A Sick Dassault Systemes Joke

In his interview with Ralph Grabowski, SolidWorks CEO, Jeff Ray said “Customers are fed up with not being able to share data between CATIA and SolidWorks. At some point, a translator will be delivered.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is a sick Dassault Systemes joke, one which I have deliberately not gone into detail on this blog until today. I did not do so mainly due to the fact that SYCODE is a SolidWorks Solution Partner and I wanted to keep it that way. But now seeing Jeff’s frustration I think it is safe enough for me to let SolidWorks customers know exactly how sick this joke is.

Spatial, another company owned by Dassault Systemes, has a product called 3D InterOp. Its product datasheet reads: “Spatial’s InterOp CATIA V5 Reader and Writer use native CATIA libraries from Dassault Systèmes, Spatial’s parent company, to provide unparalleled accuracy in translation“. This page on the 3D InterOp Wiki adds, “No separate licenses of CATIA V5 are required for using this translator“. Basically, 3D InterOp’s CATIA reader reads CATIA files and creates corresponding ACIS entities. Not only does it convert CATIA solids to ACIS solids but it also converts sketches, axis systems, materials, annotations, dimensions, manufacturing data for holes and even PMI data in CATIA files to corresponding ACIS entities. And why not? It uses the authentic libraries from Dassault Systemes, not some reverse engineered third party libraries.

SolidWorks already licenses ACIS from Spatial, not just the component to read and write SAT files, but the kernel itself (spaacis.dll) along with a few advanced components like Blending (spaablend.dll), Local Operations (spaalops.dll), Space Warping (spaawarp.dll), etc. So all it needs to do is license the CATIA component of 3D InterOp from Spatial and SolidWorks will be able to get rich 2D and 3D content (not just dumb solids) from CATIA files with “unparallelled accuracy”. And since 3D InterOp can also writes CATIA files we have a complete solution to a problem that Jeff Ray claims has made his customers “fed up”. Ironically, this solution existed years ago.

Interestingly, SolidWorks can read and write CATIA Graphics (.CGR) files. CGR files contain the visualization (mesh) information of a solid which is pretty much useless for solid modeling, just like STL or any other mesh format. The point to be noted here is that the CGR read/write feature is wrapped in a DLL called sldcgrru.dll which is a SolidWorks DLL. This DLL makes calls catviz.dll, a Dassault Systemes DLL, which actually does the reading and writing of CGR files.

This means that Dassault Systemes does not mind sharing its CGR read/write library with SolidWorks, but is not letting them come anywhere close to the library which reads and writes .CATPart and .CATProduct files, the files that contain the CATIA solids and other useful data. And neither is Dassault Systemes allowing SolidWorks to license the CATIA component of 3D InterOp from sibling Spatial. Because if they were then Jeff Ray would have licensesd 3D InterOp years ago and would not have had the problem of  “fed up” customers trying to do a half ass job sharing data with CATIA using neutral formats like IGES and STEP.

But if you think the joke on SolidWorks and its customers ends there, there is more. Dassault Systems allows Spatial to offer its CATIA libraries to companies like SpaceClaim, IronCAD and KeyCreator among others. Not to mention that Solid Edge, Inventor, Pro/ENGINEER (using ATB) and NX can read CATIA files by themselves or though some third party library.

So if I understand this correctly, the only MCAD software that cannot read CATIA files is SolidWorks. Well, not exactly. Alibre Design cannot read CATIA files either. But then Alibre does not have Dassault Systemes for a parent, now does it?

Dassault Systems has made laughing stock out of SolidWorks and its customers. Even Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended, a software that is not even a CAD system, can read CATIA files. How much more sick can this joke get? And how long more will Jeff Ray and his customers will be willing to take it?