Cloud CAD infrastructure is getting more PDM-ish

March 2, 2015

fusion360-cloud-pdm-cad-branches

PDM was long time a step child for many CAD systems. To deal with CAD files, their relationships and dependencies including multiple revisions of document was complex and painful. So, many customers just gave up and stored files on shared drives. It was okay until the our life was disrupted by a new way to get work done – online, connected, collaborative.

The initial intent of collaborative cloud systems was to solve the problem of collaboration and data sharing. The idea to provide a value on top of existing CAD desktop file systems was interested. So, specialized cloud CAD file sharing and collaboration systems got focus and attention.

At the same time, CAD vendors got to think about longer term solutions. CATIA was one of the first systems that announced the disconnect from a traditional file systems. I posted about that few years ago – The future of CAD without files.

These days, the race towards cloud CAD is accelerating development of data management and CAD collaboration technologies for the cloud. Few weeks ago, I shared some of my thoughts about importance of PDM technologies for cloud CAD. Cloud CAD vendors are clear about their intent to make PDM part of their core product technology.

My attention caught Autodesk Fusion360 article – Fusion System Architecture Changes Coming in the Next Release – Why and What. Read it, because it contains some very interesting pieces of information about how files are going to disappear into future cloud infrastructure. Here is the passage I captured:

With the coming release of Fusion, we will be introducing significant changes to Fusion Cloud Service architecture that lays a strong foundation on which we can build an environment that is rich in WIP DM. As part of this change, we are introducing the Autodesk Work In Progress Cloud Service which is designed to model and manage complex relationships that are associated with a design. The service is highly scalable, highly available and optimized for performance. Another important change in the February release is significant improvements to the Fusion Object Storage Service. Taken together, these changes will result in immediate benefits in the way of performance gains and high reliability in the Fusion upload and download data pipeline, and allow the Fusion team to deliver rich DM workflows in subsequent releases.

Another article from Fusion360 blog brings an excellent explanation what these date services mean for end user. These are functions that belonging to PDM system in a traditional file based CAD / PDM setup.

…it solves so many common design problems that we’ve heard from the community, both in Fusion 360 and other programs, and improves workflows for both teams and single designers. Branching and merging lets you easily:Work in parallel with other members of your team. Explore changes or alternatives to a project and keep changes that make sense while leaving behind changes that don’t. Understand how your project evolved over time and what decisions were made (and why). Restore or reuse any design(s) in your project from any point in your project. Use any point in your project as a starting point for a different project.

What is my conclusion? It is hard to bring a value of cloud design collaboration without re-thinking the way CAD-PDM bundle is operating. For new type of cloud CAD systems it means to embed core PDM collaborative function and make it part of CAD system. It sounds like a very exciting time- many collaboration and data management problems are going to be solved by that. However, here is a question. What will happen when two cloud CAD systems will have to collaborate together? Looks like a topic for another blog. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud CAD will have to solve PDM problems at first place

February 10, 2015

ds-solidworks-cloud

The race towards CAD in the cloud is getting more interesting every day. I’ve been watching SOLIDWORKS World 2015 live streaming this morning. Overall SOLIDWORKS show was very impressive, as usual. I look forward to keep watching it following days.

However, what caught my special attention today is a presentation of a new cloud product – SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design. Couple of interesting facts about new product – works on top of Dassault 3DEXPERIENCE platform (in many aspects, think about it as ENOVIA V6); focus on free design with no traditional CAD constraints; leveraging cloud approach for social connection between users and collaboration. And… it is complimentary for SolidWorks users. Demo of product presented few scenarios in which design flow went between new cloud product and old SolidWorks connected by 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Sounds like a big deal.

The story about new SOLIDWORKS/3DEXPERIENCE product took me back to my comparison of Onshape and Autodesk Fusion360 visions few days ago – Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of CAD. In my view, changes in design world towards distributed teams and ability to work effortlessly on any device without installation and manual upgrades are two main driving factors behind new cloud solutions. The story about Autodesk Fusion360, Onshape and SOLIDWORKS made me think about interesting priorities all creators of cloud CAD are thinking about. It was well articulated during SolidWorks World 2015 first day keynote – supporting any device, information is up to date all the time, users are connected (see picture above).

