Back to basics: Multi-CAD and PLM

How many CAD systems do you have in your development organization? I do believe more than one. And if you will think about your Product Lifecycle Management future, the obvious need is to connect your multiple CAD environment in the way allows you to manage all your design records, reference your design information in processes, allow downstream design usage in ERP and manufacturing systems. Today, most of the systems claims support for multi-CAD environment. So, what is the deal? I’d like to outline the following characteristics and vendor’s trends in this space:

1. My CAD vs. other CADs. For PLM vendors with origins in CAD space, own CAD systems will be always a priority. This is natural for business and much easy for development to support CAD system that making the same product development release cycle as PDM/PLM environment. Vendor’s “my CAD” interfaces may have additional features that will not be available for “other CADs”.

2. CAD/PDM bundles. Due to previous trend, I can see forming of stable CAD/PDM bundles that provide tuned functional characteristics. Autodesk/ProductStream; SolidWorks/PDMWorks; SolidEdge/TeamCenter; NX/TeamCenter; CATIA/ENOVIA etc. Such bundles can be best in class solution for a specific CAD.

3. No CAD files. This is a very new trend. Introduced in CATIA V6, this trend represents technological morphing of CAD and PDM/PLM environment into a single entity. (Note: With future of Cloud/SaaS, this type of software architecture, can be potentially a very interesting approach, but I will discuss it in separate post).

So, what can be the possible strategy for a company to support multiple CAD in PLM environment? I can see two possible and very obvious options.

Option 1: Focus on PLM vendor selection, choose your PLM environment and maximize usage of multi-CAD interfaces provided by this vendor. If you also thinking about possible reducing of CAD system usages and/or you shifting from multi-CAD environment to “primary CAD” option this can be a good option, in my view.

Option 2:
Implement best in class CAD/PDM bundles and think about separate provider of PLM products, services, environment. You can find more appropriated to use PLM system provided by your ERP vendor or use some alternative technologies to build your PLM environment. I posted about this option earlier this year (Which Technology Can Convert Multiple PDMs into a Single PLM).

So, what do you think about these options? Can you share your experience? I’m interested to get your comments and thoughts.
Best, Oleg


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  • Jovan

    Oleg, do you think it is technically feasible to describe any 3D model with metadata?
    If we could that will be a real dematerialization of the 3D files. The description of the geometry would be used to reconstruct the 3D model on the computer. That would allow some openess and allow several people to work on a single part.

  • Jovan, I don’t think there is a task to reconstruct 3D geometry. File format is good and can be used “as is”. My point was that assembly file can be replaced by relational db storage. This is what V6 does, and I think it will be even more successful in the future. Due to that, already in V6 you have additional advantages in collaborative work. Access to information becomes more granular. In the end of the day, all information (geometry, assembly, metadata) will move online and V6 is just a first step in doing so. This is my perspective on that. Best, Oleg

  • Claudio

    I think the producer of CAD + PLM systems today have major limitations and a limited market.
    My experience is related to the sale of a PLM solution is unrelated to a CAD product that supports the same functionality with tools such as Catia, Pro / E, NX, etc.Il happened? The technology! At the time I had no problem in winning with the producers of CAD. Customers are attracted to innovative, modern and close to the tools of office automation or web-experience. This will become the future also for technical applications, I apologize for my English!

  • Claudio, Thank you for your comment! From your standpoint, what are major limitations of CAD/PLM bundled systems? Is it technology? Absence of office automation? Web technology? Best, Oleg

  • Oleg,

    with PLM systems becoming more and more the “single source of information” for distributed and flexible enterprises, managing (and not only storing) 3D information from multiple systems has become an imperative, as well as managing ECAD data and software.

    I think the new frontier is where PLM technology helps engineers re-use and repurpose in one CAx (CAD, CAE, CAM) tool data that originated in another CAx tool. To relaize this, you need fundamental capabilities both in the PLM backbone and in the CAx tools, but when they both work in sync a lot can be achieved.

  • Paolo, I think you are pointed on a very old problem of interoperability, but positioned it from the content standpoint. Back few years ago, we saw CAD companies were holding strong ownership on CAD formats and data. I think today, issue of CAD interoperability disqualified by a need to re-use CAx data. For the last 3-5 years, we’ve seen few very successful tools allowing you to take 3D information downstream. Now, the next step, will be understanding how to re-use and re-purpose CAx data. Personally, I don’t think PLM backbones will play a significant role in this process. My believe is that cloud-option and internet based technologies will play a key role in energizing of this process and finding right solution. However, I see steps of closer connection between CAD and PLM backbones as a very positive. It will allow to remove existing “proprietary format” barriers. Thanks for your comment! Best, Oleg

  • Matt Bromley

    Oleg – I’m looking forward to your post on (3). However the challenge I see with the CAD/PDM bundles is lack of interoperability between domains. This I see as one of the current challenges, aligning and collaborating between the different domains. The ability to solve this problem then leads to some really interesting areas in future product development – true virtual product realization and simulation, technology repartition etc across domains. This challenges are very deep as no PLM vendor has “myCAD” for CAx, there are not even best in class CAx/PDM in many instances and CAx CAx interoperability has always problematic. I don’t currently see elegant solution to all these problems, maybe your option (3) will help, although I agree increased CAx is a good first step.

  • Okay UGURLU

    Hi Mr. Oleg – I’m new in PLM world so, I’m sorry for some basic questions about your post:

    Assembly files may be managed by tesellated files of parts coming from different CAD origins. SIEMENS PLM have such a solutioın for MultiCAD. Beyond the native CAD assembly file, it has a database object which stores list of parts and transformation matrix of the tesellated files. Without CAD, any user may re-arrange the assembly components within PLM interface…

    Do you metion a similar concept when you say “No CAD files”? If not so, could you describe it by a simple example?


  • Matt, Agree with you. CAD/PDM bundles solve problems of CAD data management much better, but loose cross-domain capabilities. This is a place where PLM, BPM, BI and other types of cross domain solutions can come and provide value. Take a look on this – Best, Oleg

  • Dear Mr. UGURLU, Thanks for your questions! When I’m saying “no files”, the main point is CAD system is not relying on file system storage, but directly bundled to PLM application server with PLM storage. What normally CAD system saves on disk (in files) is a combination of geometry files, tessellated files and additional information like assembly, etc. to combine all together. I case of PLM application server, the storage of this information can be optimized and access to pieces of information can be also optimized. I hope, I answered on your question. Best Regards, Oleg.

  • Hi Oleg,

    just to say that we are working on that problem, using STEP (AP214) as plm-cad data-model. You can take a look at the project on that page:

    Yoann Maingon – Prodeos

  • Yoann, Thanks for the link. In my view, STEP is the most mature standard in CAD/PLM space and retain good potential for the future. Best, Oleg

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