CAD/PLM Robot Swarms

February 27, 2009

I was inspired to see Josh’s post on Solidsmack – Your Future 3D CAD Interface May be Soft, Cozy Memory Foam. I think this is a great idea for an alternative user experience for CAD and design, which will make it more adaptive and user-friendly.

I find the research related to the usage of nano robotic devices very interesting. These devices are so small that they can be controlled by a sort of mixed virtual/physical environment that allows you to use CAD models and change them with your hands. This prototype of robot swarms, according to the article, was created  by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University



 I hope you enjoyed this video. I understand that it looks like a dream, but sometimes today’s dreams become tomorrow’s reality…

PLM 2.0: Technology or Facelift?

February 26, 2009

Since last year, I have seen many discussions on the Web about PLM 2.0. The number of posts is growing…

I searched on the PLM side, starting from the initial Dassault Systems announcements last year: Dassault Systems: PLM 2.0 Online for all based on V6 Platform. This topic was continued by multiple blogs and news articles PLM 2.0 – lifelike experience. In addition, I found a section in a Wikipedia article about PLM 2.0. Wikipedia outlines PLM 2.0 as Web-based SaaS applications focusing on collaboration, social networking and easy created business processes. At the same time, lifelike experience (i.e. handling of CAD-based models in virtual reality using game controllers like Wii) wasn’t mentioned. A few months ago, PTC came out with a SharePoint based on Windchill ProductPoint, enabling social product development. This is based on the usage of SharePoint User Interface and the ability to share CAD data in social networks. Actually, I didn’t find a consolidated view about how PLM 2.0 is defined.

On the Web side, analyzing Web 2.0, in a nutshell, I can summarize a technological short list of Web 2.0 as following:

RSS Feeds for data syndication allows the manipulation data coming from different sources (i.e. web services etc.)

Web Services for interoperability and APIs

Rich User Experience also, maybe, known as Rich Internet Applications

Folksonomies – the ability to make data classification based on a user’s definitions of tags, social indexes etc.

Mashups – technology that allows you to mix data delivered by multiple sources (i.e. web services, websites…)

Blogs – user generated content that can be easy created, shared and used for collaboration purposes.  

So, where is PLM 2.0 going? Is it new technology that will create a revolution in product development or facelift existing PLM by reusing of Web 2.0 technologies? Or maybe this is just an “Everything 2.0” marketing buzz?

Comparing the above Web 2.0 technological with the announced capabilities of PLM products has not shown me any similarities. Lifelike experience and the ability of DS V6 to run everything on top of an application server backed up with RDBMS allows me to think that RSS and Web Services can be enabled to deliver data to relevant social communities. But, at the same time, PLM content continues to be complex and not easy to Mashup. Therefore, I see that there’s a long way to go for PLM in order to solve these problems and crash the barriers among today’s PLM people and the larger communities of manufacturers, supply chain users and consumers. 

Use Wiki for PLM Change Management – revised!

February 25, 2009

In one of the previous posts , I thought about how it would be possible to use a WIKI engine to implement CCB within an organization. To summarize, my idea was to allow CCB members to develop interactive content within a wiki engine. Wiki can be easy available in the organization as part of most enterprise packages today – from Microsoft to Oracle. Also, open WIKI engines are available.

Now, let’s get back to the original idea. One of the main points is how to organize the history of changes without disturbing users. Each additional “create version” operation will be considered as less usable. I was thinking about how to organize an immersive environment for users – creating and collaborating on the same content without having to burden them with version control. Version control is important to be able to maintain changes, traceability and formal change control. So, I was thinking about implementing it by using two functionalities –

(1) Export Wiki Page to PDF;

(2) Search inside of PDF content.

