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…



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