Cloud CAD and what does it mean for PLM?

November 30, 2012

The topic of CAD (or 3D CAD) in the cloud is getting more traction. The first “CAD in the Cloud” announcement happened almost 2 years ago when SolidWorks introduced their technological work during SWW 2010. Read SolidWorks takes off to the cloud to refresh your memories. Back that days it raised lots of conversations, disputes and controversy. Here are few historical posts – The Death of SolidWorks? by Develop3D, If you wonder how SolidWorks Cloud will look like… by WorldCAD Access, Bertrand Sicot reinforces SolidWorks cloud plans by Deelip.com. One of the last publications by SolidSmack – SolidWorks 2013 and the promise of SolidWorks V6 can give you a good update of where SolidWorks stands now. Below is a picture of SolidWorks cloud prototype as it was captured by Deelip Menezes at SWW 2010. According to his post SolidWorks V6 is due in 2013.

In the meantime, we can see the idea of how to use cloud technologies for design and collaboration became more popular with new products and companies at the horizon. Here are few names you better pay attention to. GrabCAD is transforming from “Facebook for engineers” concept into a set of online collaboration tools. You can see a video of GrabCAD for Teams below.

Sunglass.io is another startup company, which is trying to use cloud and in-browser technology to introduce a fresh approach of collaboration and design on the web.

One more startup – TinkerCAD is approaching 3D online design and 3D printing combined as a new experience to work for engineers and designers on the cloud.

Moving from startups to large behemoths, earlier this week at AU2012, Autodesk just announced new product in Autodesk 360 product line called Fusion 360 – 3D CAD in the cloud.

3D CAD: Unix, Windows, Cloud

I can see a clear technological platform shift in the CAD industry. 3D CAD is moving from Windows (as a mainstream 3D CAD platform today) to the cloud. It happened in the past when 3D CAD moved from variety of UNIX workstations to Windows/PC platform. Similar shift is happening now.

3D CAD and PLM

What 3D CAD platform shift means for PDM / PLM? The significant portion of PDM and PLM business is tightly related to CAD systems. The connection between CAD and PDM/PLM was always “love and hate” relationships. Engineers are clearly hated PDM systems as something that interfered with their work. Seamless (embedded) PDM integrations were supposed to solve that problem, but faced technological complexity of implementation. CAD vendors’ competition made CAD-PDM/PLM relationships even more complicated. I can see 3 main trends that may happen to PDM/PLM with 3D CAD gearing up to the cloud.

1. Reduce complexity. Since communication between CAD and PDM/ PLM will move to the cloud servers, it will reduce the complexity that in many cases was a result of desktop to server communication.

2- Simplify user experience. Reducing of complexity will result in a streamline of user interface. No more awkward files, folders, lockups, and many other things that complicate user process.

3- Focus on business processes. I believe cloud CAD will reduce lots of data-management tasks that require use attention. It will result in the ability of user to focus on business process improvement.

What is my conclusion? Traditionally, CAD was heavy focused on desktop and file management. It included file management. All together create a complicated technological and user interface problem. Moving of CAD to the cloud can positively impact the ability to improve user experience and hide some complicated data-management activities from users. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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