Export Wiki Page to PDF is almost a standard functionality supported by many wiki engines. It’s available in IBM, supported in TWIKI. In addition, there are “export to PDF” components that can be used together with various wiki software (i.e. Microsoft SharePoint). Some of the wiki software allows you to export a collection of pages to PDF, which is even more powerful. By using this functionality you can organize the creation of snap-shorts from a wiki page each time the changes are submitted. So, we can get a full history of all CCB meetings.

 Search inside of PDF document will be a cool feature to support. This functionality is also quite standard and can be supported, for example, by Microsoft SharePoint, IBM and other search software. So, you can easily find anything you discussed and worked on during your CCB meetings.

 I think this cool functionality is also simple to implement and quite powerful.

Collaborate online – Does it make Sense for PLM?

February 24, 2009

Lately, I’ve seen a growing number of applications introducing the idea of real-time collaboration online on the same document. This idea is called co-editing, which I find cool, and I see  a lot of large and small vendors are doing this. You can see a very interesting review of these capabilities in the following post on Mashable – 5 ways to collaborate online on documents.


 Now, what about PLM? I see similar capabilities in CAD systems as very promising. I didn’t have the chance to see it presented in real systems today, but I definitely see trends that will, in the end, will make it happen.

 The following technologies will allow design systems to provide online collaboration:

Cloud data management – more and more data will be easily placed on the cloud storage and retrieved without any special applications. Online applications – more and more applications are running over the internet and accessing data everywhere. Internet availability – we are living in a connected world. We’re not yet connected everywhere, but we are connected much more than in the past.

 All these capabilities together will move us towards online collaboration. Today, I can point out on the DS 3DLive application and PLM 2.0 ideas. They are definitely about online applications, and I’m sure we will see more applications innovating in this space in the future. 



Is PLM too Complex to Mashup?

February 23, 2009

 I was amazed to discover that there is almost no reference to PLM systems using Mashup technologies. So, what is wrong with Mashups? My impression was this is a very successful technology since Mashup usage is growing in multiple vertical industries. Starting with Google Maps, Mashups show their power through their ability to combine data coming from multiple sources. So, why don’t PLM systems understand this value?

 My initial assumption takes me back to PLM content management. PLM absolutely dislikes the ability of foreign systems to touch and manipulate content – design, bill of materials etc. The core perception is that this content is complex and cannot be simply extracted from a PLM system. At the same time, most of the successful Mashup technologies are based on their ability to take data from multiple systems and merge them together – in other words “mash” them “up”.

 So, what we can do to improve this?  How can we popularize PLM content? – by allowing multiple functions in PLM software to extract content such as models and drawings,  Bill of Materials etc., and make them available in formats and representations that can mash-them-up to something people will actually use. I can find multiple use cases for this such as mash-up design information with CRM systems – to see what parts of a design are most problematic in customer reports. I’m sure you will be able to find more applications and use cases for such Mashups…

 What is a Mashup? – ZDNet

 Let me know if you have experience with Mashups and have found them useful…

3D Limits, or How to Avoid Killing 3D with 3D applications?

February 20, 2009

I’d like to discuss 3D. The following 3D Perspectives blog post “Do Designers Really Want to Communicate in 3D?” got me thinking about when and how 3D is efficient and how to apply these practices in our implementations. There is no debate – 3D inspires! We can see what we are going to design, visualize engineering analyses, present and explain problems in a way that we cannot do in plain English words. But are limits for 3D? How can we collaborate efficiently on 3D and non-3D information?

There are a few basic types of communication in the design world. You can communicate to:

1/ present the design of product;

2/ describe a problem;

3/ discuss a particular solution.

What are the key decision points designers need in order to communicate in 3D? I think that the main point is around productivity. If 3D helps them improve their productivity, they will definitely take the “3D story” seriously and use it as an instrument for their daily work. But even if sounds like 3D is appropriate for a regular designer’s life, is 3D-orientation really that obvious?

I will try to delve into a typical designer’s activities and will figure out where 3D could help as well as harm. In other words, where are the limits of 3D?. 

