Yesterday I visited ASCON and met with Slava Kashirsky (International Marketing Manager), Julia Tolstykh (International Marketing & PR) and Oleg Zykov (Innovations Projects Manager) to learn more about the company and its product KOMPAS-3D, which is quite a popular Russian MCAD software.

ASCON was founded in 1989 and is privately owned. It has more than 500 employees and 7 software R&D centers. The company has a total of 40 offices in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Belarus and Germany.

ASCON is headquartered in St. Petersburg and boasts of 6,000 corporate customers with 100,000 corporate licenses. I asked if educational seats were somehow included in these numbers. The answer was no. In fact, KOMPAS-3D is taught in 65,000 secondary schools all over Russia. This is apart from ASCON working closely with engineering colleges. Before 2006, KOMPAS-3D was available only in Russian. Today it is available in English, German, French, Czech, Polish and Chinese.

KOMPAS-3D has a very long history with its origins as a state owned organization in the Soviet era which was later spun off as an independent company. The first product was KOMPAS-Graphic, a 2D drafting system. Versions 1, 2, 3 and 4 worked on DOS and looked like this.

In 1997, the first Windows version of KOMPAS-3D was released which implemented the history based approach to parametric modeling.

ASCON is one of the few MCAD vendors that completely own all of its core technologies. They have their own 3D modeling kernel, 2D/3D dimensional constraint system and 3D graphics engine. However, they partner with other technology providers for things like CAE, photorealistic rendering, etc.

This is what the Russian MCAD market share looks like (Note: Source, IDC 2008).

I was quite surprised to see that Autodesk had the largest share. From the pie chart, it appeared to me that Inventor was ruling the Russian MCAD market. Its a good thing I asked for a clarification because I was then told that the largest piece of the pie belonged mostly to AutoCAD and not Inventor. Apparently, the vast majority of MCAD users in Russia still use AutoCAD for mechanical design. I guess that completely shreds the notion that everyone who needs 3D already has it.

It is also important to note that this market share is in terms of revenue. Since KOMPAS-3D is priced lower than SolidWorks, Inventor and Solid Edge, a pie chart showing seat counts will be more favorable to ASCON.

This is what the recession did to ASCON last year.

I am told that the story for 2010 is a good one.

Apart from the core 3D modeling and 2D drafting solution, ASCON has a family of add-ins that provide a more wholesome set of MCAD solutions, which is best explained by this slide.

Click image for larger view

I was given a demo of the new V12 version of KOMPAS-3D as well as a CD with hardware dongle. I intend to write more about it after I have taken it for a spin when I get back home to India. I was also given a demo of their CAD on the Cloud solution which I wrote about in my post titled “CAD On The Cloud To Become A Reality With KOMPAS-3D“.

I asked a question almost knowing what the answer would be (I was talking to Marketing and PR people, after all). “So what was the motivation for offering KOMPAS-3D on the Cloud? Were your customers asking for it?“. The frank answer surprised me. “Not at all. Our customers have no clue what CAD on the Cloud means and why they would want something like this. We took this up as an experiment and are curious to know whether they will be interested to use KOMPAS-3D this way. However, our customers have been asking us to be able to use KOMPAS-3D on Linux and with this solution they can do that.