It makes a perfect sense to me, since it is a great reflection of modern cloud paradigm you can see well developed in products such as Google Apps, Office 365 and others. However, this is a place where complexity of CAD data requires from cloud products to be more sophisticated. Traditionally, CAD project is combined of multiple files – assemblies, parts, drawings, etc. As you start making changes you very quickly end up with a complexity of many-to-many relationships between different versions of parts, assemblies and drawings. Move it to the cloud – the complexity won’t disapear. Therefore, you can see both Autodesk Fusion360 and SolidWorks Industrial Design are trying to solve. I had no chance to see Onshape product yet, but my hunch Onshape will try to solve this problem too.

Autodesk Fusion360: revision control, branching and collaboration

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carl-bass-fusion-360-au2014-2

SolidWorks Industrial design: 3DEXPERIENCE collaboration, branches, revision merging

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solidworks-industrial-design-2

What is my conclusion? In a traditional CAD world, the problem of file revisions, collaboration and data control was part of PDM solution. Historically, CAD vendors were reluctant to solve PDM problems unless it became absolutely necessarily. PDM was complex, required services, special pre-sale process, etc. However, cloud is creating a new demand and constraints for new CAD in the cloud paradigm. With the absence of file system exposed to end user, cloud CAD system will have to solve a PDM problem first. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of CAD

February 7, 2015

models-fusion-gallery

Cloud computing is changing a world around us. CAD and engineering applications are not exception. It has been already five years since SolidWorks team at SolidWorks World 2010 announced about developing of CAD and mobile applications. I found Cadalyst articles – SolidWorks World 2010: Clouds, Macs, Movie Making, and More which speaks about capability of cloud computing to change CAD and design world as somebody was able to think about it back in 2010.

“This is designed not for flash, but to solve problems and make your life easier,” Ray said, adding that the technology has been in development for three years. Cloud computing overcomes the challenges of software installation and maintenance and, according to the company, keeps data secure. It is multiplatform by its very nature, meaning it is accessible to users regardless of operating system, and it can accommodate touch-based modeling and finger and pen interaction — that is, any wireless-connected device from anywhere could link the user to the full functionality of the 3D software. Now you can use a Mac to model in SolidWorks, Ray told the audience, which reacted with cheers.

Cloud computing facilitates collaborative modeling because there is just one source of data and one version of a file and model updates take effect immediately, and it better facilitates data sharing and legacy data reuse. On the cloud, users can employ traditional search to locate legacy files quickly and minimize the need to create design sketches from scratch. “[This data] can be your own data, others’ data, or template data from SolidWorks,” Ray said. Cloud-based design can be more flexible as direct 3D editing is based on window selects, and the increased power of cloud-based servers can speed design and rendering time and decrease system crashes. Even if a system does crash, you never lose any data because the model always stays where you left it, even if you didn’t save it, Ray explained.

Well, this passage above is a history. While engineers and CAD industry analysts are on planes to sunny Phoenix to discover new SolidWorks software at SolidWorks World 2015, two other companies – Autodesk and Onshape are working to build a future cloud CAD software. My attention caught by two articles providing an insight on the development of both systems – Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape. Take some time during the weekend and read How and Why We’re Building Fusion by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass and Why We Started From Scratch (Again) In The CAD Business by Onshape Founder Jon Hirschtick.

Both articles are providing an interesting perspective on current status of design tools, technological and customer landscape. Actually, I found a lot of similarities in thinking expressed by both articles. I decided to bring few passages here, so my readers will be able to compare notes.

1- Yesterday’s tools are failing today’s engineers

Jon Hirschtick> There’s no problem in CAD that’s been completely solved yet. CAD systems still aren’t fast enough, they’re not easy enough, they’re not robust enough or reliable enough. All of the core issues in CAD are still there – and I think as an industry, maybe we’re halfway done.

