to comment on it. My point is these history based parametric modelers that once worked pretty much the same way are now looking and feeling increasingly different. They are coming up with their own concepts and methodologies which range from slight variations from the ones in history based parametric modeling to completely new stuff.

I am more of a geometry guy. Abstract things like PLM don’t interest me much. So I am finding all this very interesting. I believe we are in the midst of an intellectual revolution and I have absolutely no idea what lies on the other side. Maybe one of these MCAD vendors will find the golden key and the others will then follow suit. Maybe they will continue to diverge as they have started doing. I don’t know. And that is what makes this all the more interesting to me.

Dan agreed with me saying, “You know, some time back, we had all these pundits say that CAD had become a commodity. And yet here we are reinventing new and better ways of doing the same things that we have been for all these years.

This reminds me of the question I asked people in the audience at COFES-Russia/isicad-2010 whether geometry was a solved problem. Just look around you. What do you thing the CAD vendors are busy doing? I am convinced more than ever before. Geometry is far from being a solved problem. And I love it that way. 😉

  • ksudavid

    So for all the things you can’t say how well can you answer this question. Is there a major difference between what SE is doing with Synch and ProE with Lightning or is all in the way the are implementing it?

    • Sorry, I can’t answer that. But you can easily see how Synchronous Technology is very different from Fusion. And I will say that the difference is increasing.

  • d3print

    I have one concern about these coming revolutions in Mcad area, do the vendors really understand how we endusers use our cad`s and what is the main purpose?
    The direct editing is good and fast way to edit and create parts, but if you add too much menus, menubar and options the whole idea eat itselfs.
    I`m getting bored of these nice marketing words.

    Keep it simple.

  • Kevin Quigley

    I’m a geometry man too! PLM – isn’t that something men get when they reach a certain age?

  • Neil

    Deelip I am quite interested to see what they have done come the 13th but what are Solid Edge plans re clouds?
    I’m looking around to see what other CAD vendors are offering with the idea I want something without clouds in their future or only sensibly done.
    Can you point me to some info please.

    • AFAIK, Siemens PLM is not disclosing any of its Cloud plans as yet. PTC is not moving to the Cloud. Or at least that is what it is saying today.

      • Karsten Newbury (Siemens)

        we currently have no plans for “pushing” our Solid Edge users to the cloud. In my view cloud technology is just that: technology. The main question really is how we as software providers can drive productivity and ease of use enhancements for our customers. As others have stated on this blog, CAD is certainly not a commodity. Not in our view at least if you can leverage technology (e.g., synchronous) to drive significant gains in speed and user experience. Siemens PLM actually has quite some experience with “cloud” over the years and we will look at this like any other technology to see where (and if) it can add value. E.g., today we see potential in collaboration, but again there seems to be little reason to introduce this for CAD, especially if there are other real significant advancements we can offer. The other interesting dynamic is that desktop power is increasing just as quickly as broadband power. Just look at what our Blackberries or iPhones are now capable of, let alone laptops or desktop machines. We believe that the future will be “hybrid” and that technology needs to earn its right to be used in the right ways.
        … Of course we don’t mind SolidWorks talking about the cloud and scaring their users. 😉 Seriously, maybe this reminds folks that there is a great CAD alternative in the market (Solid Edge), which we (Siemens, UGS, …) honestly just haven’t marketed well in the past (working on that, but that’s a separate story).
        I am the “new kid on the block”, so let me know if I am missing anything here. Just seems to come back to offering clear user benefits and earning the right to be a provider, and there is plenty to offer in CAD without the cloud.

  • Donceod

    Deelip can you say something if in SE ST3 there is still the Sync and traditionel mode? or is there now a fusion between both modes?

    • In fact, that is precisely something that I can nothing about. 😉

      • Donceod

        I understand 😉

    • d3print

      What I have heard is that in ST3 you can use trad and sync tools in same model, you dont need anymore convert trad file to sync. I think this is one of the best improvement in ST3 all other is cad evolution.

      • Jan

        It is like that as we could see on that little Chinese movie of ST3.
        I was hoping for the other way round; having a traditional model with added Sync. Maybe that is coming too. If not I’m still not interested.
        The 13th will tell.

