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Data Exchange

Data. Conversion. Interoperability. Translation. The discussion about these topics is endless in CAD/PLM world. Customers are looking for interoperability between different product versions, competitive products, data models, data formats, databases and geometrical kernels. Customers were always first impacted by problems of interoperability. The lifecycle of engineering and manufacturing work is longer than typical lifecycle of product version or even engineering IT solution. Technically, data interoperability is a complex problem. It is not easy to solve, even if you are want to do so. Evan Yares recently posted an interesting article about interoperability – CAD Interoperability today. Interoperability plays an important role in product lifecycle applications in large OEMs and Supply Chain.

Until now, the perception was that customers are most impacted from data interoperability problems. It was true until very recently. However, I can see some new trends and changes in this space . Consumerization, BYOD and cloud trends are introducing new elements and aspects in product development roadmaps. CAD/PLM vendors are forced to think about cloud and mobile development as well as potential disruptive competition coming from newcomers  and other vendors. New design applications become more granular and focusing on a specific functionality or target customers. Two examples of recent announcements are Autodesk Fusion 360, SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. These application were born to co-exist with old products. Existing products won’t retire tomorrow. The ability to re-use data with existing product lines such as Inventor (for Autodesk) and SolidWorks (for Dassault) and other CAD packages will be vital for success of new products. I’ve been reading GraphicSpeak – SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual introduced but not delivered article earlier today. Randall Newton is talking about the product SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual (SWMC) announced by SolidWorks during SolidWorks World 2013 in Orlando last week. SWMC is build on top of Dassault 3DEXPERIENCE platform. I found the following passage interesting:

Reading between the lines, so to speak, of what was said at SolidWorks World, it seems two critical challenges remain before SWMC will be a selling product. It must prove to be fully and seamlessly interoperable with SolidWorks, and it must be more cloud-based. Interoperability has always been a significant challenge in the 3D CAD industry. 3D kernels are complicated. Dassault’s 3D Experience platform uses the CGM 3D kernel; SolidWorks uses the Parasolid 3D kernel from Dassault’s rival Siemens PLM. Completely accurate automated moving of files from Catia V5 and V6 is not commonly possible, and they share the same 3D kernel. Most of us can only imagine the complexity of moving between CGM and Parasolid.

Granularity is one of the most trending topic these days. Everybody are thinking about Apps. Company are moving away from developing heavy and complex product suites towards granular applications. Al Dean of Develop3D wrote an interesting article about granularity few years ago – Why granularity is going to rock your future… This is my favorite passage:

There are two things that might influence this and push us into further levels of explicit detail and granularity. The first is the ‘cloud’ (yes, I broke my own rules). When you’re working on a system that’s remotely located on a server, whether that’s over your internal network or across the wider web, you’ll need to manage and exchange finite packets of information, features, sketch entities and such. To do that, you need to manage and keep track of those individual parcels of data and oackets of change. That’s going to require a level of granularity that’s way beyond what most data management systems are currently capable of. Consider what would happen when you start to work on today’s products, in a highly collaborative environment, where data is being passed globally, between teams, between languages, between professional disciplines. And you still need to track data down to this type of level. And when you’re working on a product that looks like X-Ray image.

What is my conclusion? I agree with Al Dean. We will see more granularity in data and new applications. Interoperability becomes a very important factor in a future success of new apps. New level of data compatibility is required. Vendors will be forced to improve the level of interoperability of their existing products as well as new apps. Interesting time and change happens these days. Vendors need take a note. Important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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The story of standards is always fascinating. I love these stories on my blog and spent quite a lot of time talking to people about standards. Do you know what is common between standards and toothbrushes? Here, you go -“standards and toothbrushes -everyone needs to use them, but nobody wants to use someone else’s”. So, I was reading Arena Solutions blog yesterday – Why you should be using the PDX File Standard.

For the sake of truth, I had a chance to speak to Arena PLM folks few weeks ago. Here are some of my thoughts about PDXViewer.

PDXViewer. The need is here.

The idea of sharing information using free tools isn’t new. The story, in a nutshell, is simple. Your company will keep PLM system (actually any enterprise system controlling information is good for this story) and it will control the information you need in your company. However, as Arena’s blog is stating, your problem will be to share the information with people outside of your company.

The point of purchasing a PLM or PDM system is to simplify and centralize your BOMs and other product data. But once your BOMs, Items, AMLs and associated content exist in a structured format, you are faced with a new problem—how do you share your data with vendors and internal players who aren’t plugged into your PLM or PDM system?

