The SpaceClaim LT Strategy

An anonymous reader commented on my article “SpaceClaim LT“, “Maybe, it’s time to spend another day in Mike Payne’s office and to turn on API support in LT/LTX versions.

Usually when companies offer stripped down versions of their products, they tend to remove a lot of functionality. I was quite surprised to see that SpaceClaim LT/LTX has the same modeling capabilities as the Professional version. From what I understand, LT and LTX are limited mainly in terms of data exchange capability and the lack of API support. In my opinion, this is quite a bold step, something I didn’t quite expect. I expected removal of some advanced modeling features or limiting the number of parts in an assembly. Basically, things that would not allow people to use LT to do advanced design or large scale work.

I am now beginning to wonder whether SpaceClaim is giving away more than they should in LT. Limiting data exchange sounds reasonable. As regards API support, I would be extremely happy if they had let LT load add-ins, since I would have more SpaceClaim users to sell my add-ins to (SYCODE released nine data exchange add-ins for SpaceClaim Professional 2007+ today). However, I believe that would be overdoing it. It would almost remove the need and use of the Professional version altogether.

So what exactly is SpaceClaim actually trying to achieve here? Common sense dictates that for any 3D solid modeling CAD vendor to gain market share (or in SpaceClaim’s case, create it) they would need to target AutoCAD users who are interested in making the move to 3D. 2D AutoCAD users may find it quite difficult to understand the principles and complexities of 3D parametric modeling. They need to go back to the classroom for that. And I am quite sure that, if given the option, they wouldn’t want to go down that path. Autodesk itself is trying very hard to get AutoCAD users to use their Inventor. It seems to be just too big a leap.

So can SpaceClaim LT fit in here? Lets see.

  • At a price of $695 for a perpetual license it has a far lesser cost of ownership. That’s even lesser than AutoCAD LT, which cannot be extended by plug-ins anyways. So AutoCAD LT users will not have much to complain about.
  • By virtue of it being a non-parametric solid modeler, SpaceClaim’s learning curve is bound to be much flatter than that of Inventor, SolidWorks, Solid Edge or any other parametric modeler.
  • By keeping the same solid modeling features of the Professional version, LT users would always have the best technology that SpaceClaim has to offer.
  • SpaceClaim LT can import AutoCAD DWG/DXF files. So the AutoCAD user’s existing work can be brought into SpaceClaim without a problem. And since SpaceClaim uses Autodesk’s RealDWG technology to read DWG/DXF files, one can safely say that all the data will (or should) come in properly.
  • SpaceClaim LT can also write out DWG/DXF files, again using Autodesk’s RealDWG technology. So users can safely supply “real” DWG/DXF files to other people, just like they used to when they were using AutoCAD.
  • Exchanging data with other 3D modeling systems also will not be a problem since SpaceClaim LT can read IGES and STEP files, with SpaceClaim LTX being able to write them as well.
  • SpaceClaim has the advantage of not using proprietary formats to save it’s data. So users do not run the risk of being locked into using SpaceClaim only.

In an earlier article “SpaceClaim Changing Direction – Finally“, I wrote, “After getting kicked out of Autodesk University, SpaceClaim should have learnt that they cannot play the “we love everyone and everyone loves us” game anymore. If they want to succeed, they should sharpen their swords, put on their armor and step into the arena. Stop playing politics while trying to sneek in from the back door.” I believe that with their LT and LTX versions, SpaceClaim has finally decided to step into the arena.

Which brings me to an interesting point. Autodesk is known not to license it’s RealDWG technology to competitors. So in the not so distance future, I will not be surprised to find the “Powered by Autodesk RealDWG” logo missing from the SpaceClaim splash screen.

In the same article I wrote, “There are many AutoCAD 2D users wanting to make the switch to 3D. SolidWorks is doing a good job in offering free seats of IntelliCAD along with their software to help these people across. Siemens is giving their Solid Edge 2D for free. That’s where the real money is and SpaceClaim does not appear to be interested in these people at all.

With LT and LTX, SpaceClaim seems to be addressing this very issue, and doing a pretty good job as well. I will not be surprised if they start bundling an IntelliCAD license along with their software. Or something else that will help AutoCAD users make the switch.