History based parametric modeling systems are best put to use by trained CAD operators who sit at their workstation eight hours a day. Engineers, on the other hand, are a different breed and they have more important things to do than sit at a computer all day and work on a CAD system. For some time now CAD vendors have been shipping dumbed down versions of their analysis tools along with their CAD systems to be used by CAD operators. There is a view that doing such a thing is pointless since CAD operators don’t understand analysis to be able to use it effectively or even properly. Another view (which I subscribe to) is that these “analysis for dummies” tools merely help CAD operators come up with models that are not totally useless to the engineers upstream. I seriously doubt anyone is going to build a critical component of an assembly that is modeled by a CAD operator and then engineered using a dumbed down analysis tool.
Direct modeling is beginning to change this situation a little. After trying to find a place in the MCAD software space, SpaceClaim finally decided that their direct modeling technology could be of great use to the engineering community. Engineers need an easy to use tool to modify and prep existing models for simulation and analysis. Trying to use a history based parametric modeling system for that task is like using a sledge hammer to drive a nail. SpaceClaim renamed their product to SpaceClaim Engineer and tied up with ANSYS for that exact reason.
A year ago, in a post titled “Autodesk Manufacturing Tech Day – Digital Simulation” I wrote:
“…although Autodesk is being tight lipped about the plans that they have for the standalone Fusion application after the technology has been embedded into Inventor, it is not very difficult to see that they may do exactly what Spaceclaim is doing with ANSYS. After all Fusion is a direct modeler like SpaceClaim and can be pitted directly against the ANSYS SpaceClaim Direct Modeler.”
Take a look at this video that I recorded during the simulation demo by Jay Tedeschi at the Autodesk Manufacturing Tech Day in Lake Oswego this week. Click the maximize button (bottom right) to view the video in HD.
Autodesk has already made it clear that they are going to use Fusion to go after the DIY market (see “Autodesk’s Plans For Inventor Fusion“). Autodesk already has a wide range of technologies for simulation and analysis. Obviously an easy to use direct modeling tool like Fusion hooked up to these technologies is the most appropriate solution for the same engineering community that SpaceClaim is now targeting. In fact, PTC is also restructuring its product portfolio to offer engineers something similar – Creo Direct with simulation. And that is precisely what I believe Autodesk will do as well sooner than later. The fact that Fusion is being shipped along with AutoCAD and Inventor shows that it has reached a respectable level of maturity. They simply need to package it with the right simulation and analysis tools and they will have a formidable offering for the engineering community.