During my recent visit to the PTC headquarters in Needham, Asa Trainer, Director – Product Management, explained to me PTC’s solution to the legacy format interoperability problem, something which I accused many CAD vendors of deliberately ignoring in my last post. Their solution is called GRANITE Cross-Release Interoperability or GCRI. I believe that this solution is the only one of its kind in the CAD industry today. At least I am not aware of any other CAD vendor doing something like this. In this post I will try and explain GCRI and the issues surrounding it.
PTC uses an in-house developed modeling kernel called GRANITE, similar to ACIS from Spatial, Parasolid from Siemens, etc. GRANITE is also used for interoperability to read and write native Pro/E part and assembly files. GCRI is basically a plug-in to GRANITE interoperability kernel.
With the GCRI plug-in, a Pro/E Wildfire 2.0 user can read files created by later versions of Pro/E. I will not get into the technicalities of this, because then I would need to explain things like Associative Topology Bus (ATB) and Translated Image Model (TIM). However, if you are interested to dig to the roots then I suggest you read this document.
The GCRI plug-in gives Pro/E the ability to do the following wonderful things:
1) Open a later version Pro/E file and display the feature tree. However, the feature tree is read-only and cannot be edited.
2) Add new features to the feature tree and save the file.
3) Open the saved file in the new version of Pro/E and “graft” the new features added in the older version back into the new version.
All this happens without any loss of design data. So effectively with GCRI you can now have a single Pro/E file which has been edited by more than one version of Pro/E. Obviously, this is a far better way for users of different versions of Pro/E to work with each other, as opposed to exchanging data using neutral file formats like IGES and STEP.
So now to the all important question. What happens when PTC adds new features to Pro/E that never existed in a previous version? Well, its actually quite simple. The features simply don’t show up in the feature tree, which is quite understandable. So if a user of a newer version of Pro/E does not use any new features, he can work seamlessly with the user of an older version of Pro/E. The fact that the user of the older version can actually add features to a newer version file is simply amazing.
Needless to say, I find GCRI to be simply awesome. What I do not find awesome is the fact that GCRI is available only to customers on maintenance, which ironically, defeats the very purpose of GCRI. If a PTC customer is on maintenance then he already has the latest version of Pro/E and does not need GCRI. Of course, he would need something like GCRI if he paid his subscription fees, received all the latest software, never opened the box and still continued to use his old version.
I sincerely hope that I have misunderstood something here, because try as I might, I cannot get myself to believe that this wonderful technology is going to waste.