Develop3D article The Future of CAD brings up a discussion with the representatives of leading CAD vendors and a few startups with questions about what the future holds for CAD development. The scope of questions includes the following topics: How do you imagine sketch tool environments evolving? How do you imagine designers will interact with CAD UIs in the future? Continues updates and new features. AI impact of design tools. How users will impact design tools. How future CAD will take an advantage of modern graphic APIs
Read the Develo3D review and linked articles with the interviews of Ian Pendlebury of Autodesk, Manish Kumar of Solidworks, Stephanos Androutsellis-Theotokis of Phenometry, Jay Tedeschi of Onshape, Istvan Csanady of Shapr3D, and Paul Brown of Siemens.
CAD Vendors Agreement
I found the article and discussion interesting. Read the article and draw your opinion. I found a broad agreement about many questions discussed.
- Cloud-based updates and seamlessly delivered new features are now common environments. Some vendors believe in a browser-only environment (eg. Onshape, Dassault) or hybrid environment (eg. Autodesk), but fundamentally, everyone believes in the continuous delivery of new features
- Ease of use, reach and collaborative environment is quickly becoming a new norm for design software. Everyone is looking for one or another way to help users to communicate and work together regardless of location, distance, or time. UI will become more seamless, adaptive, and intelligent.
- All vendors are looking at how to take leverage of AI to make tools more intelligent. The ideas are different – from making UI easier, analysis of customer behaviors, the efficiency of CAD system usage, improvement of productivity, and bringing the ability of CAD systems to learn from their users.
While I found the agreement quite fascinating, what caught my attention is the absence of discussion about product development processes and how the engineering department and design activity will be intertwined with the rest of the organization. Making UI intuitive and data shared is a big deal and modern CAD systems are much better than old ones. However, the discussion that I was looking for is how the lifecycle will change and how product development data flow will be evolving with novel CAD systems.
So, I found the agreement between vendors quite interesting. Which made me think about what is missing there.
Multi-disciplinary, multi-users, and multi-company collaboration
The traditional release data flow is very old fashion and didn’t change for years. It is a so-called “design release”, which includes the production of a design baseline (including making derivative files and the approval process). Some of the reasons for keeping this process not changing are the formal requirements prescribed by best practices and industry requirements. However, I found it interesting that the industry didn’t find anything better than producing released drawings and STEP files combined together with some packages and the information that ultimately needs to be transferred between multiple systems. Despite using cloud-based or enabled CAD, companies keep creating drawings and zip packages with CAD files. While all vendors are talking about digital thread, all CAD systems keep focusing on how to transfer files from point A to point B between departments and companies (OEMs and suppliers).
Organizing seamless connected data flow between CAD systems downstream is a place where I can see a lot of future innovation can come. The reasons for that are many. Here are the top three things where I can see future innovation to come.
- Multi-disciplinary design complexity, product complexity, and growing needs in system design are raising questions about how multiple companies can organize work between multiple CAD tools and design systems (MCAD, ECAD, Software, Systems)
- Seamless data access to released design with notifications and the ability to connect to a specific design, revisions, change process, etc. Without such access, all conversations about connected processes will be missing the point.
- Cross-department and cross-company process support. In many scenarios, contractors and suppliers are physically disconnected from the design data and processes. Concerns about IP and security are valid, but inefficiency and traceability of processes between OEMs and supplier tiers or multiple contractors can bring tons of advantages and cost saving to manufacturing.
What is my conclusion?
After a decade of debates, the CAD industry came to an agreement about cloud, subscriptions, updates, and basic topics related to interoperability and data viewing. Each CAD vendor is growing in its niches with a very moderate disruption between brands. Companies are innovating in user experience, using modern hardware and platforms. All vendors accepted cloud and browser as one the tools that improve collaboration. However, in my view, the heavily missed topic is related to the organization of the product development process, product lifecycle management, digital threads, and processes between multiple companies. Cross-company collaboration (eg. OEM to Suppliers) is limited and doesn’t provide enough tools to improve performance, optimize processes, and save time. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital cloud-native PDM & PLM platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.