Interview with Teresa Anania – Part 2

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Deelip: There is criticism that Autodesk, along with other CAD vendors, is trying to make engineers out of CAD operators by giving them dumbed down analysis tools inside of MCAD systems. The argument is how can you expect a CAD user to do an FEA analysis if he does not even know the units of stress or hasn’t heard the term “Von-Mises” before in his life?  In fact, I interviewed Blake Courter, one of the co-founders of SpaceClaim, yesterday and he had some pretty strong views on this subject. He even went to the extent of calling it disgusting and sickening. You have come from ALGOR and you know what kind of people that you were selling your products to. And here you are trying to peddle a dumbed down version of that extremely powerful technology to CAD users. I happen to have my own views on that critism. But I am curious to know your thoughts on this.

Teresa: This is a good topic. There is no doubt that others before Autodesk have tried to do some things that have kind of set a paradigm. So no matter what our intentions are as compared to someone else, they may look the same, but they are really not. I think our strategy is spot on. First of all, our customers are asking for software on the designers desktop that really do not validate the product’s safety or does not become the go or no-go on the design. But rather to allow them to optimize, allow them to innovate, allow them to do things that otherwise honestly don’t get thought of untill its too late. Now that being said, every company is different. If they have a team of analyst engineers that is absolutely focused on optimization during the design process, then that team needs tools to complete the task. The good thing is that they do not even need to know CAD. Fusion allows them to edit geometry without going back to the CAD department. So we are providing tools for that kind of a organizational structure. But many of our customers might not have four year mechanical engineering degrees. But they want them to be able to do first pass analysis and then leave the go or no-go validation decisions to the analyst engineers. So we want to provide for tools for both, and do it responsibly. Unlike some of our competitors, we are not dumbing things down. We are not smoothing. We are not approximating. We are not estimating. I mean, our software does not produce results that look accurate but are not. We are providing a simpler interface, no doubt. We are limiting our options. You don’t want to put multi-physics into Inventor Professional. You wouldn’t even put CFD. But you would put some basic linear static stress, some rigid body analysis and some design optimization. And so we are doing it responsibly by only looking to our customers to determine what is needed by the designer so that the entire organization can benefit from upfront analysis. Like in the case of Moldflow, we are not putting MoldFlow Insight technology in the CAD operators hands.

Deelip: That’s another thing I wanted to ask you. Is the high end complicated stuff going to find its way into Inventor over time? Or is it going to stay out of Inventor as it is now?

Teresa: Absolutely. We are not following the path of some of our earlier competitors that frankly took very powerful code, dumbed it down and put it in all the CAD tools. We believe that our customer’s are different and we recognize that there are many engineers need absolute power. I mean, they do not want to have to live with, say for instance, not being able to see their mesh, or not being able to choose between different element types and probably have to trade accuracy for speed. So I think we are trying to provide a scalable solution, make it affordable, make it easily accessible. I call it “on ramp”. I mean you cannot do a ton because probably the designer should not be doing too much. And then when they want more we have a solution for them that interoperates with the original CAD model. Look what designers are doing today versus what they were doing ten years ago. There are many that are able to do linear static stress today who would not have touched it ten years ago.

Part 3 >>

  • I find it interesting that this has come up again over the last couple of weeks or so.

    John McEleney talked about SolidWorks doing this almost 3 years ago at one of our local user group meetings. There was a lot of these concerns about dumbing down CAD and analysis tools voiced then (e.g., http://www.dezignstuff.com/blog/?p=71), although I think that John put a little different spin on it.

    John was talking about the evolution of the engineering role, and how initial analysis early in the design was needed to compete more efficiently in the global market. However, he did stress that this was for a first-cut analysis, and that any design should still be validated by an expert.

    The majority of CAD operators of today are more than likely engineers; based on John's comments, I would bet that SolidWorks (and any other CAD vendor) would know their clientele's job descriptions and be catering to the majority. I would submit that these days, there are more engineers driving CAD and less engineers sketching things on a napkin to hand to a draftsman. That has been my general experience, anyway.

    For example, in my previous job, all CAD users were engineers and we did initial and check analyses along the way through the design process. But as the design matured, the analysis was handed off to dedicated engineers specializing in analysis. However, at my current job, even though all CAD users are still engineers, most of the engineers perform their own analysis and sign off on it.

    Here is an excerpt from my article on the meeting where John was talking to this (@http://www.cadfanatic.com/2007/06/john-mceleney-comes-to-huntsville/):

    “He brought up the issue of globalization, and how companies and engineers have to start reacting more quickly to adapt to changes in the world economy. This includes focusing more on reliable up front analysis to enable faster time to market and looking at alternate materials when designing.

    “He spoke of how the role of engineer has evolved from someone with a calculator and sketch pad working with a draftsman to one who models and details their own designs, and how the role was again growing to include detailed analysis as well.”

  • Jonathan Yeandle

    Hello Deelip,

    There you go….(tongue placed firmly in cheek)
    “The argument is how can you expect a CAD user to do an FEA analysis if he does not even know the units of stress or hasn’t heard the term “Von-Mises” before in his life?”

    Brian describes it well but I'm driven to add my own two pence worth:-)

    Are you being a smidge quick to pidgeon hole “CAD Users” in an ever so slightly derogatory manner?

    We are accused of not 'getting with the programme' if we dare to attempt 3D modelling using anything but the latest R2014 “Solid-IV-Pro-E” technofashion.

    Then comes the shock horror revelation where all the press pundits worry that “CAD Users” may be getting their grubby mits on advanced analysis tools which were previously only available to a select few technologists.

    I'm aware that you have to be the devils advocate in the interests of an interesting read, but…….

    Where is the problem with “CAD Users” increasing their engineering skills and knowledge by getting 'soft' exposure to analysis tools that are embedded in the CAD tool? They are very unlikely to be attempting anything life critical, at least in the early stages;-)

    CAD Users may go on to be future engineers/tecnologists, some of them already are.

    I'm all for it!…..(remove tongue from cheek).

    Thanks for an interesting subject.
    Kind regards,
    Jonathan

  • Jonathan,

    Indeed. I am playing devil's advocate here. Read my argument with Blake Courter at http://www.deelip.com/?p=2098

  • Jonathan Yeandle

    Thanks Deelip,

    Yes, I'm with you, I read that thread and commented there before finding this later one. So I've sort of had the same (small) beef there also.

    I have an underlying discomfort here with anyone in a specialist field of engineering appearing to put up nebulous barriers to dissuade others from joining in.

    Knowledge is power and all that.

    In these days of such widespread freedom of information and skills it seems at the very least unhelpful, to attempt to limit access to certain tools purely on the merits of a person having spent 4 years at university, or not?

    Kind regards,
    Jonathan