3D CAD Future: How To Liberate Data?

Last week I had a chance to listen to Mike Payne during the COFES 2010 event in Scottsdale, AZ. Mike’s 18 minutes talk was entitled “Future of Mechanical CAD (Where does PLM fits In?). Mike provided a very interesting retrospective view on the history of mechanical CAD from initial 2D and all 3D evolution and revolutions. I personally liked his take on why 2D is still alive – “because it just works”. Whatever you’ll do in 3D will depend on the software you use. Whatever you are making in 2D can stay forever.

Mike’s view on the future mechanical CAD target was as following:
1. All in 3D

2. Discoverable (the learning curve is really fast)

3. Models unaffected by changes of software release

4. Intelligence built-in CAD tools

5. Data can be re-used between all apps

6. Interchange of best-of-breed tools

7. Based on Geometry and Topology

8. Inexpensive

9. Support for long term storage (i.e. PDF, STEP)

Mike Payne and Brad Holtz

For me the most interesting points presented by Mike were points 3, 4, 5, from the summary above. My short name to this change – “Liberate data from CAD tools”. In my view, they can present the biggest disruption in the 3D CAD industry since the introduction of the feature-based parametric modeling. Here is my take on this and why I think this change is so disruptive.

Dependencies on CAD vendor
In today’s world, companies are required to follow CAD vendors. Everything, they are creating in 3D is heavily dependent on the specific CAD application. It comes accumulated dependencies on the format of data, 3D features as well as a very long learning curve of CAD users in the companies. However, it creates huge benefits for vendors in the way of a maintenance revenue stream. It doesn’t mean you cannot shift between tools, however it presents a significant associated cost of change.

Competition On Tools
When/If dependencies on tools will be removed, the new form of competition can be presented. Vendors will be enforced to compete on a tool proper. The cost of change or switch between CAD systems will be no longer a factor in this competition. So, we can expect CAD market to become similar to the telecom market where a switch between previous and next mobile phone is zero for the end user.

Long Term Data Retention
Since intelligence will be introduced in CAD, forward data compliance will help to resolve the problem of long data storage. This is a very important topic for many industries, especially regulated ones. Some of them are required to keep data for 50-60 years. Today 2D is the ultimate way to do so (because it just work). Future may be different.

What is my summary today? The future Mike observed, sounds very disruptive for today’s CAD vendors. It can present a significant shift in business models and competitive landscape. In my view, it can generate the biggest change in CAD vendor’s landscape. What about PLM role? The presentation wasn’t specifically about PLM, but provided some hunches about what can happen to PLM too. Next time, I will think about how PLM fits in the Mike’s future of CAD.

Best, Oleg



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