Carl Bass> While there are many capable software products in the market today, none comprehensively solve the major issues in product development. So people are forced to string together tools that make iteration cumbersome and working in teams difficult. We’re bringing together the most important portions of product development into one comprehensive, integrated environment to help people go from concept to production—form, function, fabrication, data management and collaboration.

2- Computing world has changed

Jon Hirschtick> We are in the midst of the biggest change ever in computing platform technology, from the old world of desktop PCs to the new world of cloud, web and mobile computing. Younger people have grown up in a post-desktop world and have different expectations about computers. They don’t even think about having “a computer.” They walk in with their laptops and their tablets and their mobile phones. They expect computing to be modern and available anywhere, anytime on any device. Cloud, web and mobile technologies are our exciting new raw materials for creating CAD – they are like carbon fiber is to Boeing or battery chemistry is to Tesla. And if used properly, they have tremendous potential to solve many of the problems faced by today’s CAD users.

Carl Bass> The world of LANs, firewalls and identical workstations is aging and being replaced by cloud computing and a wide variety of devices, increasingly powerful and mobile. The architectures of the future will be tuned to combine what’s best done locally with what’s best done on the cloud, giving us access to nearly infinite amounts of computing power, letting us imagine how we would design differently if computing power was unlimited. As an example, Fusion completely utilizes the cloud to offload compute intensive tasks like analysis and visualization. The cloud also allows for fundamentally new ways to structure data so teams can easily share and collaborate, particularly as those interactions reach beyond the firewalls of a single company. And most importantly, this information needs to be available on every device—PCs, Mac, phones and tablets—allowing us to choose the most appropriate device for the task at hand.

3- Design world changed

Jon Hirschtick> The Design World Has Changed – The way that design and manufacturing teams work together has dramatically changed. Teams that used to be under one roof are now fragmented and globally distributed. And teams are also changing faster, with people coming on and off projects all the time. Traditional CAD was never built for this new model of distributed design – we know because we’re the ones who built it.

Carl Bass> The world of our customers has changed greatly. They are working in distributed teams with global and complex supply chains. When legacy 3D mechanical design tools were developed, competitiveness centered on quality. Today, high quality products are table stakes and companies who thrive are focused on innovation and shortening time to market. Just as tools like GitHub have made managing software projects much easier, we’re doing the same for design and engineering projects. We’re building a tool where everyone can work together and where data management and collaboration are foundational, not an afterthought.

Overall, I’ve got an impression that Carl and Jon are in agreement about many things. It would be interesting to see what will be a difference between Onshape and Fusion360. Actually, you have an opportunity to listen to both Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick at DEVELOP3D Live next month in Warwick, UK. Both are keynote speakers -the program is here.

What is my conclusion? I like the way engineering and manufacturing business is becoming more social. I can see it from my perspective of six years of daily blogging about PLM. It means that the way companies are building software is changing too. Both articles are helping to understand the vision and future trajectories of CAD software, collaboration and product data management. My hunch, it is going to bring benefits to customers and industry. The world has changed forever. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Autodesk Fusion Gallery


How to transform old CAD-PDM integration paradigms

January 23, 2015

cloud-pdm-paradigm

Integration of CAD and PDM is a field with long history of battles, innovation and failures for the last 15-20 years. You can hardly undervalue the importance of integration between CAD and data management tools. For some time in the past CAD and PDM were separate systems. Engineers had to switch from CAD to PDM to perform specific tasks related to data management functions. To integrate PDM tools inside CAD was one of the greatest ideas of 1990s, which improved significantly what we call today “user experience”.

However, the complexity of data management interfaces was always something that made engineers uncomfortable. Another innovative approach that was introduced in the field of integration between CAD and PDM was to embed PDM tools into File Explorer user interface. One of the companies that did it back in 2000s was Conisio (later SolidWorks Enterprise PDM). The idea got lot of traction and allowed to engineers to work with a familiar file based interface while in fact using PDM tools.

People are hard. Especially, when it comes to adopting of new paradigms. Dassault System blog SOLIDWORKS and PLM: No Fear Required brings an interesting perspective on integration between ENOVIA PLM and SolidWorks.

