3D Mashup: Reality Check

I like searching for new technologies. One of the technologies I’m following a long time already is so called "mashup technologies" or just "mashups". In the past, I shared some of my thoughts about mashups. Navigate to the following link to read – Will Mashup Grow Up in PLM? Read the blog post Actify Centro and Microsoft SharePoint: 3D Mashup by Chad Jackson. The information in this blog post about new product Actify Centro made me think about what is the future of 3D mashup and what value proposition Centro can provide to engineers in manufacturing companies?

Actify Centro in a Nutshell

So, what Centro about? According to the press release, Centro delivers a new platform for delivering 2D and 3D product data that can be configured according to the requirements of the customers. It supposed to provide an answer to the problem of growing volumes of data (2D and 3D) and integration to other sources of data. The following description is from Actify Centro website:

Centro enables manufacturing organizations and their supply chains to easily access, interact with and communicate part data through SpinFire across their wide area networks. All major 3D and 2D CAD data formats supported. No CAD system required. One solution does it all.

Take a look on the following video explaining about Centro. According to the information in Actify press release Centro is focusing on Enterprise wide access to CAD files, cost effective archives of CAD files, quick and easy collaboration capabilities with 2D/3D product data and remote access to product data.

If I will follow Jackson’s blog, Centro provides additional capabilities such as integration with enterprise systems and cross-enterprise system search. Combined with 3D visualization and presenting of enterprise information on top of 3D visualization, this is what Chad called 3D Mashup. Centro completely relies on the Microsoft SharePoint infrastructure and functionality related to data integration and search. According to the same blog post Centro developed as a set of SharePoint web parts. Integration functionality relies on the usage of web services. This is a place where Jackson criticizes the approach. This is my favorite passage:

Actify’s Centro offers web services to integrate to these systems and databases. However, as those enterprise systems are upgraded, then Centro’s web services need to be checked to ensure they are still working and fixed if they are not. Some resources will be needed to maintain and plan out the integrations on a go forward basis. Is that a resource that comes from the corporate IT teams? Does the resource come from the engineering IT team? Is it an engineer doing it on the side? Obviously there needs some planning.

This is an obvious disadvantage and will require some integration services to be applied during the system implementation, which is probably having no difference with techniques used by SharePoint integration technologies (i.e. BCS, etc.)

3D Mashup Alternatives

Actify Centro discussion made me think about potential alternatives. From my standpoint, the best alternatives can be found in the portfolios of PLM mind-share leaders – Dassault Systems and Siemens PLM. Dassault V6 platform provides a comprehensive platform to centralize data, including 2D and 3D information. V6 user interface, introduced at first as a product called 3D Live allows you to merge 3D information with information coming from other systems. In the following video, you can see how ERP information mashed up with 3D view.

Enovia platform provides federation capabilities to integrate data coming from other systems. It will obviously require some integration plugins, services similar to SharePoint integration mentioned in Actify Centro.

You can find another example of similar functionality in the product called HD3D supplied Siemens PLM. HD3D focuses on how you can present product information in a contextual way integrated with 2D or 3D view. The following video can give you a glimpse of what you can do.

Future vision of HD PLM from Siemens PLM can finally put you in a nirvana of the future manufacturing dreams.

What is my conclusion? I have mixed feeling about my 3D Mashup reality check. The obvious part – engineers and not only need to have a better and easier access to product information resided in multiple places. So called “3D Mashup” user experience is slick and provide an interesting approach. Granularity is an important concept that was raised in Jackson’s post. It confirms the reality of multiple systems future in companies. Manufacturing companies don’t believe any more in the building of a single data management system combining all information. The obvious concern is the cost of the system and required service to connect all systems together and maintain it up and running. The last create an “open ended” feeling about the overall system cost. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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