You can ask how do you deal with the problem now. The madness of sharing data is here. The following quote brings you the top stories about possible (and impossible) ways company use to share data.

Without PDX files, preparing a build package for delivery is a mixture of black magic, blood, sweat and data from a business system. In some companies, one person is hired or trained to access the system for the sole purpose of sending data to suppliers once or twice a year. At other companies, data is pulled manually out of the PLM system by the design engineers, who put the data into an Excel spreadsheet and send it to suppliers in binders or zip files.

Why to use PDXViewer

You may find the “PDXViewer” way quite powerful. Pull data out of your PLM system, publish or send it in PDX format. Use free tool. I think many people will find it useful. I found user experience of PDXViewer nice. What you practically do is to export subset of your data and access it with a limited set of functionality. Another benefit – the level of encapsulation file gives you – you don’t need to go in multiple places to search for the information you need.

What concern do I have

My main concern is “file”. This is my usual suspect for problems. Don’t take me wrong – files are good and mankind is using files for the last 40+ years with various computer systems. However, when I move my thoughts towards the cloud and the internet, files become actually my concern. How do you manage files? What is the right (or last) revision of your file? Another significant problem is related to the changes. In case you allow to make changes to data outside of your system you burned to support multiple data synchornization, which is very painful for all people involved into this process.

What is my conclusion? I found two absolute advantages of PDXViewer – it is free, and you can enjoy a simple user interface. It definitely solves the problem of people accessing information outside of the company firewall and serves IT concerns about non-company users accessing information inside of the company. At the same time, I have a concern about files. In other words, I think there is a “better way” to organize people’s access to the information. Sending files can be a good solution, but it can get complicated within the time.  Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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One of the biggest PLM challenges is to play the role of connecting “organizational dots” such as Design to Manufacturing, Engineering To Order, Configuration To Order, Concept to Manufacturing. All of these terms are about creating a world where designers and engineers are connected with each other as well as with other players of product development – manufacturing, suppliers, and consumers. However, this connection is not straightforward – design and engineering data sometimes seem like a foreign language.  To some departments, communicating with another department is like tourists trying to speak a language they don’t even understand.

 The biggest problem I see today is that CAD and engineering knowledge remains in the Engineering Department language. A very small amount of people can speak this engineering language, not to mention knowing how to connect an engineering solution to solve a business problem.

 At the same time, everybody knows about this problem. As one of the examples, take a look at this Adobe blog which presents the challenge of enterprise data sharing. 

enterprise-data-sharing-challenge

Out of the many different solutions that try to resolve this problem, I’d like to touch on a few them which I  think are quite successful:

 PDF and 3D PDF based tools are definitely leveraging the high PDF adoption rate by translating CAD and related engineering data to 3D PDF packages. You can use various offline and batch processing tools.

3D PDF Batch Processing Revisited

Address Cost Issues Now

adobe-tool

In parallel, XVL technology from Lattice also provides an alternative to translate CAD data into an XVL format and share this information across the organization. 

Thinking Outside the 3D CAD System

xvl-diagram1

3DVIA composer is also a translating tool – it allows you  to gather CAD and 3D data together with additional information related to technical publications, manufacturing and some others. After generating new 3DVIA composer files, you can share and reuse this information in the organization.

 3DVIA Composer

3dvia-compo

 

An alternative approach in DS is the 3DLive product that allows everybody to access 3D information online without translating this information into other formats.

DS 3DLive

ds-3d-live

I can bring additional references on the tools that take 3D and engineering data and allow reuse of this data into enterprise. But this is not the key.  For the past 20 years we succeeded in creating lots of tools that translate one data into another data – CAD to PDF, one CAD to another CAD (i.e. IGES, STEP), etc. My key point is that we are still missing the capability of connecting people working on different problems in the same organization:  people working on design, people working on various manufacturing and supply chain optimizations, sales and others. There is no technology that allows them to work together, share the same problems and see one solution. We have come a long way – from proprietary data storage, RDBMS, XML, various 3D proprietary formats, various “standard” formats etc. All this being said, we are  still missing something that can be used as a scalable foundation to represent CAD and engineering knowledge.

This technology has  still not been invented, in my opinion, and this is a big topic.  Since I’m sure I’ve missed references, examples and ideas. I’m planning to continue posts on this topic. I’d be glad to hear your voices and comments.

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