I’ll start with a disclaimer. I understand that to start a “format discussion” is at least as dangerous as starting a discussion about CAD interoperability. Nevertheless, I will try to turn this conversation away from “how to invent new universal format” to discussion and focus on “maybe we are missing the purpose of formats – it’s about aggregating data rather than protecting data from other CAD vendors”…
I have been thinking about CAD/CAM/CAE/PDM/PLM and data formats for quite a while. On one hand, a file is a very natural way for desktop applications to store information. Therefore, lots of applications in our domain have used files for various purposes. On the other hand, with current technological development, including the mainstreaming of Web-related technologies, and the conversion from local desktop experience to live and connected experience, I came to the following conclusion: It’s time to change our current perspective on CAD/CAM/CAE/PDM/PLM related file definition?
But let me take a step backwards for second. Does it make sense to talk about files in the 21st century? What do you think? In the world of internet applications, online services and cloud data services a discussion about files sounds archaic. But if we will turn this discussion in the direction of data encapsulation and information delivery mechanisms, talking about file formats will make sense in terms of how it’s possible to change things in the world of engineering and manufacturing enterprise applications.
So, what could be the ultimate goal in creating a new PLM 2.0 format?
Historically, all available formats were created as an accomplishment for the various tools (CAD/CAM/CAE etc.) to store their information. In the world of engineering and manufacturing, the majority of information was still managed by files. The exception is PDM and ERP application – but even in this case, they manage lots of vaulted data (actually files on servers) with having to add relevant metadata information. So, as each application domain created their data format, the results were that these formats have become very domain- oriented. I have to credit some of the activities like STEP/ISO in trying to create standardized representation of product data exchange, but even in this case, they created AP (Application Protocols) according to specific domains.
I think that PLM 2.0 can offer how to package data across the application domain. It will prevent having to be locked to specific engineering tools. It must be able to be sent, for example, a CAD model together with CAE analyzes. Although I can come up with more examples the general idea is to come up with something that can encapsulate data in a user-oriented manner, compared to what we have today in a tool-oriented manner. In the end, this is can be bring a large added value of new PLM 2.0 technologies, similar to the value of Web 2.0 related technologies in making end-user-participation a model for the Web.
I have to admit, that some of the discussions in the Enterprise Data Management and Architecture as well as GIS related field specifically inspired me to think about a new PLM format perspective. I’d like to mention the following shapefile 2.0 manifesto. Also, adding my previous thoughts about PLM and BIM, I think we will see more and more intersections of existing domains in the future, as a lot more will move towards a connected application world.