Designer Activity

:) :) :)

:( :( :(

1.     Search specific design assembly/part/…  


3D is good because you can see what you’re searching for

3D is bad because it might show you 150 visually similar parts? I’m not sure that’s so helpful…

2.     Collaborate – i.e. discover a specific problem together?


3D is good because you can see the problem in 3D visually… I really like being able to see this…


3D isn’t always good in this case because the problem can’t always be represented visually. Sometimes you need the right balance of 3D together with textual information

3.     Co-design


3D is great!  Collaborative design is only possible in 3D…

But 3D is not always ideal, as design requires a good combination of visual and non- visual capabilities in order to keep records of discussions (i.e. IM with SolidWorks; 3DLive with buddy-list)


4.     Demo product, communicate with customer


3D is good as a picture is worth a thousand words, however….

3D isn’t always ideal in this case, because if  customers are interested in particular non-visual aspects, they will need to get access to these characteristics as simply as possible.

 So, my conclusion is that 3D is very important in the way we can provide a context for discussion and communication, – the ability to visualize and actually co-design our work. In certain cases, using non-3D user experience is the only way to work for designer to make right decision. Also, presenting non-visual information can be easily understood – sometimes too much 3D information creates an information overload. And ultimately, Excel-like communication, in many cases, can be the only efficient way to present a problem or issue.

So, to measure user productivity and work on the user experience is the only real way to find 3D limits. I’d like to hear your feedback about your personal experience with 3D.


Should PLM develop its own process tools?

February 20, 2009

There is no discussion – PLM is very oriented towards processes. In order to be able to coordinate multiple organizational activities around product lifecycles it seems like process tools is  a “must to have” component in PLM tool box. But is it really true?

In today’s world, process tools are becoming available as part of many non-PLM products. Starting as workflow automation, process tools were developed and/or acquired by platform vendors (IBM, Microsoft and others). Large ERP vendors also provided process tools as part of their packages. In addition to these big behemoths, many BPMS (Business Process Management Suites) are focusing on process definition, execution and improvement. In addition, some standards initiatives around BPMN and BPEL are also focusing on process management and tools.

So where does PLM play into this game? I see two possible options: (1) PLM providers will focus on the development of process management tools; (2) PLM providers will allow the integration of PLM information and IP  (Intellectual Property) into existing process tools provided by platforms. I believe that option #1 will be very helpful in integrating PLM systems into the enterprise software already available within the vast zoo of software within the organization, option#2 can simplify deployment and and keep the implementation of PLM simple.

From a customer’s standpoint,  I see great significance to maintaining single organizational process. Therefore, a promising alternative is to align the PLM process implementation with the growing adoption of standards like BPMN /BPEL. This allows customer to run multiple tools around the same process…


How close is the future of surface computing for CAD/PLM?

February 18, 2009

I think everybody likes cool presentations … especially when they are about surface computing. So, coincidentally, I had the chance to see a few references and demos of surface computing in the context of our industry.  I think that these fascinating shows may inspire you to think further about how we can use surface computing.

First of all, in his visionary keynote technology presentation at SolidWorks World 2009 last week in Orlando, John Hirschtick, mentioned surface computing as a very important development for the  future. An example of a surface table from Microsoft was demoed in the exhibition pavilion and everyone who was interested was able to touch and move the CAD pieces by themselves, using their hands.  Thanks guys from SolidWorks APAC blog for videos!



Another futuristic example is the usage of surface tables for enterprise searches, demoed at the FASTForward Microsoft Event. Microsoft announced the integration of the FAST product line into the next version of Microsoft SharePoint. FAST, Norwegian company was acquired by Microsoft last year.

And, just to finish with something more practical – an example of how touch screens can be used with the existing Dassault Systemes 3DLive product demoed on DS PLM Day in Israel last year.

I hope you enjoyed watching these examples. I have to say that Enterprise Search was very inspiring and shows a lot of imagination about how our communication with design products could look in the future.