        I’m also very curious with what PTC is coming up with.

        Cloud computing is mainly about renting software instead of buying software. It’s just another business model.
        You demand your access to the software over the internet and you are granted if you have paid. No internet – no software. Some users could find that attractive. I’m not attracted.

  • Dave Ault

    According to comments made by Karsten Newbury SE has no intention of going to the cloud at this time. There may be aspects of PLM stuff going there but not the cad program. SE users who have commented on this on the SE forums are basically completely against cad on the cloud and at this time Siemens is listening to it’s users.
    I think most people are watching the unfolding problems at DSS where people like Jeff Ray are promising that all SW users will end up on their cloud model when the “pain becomes large enough” and want no part of it at this time.
    Let me put it this way, I am a current SE subscriber and if I thought there was any chance I was going to be having this cloud garbage inflicted upon me I would be looking elsewhere for the replacement program. I am not looking.

    • Neil

      Thanks for the info Dave…you know why I am looking around then…I have quite an investment of time in SW but its not a ball and chain…and its certainly not going to become a yoke.

    • Dave,

      You may want to take a look at Jeff’s comments from earlier this week, where he states “Rest assured—moving resources online is not an “either/or” decision. In Anaheim, we committed to supporting three platforms—the desktop, online, and mobile devices. We will continue to offer locally-installed desktop CAD, data management and validation solutions, and will allow our customers to move online only when they are ready.”

      Matt / SolidWorks

    • Ryan

      I wouldn’t worry about may get the capability to use it but I seriously doubt that it would be “inflicted upon” you. I feel there will always be a need to local install and utilizing local pc comes to mind right away. Ryan

      • Dave Ault

        Matthew and Ryan,
        I read the article and it does look like a climb down from Ray’s earlier stance. But he is still saying dumb things about guaranteeing security of files on line and according to NSA and the Military this is impossible. I trust them more than a vendor who would like to get into my wallet. If he is serious about what he is saying he would show us the EULA that would cover all damages to customers by breaches of security due to going over the internet in the Connect program. This does not even get into the problems of latency, throughput, bandwidth restrctions or costs EXTRA to utilise their hopefully secure storage solution. He is allready crawfishing on commiting to potential customers about security. I quote from this article on SW Blog you reference “Any hosting partner we select will need to meet a number of rigid requirements to ensure customer data is safe. That said, many times the real threat comes from disgruntled employees who are already inside the organization or from employees who leave laptops or other critical assets vulnerable”. Now the way I look at this statement is that he is providing excuses that will exonerate DSS/SW in the inevitable web related problems. This still leaves any user of this Connect program liable for any damages from lost data to security breaches to corruption of data and on and on I could go. I have to assume this because Mr Ray has as of yet not said anything about who is responsible for what nor who is covered for what problems and I think it is deliberate. I am sorry but there is just no credibility there for me nor anything as an update to their policy RE the web that instills any confidence on my part and I tend to think that the spirit that created SW to be the largest mid range program in the world has been lost in a cadre of upper management individuals who don’t care about users much any more. This is what a lot of users of SW are telling me on line and in person and I see no evidence to the contrary in Ray’s latest commentary, I see instead damage control and I am glad I am not there.

        • Neil

          Yes well said Dave. Jeff has said nothing that needed to be said. The damage to the company has been already done and it was self inflicted. SW are now in the position of chasing after departing customers who have decided for themselves where they want to be. The problems with SW from a user viewpoint are deeper and thicker than the cloud.
          Jeff needs to do a lot more than he’s doing now.

  • John
  • Stan Przybylinski

    One of the interesting things about all of this is that some competitors in the market have tried to convince buyers that CAD is a commodity. In fact, PDM systems are much more commoditized, and a lot of the innovation is in the CAD space. I guess they need to go back and re-do all of that marketing effort.

    • I agree. You really don’t need to come up with a new algorithm to decide how to put a file into a folder on a disk. Or how the software should decide which user gets to access which data. The real innovation is still very much happening in CAD. Not in PDM/PLM/whatever.