Direct Modeling Is Changing Everything

I just spent two hours on a web meeting with Dan Staples, Director of Solid Edge, wherein he took me through all the new stuff in Solid Edge ST3. The most interesting stuff is under embargo till 13th October, the day when Solid Edge ST3 will be launched. If you want to know what’s new in ST3 that Siemens PLM is willing to disclose you can read the five part series I wrote back in July titled “What’s New In Solid Edge ST3“.

As Dan was explaining the improvements to Synchronous Technology something struck me and I interrupted him to ask get his opinion. Not surprisingly, he agreed with me. Here’s the thing. Not too long ago, before SpaceClaim arrived on the scene and brought attention to Direct Modeling, all history based parametric modeling systems used to work pretty much the same way. I mean you started by selecting a plane, creating a sketch on it, extruding it, then maybe creating another sketch on one of it faces, and so forth till you ended with a long history tree on the left and a parametric model on the right. Of course, each history based parametric modeler was different in some way or the other. But if you knew one, you could basically figure out your way in any other. For example, I started learning the history based parametric modeling approach to solid modeling in SolidWorks. When I fired up KOMPAS-3D from ASCON for the first time, all I needed to do was find the equivalent commands in the UI and I could start modeling immediately.

But not any more. Each history based parametric modeling MCAD vendor has taken a different approach to Direct Modeling which had ended up in changing the way their software works. Autodesk is going the way of Fusion where the software is made so smart that it automatically modifies the history tree for the user. If you think you knew what Siemens PLM has done with Synchronous Technology, you will think again on 13th October. I am not allowed to say anything about Project Lightning  but it is my belief that on 28th October the world is going to treated to a feast of geometric goodness. I have some idea about what Dassault Systemes is doing with V6, but not enough to be able to comment on it. My point is these history based parametric modelers that once worked pretty much the same way are now looking and feeling increasingly different. They are coming up with their own concepts and methodologies which range from slight variations from the ones in history based parametric modeling to completely new stuff.

I am more of a geometry guy. Abstract things like PLM don’t interest me much. So I am finding all this very interesting. I believe we are in the midst of an intellectual revolution and I have absolutely no idea what lies on the other side. Maybe one of these MCAD vendors will find the golden key and the others will then follow suit. Maybe they will continue to diverge as they have started doing. I don’t know. And that is what makes this all the more interesting to me.

Dan agreed with me saying, “You know, some time back, we had all these pundits say that CAD had become a commodity. And yet here we are reinventing new and better ways of doing the same things that we have been for all these years.

This reminds me of the question I asked people in the audience at COFES-Russia/isicad-2010 whether geometry was a solved problem. Just look around you. What do you thing the CAD vendors are busy doing? I am convinced more than ever before. Geometry is far from being a solved problem. And I love it that way. 😉