FAST Impact on PLM

February 17, 2009

Microsoft finally disclosed their plan to integrate their product FAST ESP, acquired for $1.2B from a Norwegian company, one of the major players in the enterprise search market. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Microsoft is going to merge their offering into their popular Microsoft SharePoint platform. New capabilities will be introduced as part of the new Office version later this year. So, what’s going to be the result? SharePoint Server Search products will offer High-End search capability as part of their mainstream offering.

Going back to my PLM SharePoint Paradox post, I think that Microsoft is adding additional premium content and technologies that have the potential to be reused by PLM/PDM companies. What do PLM providers need to look for in this offering? I think that PLM providers would appreciate more infrastructure capabilities that would allow them to integrate SharePoint/Search with external content providers (as such PLM/PDM systems). Today’s Business Data Catalog (BDC) functionality is relatively simple and has a small capability for managing and exposing structured content. It’s clear that “content is the king” in enterprise and FAST enhancement of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server MOSS will allow more content to be absorbed, searched and accessed.

So, for now we will wait for the announced Microsoft SharePoint conference where MS will disclose its plans for its new SharePoint and Office version.


How PLM can re-use SharePoint Social Network Capabilities?

February 16, 2009

How can we improve user adoption of PLM in the organization? What technologies can we use?? How can we reuse what we already have? I’ve found that many companies are using Microsoft SharePoint. It’s interesting that although SharePoint provides a lot of capabilities, not all of them are used by organizations. When capabilities, such document and content management are widely used, capabilities relating to organizations and supporting social networking are really undervalued. I think that these social networking capabilities can be adopted and merged with PLM/PDM system capabilities that are already available. These will create significant additional value and will let you distribute product related content (i.e. product design, specification etc.) in the organization.

 So, how can we make this happen? The following SharePoint components allow you to create social environment:

User profile

These are foundational components that collect and store information about user in SharePoint. The information is collected from multiple sources such as Active Directory, Human Resource Information System, and Business Data Catalog of external systems. SharePoint allows you to aggregate all these multiple sources in a single representation of the user profile;

My sites

Individual sites are created for each user profile. My Site is a view for a user profile containing personal and public information, as well as an aggregated view of all related information – content libraries, lists etc. My Sites allows to user to present information about their role in the organization.

Colleague web part

Colleague web parts let you present your mined and sorted colleagues to visitors by a colleague list. These colleague lists are compiled to represent organizational structure and people relations in the organization.

Colleague tracker web part

The colleague tracker web part allows a member of the organization to view privately his or her list of compiled content. For example, users can modify the colleague tracker to present their list in context of the products for which they are responsible to develop in context of other roles in the organization.

SharePoint sites, links and membership web parts

These web parts let users view their own SharePoint site, group and mailing list memberships and links.

In common Web Part

This provides a summary of information relating to membership, organizational managers and colleagues that visitors have in common with the owner of My Site.

The following standard tools in SharePoint can be used to discover and search for the appropriate people with whom to collaborate:

People search

This is a standard web part for discovering people profiles by using user profile attributes.

People search by user profile

Search capabilities are based automatically on the same properties of the user profile. For example, individuals with specific skills can find people with the same skills in the organization based on their user profile information.

So, now, when we establish a social environment the purpose of PLM here is to work to provide content and/or information that can be accessible by people in the organization. There are a lot of ways to do this:

 Publishing document libraries

Generate documents and put them into SharePoint libraries. This can be done automatically and/or manually.

Using excel services and reports

This is similar to document libraries, but uses MS Excel-based content

Using business data catalog services

This is a more complicated way of accessing as it requires programming and developing of the access data from the external system.

So, SharePoint provides a set of social tools to organize your communities in the organization. By linking these social communities and PLM content, you can deliver product information to the appropriate people in the organization. In many cases you can leverage existing PDM/PLM products MS SharePoint. 



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