What Is PTC’s Project Lightning?

So what is this Project Lightning that PTC is going to unveil on 28th October 2010? (see PTC’s Project Lightning Strategy Statement). And why are they making a noise about it four months earlier? I don’t know the answer to the latter. Actually I don’t know the answer to the former as well. But I think I can make a guess.

In a post titled “Pro/ENGINEER and Direct Modeling” I explained how PTC had direct modeling capabilities embedded in Wildfire 5.0 but they were hidden from the user. At that time Mike Campbell, a Senior Vice President at PTC, confirmed it as well. He wrote to me:

First off, you are correct.  These capabilities are “demonstrable” in 5.0, but hidden from end users.  A PTC Application Engineer can show them off, to share the direction that we’re headed in, but they are not production-ready, yet. So, either the reviewers are unaware of this, or they are referring to the Dynamic Edit capability as Direct Modeling.

I have a feeling that Project Lightning is Pro/ENGINEER with Direct Modeling exposed to the end user. The strategy statement gives us a good hint. After describing the three commonly used modeling paradigms (2D, 3D Direct Modeling and 3D Parametric Modeling) it reads:

Project Lightning will eliminate this need for a company to mandate a single paradigm, by offering a set of solutions on a common platform, giving each user the flexibility to invoke whichever modeling paradigm is best suited for them and the task at hand.

The statement goes on to explain how Project Lightning will have a “PLM backbone that will drive a CAD model” in the case of complicated products, thereby implying that this stuff will not be restricted to geometry creation and manipulation only. Rather it will take a more holistic view of the product development process as a whole where geometry is only part of the problem. Or rather, part of the solution.

Unlike other CAD vendors that like to show off stuff that they are working on their Labs web sites, PTC is quite reserved in that department. So while Autodesk took the route of letting the world know that they were adding Direct Modeling to Inventor by means of Fusion, if my guess about Project Lightning is correct, then I guess PTC thought it wiser to wait until they solved the problem completely before making noise about it.

I don’t have access to Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 6.0 yet. But even if I did my NDA’s with PTC would not allow me to say anything about it. However, the following image of an Alpha version of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 6.0 at MCADCentral shows the new ribbon interface with a tab called “Flexible Modeling“. So is this the Lightning? I guess time will tell.

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