3DEXPERIENCE platform offers a fresh approach to this problem. Recognizing that our existing Enterprise PDM solution has been greatly accepted by the design community, the same R&D group has designed a new product that offers the usability of EPDM but actually stores the data in a broader and more capable PLM solution. The result is the SOLIDWORKS Collaborative Innovation Connector, a product that works and acts much like a workgroup solution would but gives the designer just enough access to the PLM functionality to innovate their processes beyond what they can do today in a PDM environment.

The following video is one of the confirmation for that. You can see how ENOVIA PLM traditional web interface is morphing to provide File-Explorer user experience for SolidWorks users. What I found specifically interesting is that you can hardly distinguish between ENOVIA PLM and SolidWorks EPDM, which has very similar user experience for both file explorer and SolidWorks UI.

The video about ENOVIA SolidWorks integration made me think about what can be a new PDM paradigm as we move forward into cloud future. I’d like to bring few references to new products and companies in that space – GrabCAD, Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape.

Fusion360

At recent Autodesk University in Las Vegas, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass presented the evolution of Fusion360 and its connection with cloud services such as Autodesk A360. According to Carl Bass, you can think about Fusion is a GitHub for engineers. Combined with A360, Fusion is a full digital re-imagination of how designers and engineers will collaborate – online and social. What is important to understand is that A360 provides data and collaboration backbone for Fusion360, so engineers are not facing file-based operations like in traditional desktop CAD tools.

carl-bass-fusion-360-au2014-2

Onshape

Onshape is a new company re-imagining CAD for Google era. Large group of Onshape founding team is coming from SolidWorks. Last week, Onshape started to blog. One of the things I captured from Onshape blog is their claim to rethink PDM role and appearance for cloud CAD. You can read some of my thoughts here – Future CAD won’t require PDM. Here is quote from Onshape blog:

on-shape-world-changed

We tried with traditional PDM, but fundamentally the architecture of copying files around, to and from servers and desktops, is just not a good basis for solving version control and collaboration problems. We think we have a better way to solve the problems, and no PDM system is needed.” Mac, Windows, phone or tablet. No PDM system needed. The files stay in one place. Different UI look. Now those sound like interesting and wonderful things. We’ll continue to anxiously anticipate what they have planned and what you have to say about it.

GrabCAD

GrabCAD workbench is another system that introducing a different experience by merging cloud and file-based data management operations. GrabCAD didn’t develop CAD system as it was predicted by some CAD industry insiders. However, GrabCAD Workbench is a PDM system on the cloud that can remind you some elements of Dropbox combined with CAD viewer and ability to control file revisions.

grabcad-workbench

What is my conclusion? Existing paradigms are hard to change. In my view, engineers are one of the most innovative groups of people. However, when it comes to their own tools, engineers are very conservative. You can easy expect the following vision for data management from an engineer – “I want to work with my designs (files), please leave me alone and stop selling me PDM tools”. However, here is the thing – collaboration can make a difference. The integration of data management and collaboration can provide a significant advantage to engineers in a modern mobile and distributed environment. This is a key thing, in my view. Cloud and mobile collaboration will change CAD /PDM integration paradigm in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will search replace engineer’s brain in the future?

January 17, 2015

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Computers are changing the way we work. It is probably too broad statement. But if I think about the fact today is Friday afternoon, it should be fine :). I want to take a bit futuristic perspective today. Google, internet and computing are good reason why our everyday habits today are different from what we had 10 years ago. Back in the beginning of 2000s we’ve been buying paper maps before going on vacation and kept paper books with phone numbers of people we need. Look how is it different now. Maybe we still need to make a hotel reservation before the trip, but most of the thing we do can be achievable online via internet and mobile devices.

