What is behind “GitHub for CAD” marketing buzz?

PLM and marketing are not good friends. Marketing did a poor job for the last 10 years for PLM. For many years, PLM was advertised as something that can do everything… and even coffee. At the same time, marketing is indeed very important. Especially, it is critical for a new startup company. Between two risks (technical and marketing), marketing risk is usually more costly and painful to fix.

Gen-Yers are coming to 3D, CAD and PLM

The following two press releases drove my attention during last two weeks. One of them came from Sunglass.io, which came out of beta stage announcing – the following – Sunglass Launches Web-Based Platform Out of Beta, Effectively Creating a ‘GitHub for 3D Design’. Press and bloggers cover this announcement pretty well. My favorite SolidSmack posted – Breaking: Sunglass.io blast out of beta, snags "GitHub for 3D design’ title. Here is how Josh describes Sunglass.io:

Sunglass wants to be the go to place for all things 3D+collaboration, even to the extent of adding plugin into the most common 3D software and combining cloud services such as rendering and simulation. They’ve added support for all the popular formats and plugins for SolidWorks, Inventor and Sketchup, with CATIA, Rhino and Processing plugins coming.

Sunglass.io press release outlines the following functionality of Sunglass.io: version browser, integrated plug-ins, share spaces, collaborative assembly for concurrent work, rich media annotation.

One more announcement came yesterday from another startup company – GrabCAD. Navigate to the following link to read TechCrunch article – GrabCAD Raises $8.15M From Charles River Ventures, Yammer Co-Founder & Others For Its ‘GitHub For Mechanical Engineers’. Here is my favorite passage from this announcement – GrabCAD says it will use the new capital to accelerate the company’s growth as it builds new collaborative tools to improve the design and communication processes in the “creation of physical products”.

I’ve been posting about GrabCAD several times. Take a look on one of the last posts – GrabCAD: From Facebook for Engineers to PLM? GrabCAD recently switched the strategy from "community for engineers" to "building collaboration tools to help design and build products". I recommend you the following read about GrabCAD on WIRED magazine – GrabCAD Is Building Community in 3-D. Here is an interesting part how Hardi Meybaum explains the problem GrabCAD supposed to solve:

The problem, he says, is that engineers create CAD files with offline desktop software and haven’t traditionally shared what they’ve made. Meybaum thinks that attitude is shifting. “The old way of thinking was that ‘products are my own and I don’t want to share them.’ But we’ve found that people want that to change because there are so many benefits in sharing and collaborating.” Those benefits include getting help fixing a mechanical problem, getting suggestions on how to improve a design, and learning tips from more experienced engineers when you’re just trying to get your start.

GitHub for CAD/PLM?

If you are building software these days, you should know GitHub providing free public repositories, collaborator management, issue tracking, wikis, downloads, code review, graphs and much more. Here is how Wikipedia defines GitHub -

GitHub is a web-based hosting service for software development projects that use the Git revision control system. GitHub offers both paid plans for private repositories, and free accounts for open source projects. As of May 2011, GitHub was the most popular open source code repository site.[3] The site provides social networking functionality such as feeds, followers and the network graph to display how developers work on their versions of a repository. GitHub also operates a pastebin-style site called Gist,[8] wikis for individual repositories, and web pages that can be edited through a Git repository.

So, why I think GitHub is a good association for new CAD/PLM? It represents a new modern web-based way to collaborate. It also includes community and project orientation . If you think about PLM marketing, you won’t find any new buzzwords here. Web based, collaborate, projects… All these words have been used by marketing wizards before. There is an imporant difference, in my view. GitHub serves the needs of a specific community of software developers. It heavily relies on paradigms of open source development and web. From that specific point, it combines two worlds – open-source software development and web-based work behaviors. Open-source software development has strong web roots. Because of this connection, things worked so successfully together.

What is my conclusion? GitHub for 3D. GitHub for Engineers. GitHub for Design. I think, what is behind "GitHub" buzzword is a try to change the way how people work together. Open vs. Close. Keep information vs. Share Information. You can continue this list. Technology is easy, but people are hard. Some of them, will see an increased demand for openness and share as IP problem (you can read about it here). On the opposite side (read here), you can see it as a big part of the future of the whole tech ecosystem. Today, Gen-Yers are trying to change the world by applying methods of work developed for the last decade in a public web. I don’t see significant technical risks in this process. Web-based collaboration technology is proven by many web applications. However, there is a market risk related to how manufacturing companies and engineers will adopt new methods of work. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit the carrierrocketter.

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