A month ago, I posted about connecting digital and physical entities. I was inspired by Jeff Kowalski presentation at AU 2014. You can get a transcript and video by navigating to the following link. The idea of machine learning and "training" computer brain to find an optimal design is inspiring. The following passage from Kowalski’s presentation is a key in my view:

…we’re working on ways to better understand and navigate existing solutions that might be relevant to your next design project. Using machine learning algorithms, we can now discover patterns inherent in huge collections of millions of 3D models. In short, we can now discover and expose the content and context of all the current designs, for all the next designs. Taxonomies are based on organizing things with shared characteristics. But they don’t really concern themselves with the relationships those things have with other types of things — something we could call context. Adding context reveals not only what things are, but also expresses what they’re for, what they do, and how they work.

Nature explores all of the solutions that optimize performance for a given environment — what we call evolution. We need to do the same thing with our designs. But first we have to stop "telling the computer what to do," and instead, start "telling the computer what we want to achieve." With Generative Design, by giving the computer a set of parameters that express your overall goals, the system will use algorithms to explore all of the best possible permutations of a solution through successive generations, until the best one is found.

Another time, I’ve was recently thinking about artificial intelligence, machine learning and self-organized systems was my article – How PLM can build itself using AI technologies. The idea of The Grid that allows to self organize website based on a set of input parameters and content learning is interesting. It made me think about future PLM system that self-define system behaviors based on the capturing of information and processes from a manufacturing company.

The article Google search will be your brain put another interesting perspective on the evolution of computer and information system. Take some time over the weekend and read the article. The story of neural nets is fascinating and if you think about a potential to train the net with the knowledge of design, it can help to capture requirements and design commands in the future. Here is an interesting passage explaining how neural nets are working from the article:

Neural nets are modeled on the way biological brains learn. When you attempt a new task, a certain set of neurons will fire. You observe the results, and in subsequent trials your brain uses feedback to adjust which neurons get activated. Over time, the connections between some pairs of neurons grow stronger and other links weaken, laying the foundation of a memory.

A neural net essentially replicates this process in code. But instead of duplicating the dazzlingly complex tangle of neurons in a human brain, a neural net, which is much smaller, has its neurons organized neatly into layers. In the first layer (or first few layers) are feature detectors, a computational version of the human senses. When a computer feeds input into a neural net—say, a database of images, sounds or text files—the system learns what those files are by detecting the presence or absence of what it determines as key features in them.

So, who knows… maybe in a not very far future CAD and PLM systems will be providing a specific search based experience helping engineers to design and manufacturing in a completely different way.

What is my conclusion? While it still sounds like a dream, I can see some potential in making design work looks similar to search for an optimal solution with specific constraints and parameters. A well trained algorithm can do the work in the future. Just thinking about that can fire so many questions – how long will take to train the net, what will be a role of engineers in the future design and many others. But these are just my thoughts… Maybe it will inspire you too. Have a great weekend!

Best, Oleg


Future CAD won’t require PDM

January 13, 2015

on-shape-pdm-1

Let’s be honest. Engineers hate data management. This is something that stands between their engineering creativity and formal configuration control. Check-in/check-out are two most painful functions for CAD users when it comes together with PDM. I recall my very old blog from 2011 speaks about the notion of "invisible PDM". Navigate your browsers to PDM. Pre-configured? Painless? That was my conclusion back four years ago:

Engineers normally dislike PDM functions. They are trying to avoid it as much as possible. Therefore, PDM systems are not as popular when it comes to implementations. It requires time, cost and affect CAD functionality. However, the industry perception is that you need to have PDM to control your data. CAD vendors are trying to embed PDM functions into CAD packages and improve vertical integration between CAD and PDM packages. Can it be completely pre-configured and painless? I’m not sure. I think, the best PDM engineers can think about is the “invisible PDM”.

Solidsmack article about OnShape new CAD system put an interesting perspective on future PDM option for CAD:

We tried with traditional PDM, but fundamentally the architecture of copying files around, to and from servers and desktops, is just not a good basis for solving version control and collaboration problems. We think we have a better way to solve the problems, and no PDM system is needed.” Mac, Windows, phone or tablet. No PDM system needed. The files stay in one place. Different UI look. Now those sound like interesting and wonderful things. We’ll continue to anxiously anticipate what they have planned and what you have to say about it.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is changing paradigms and we are going to see a different user experience appears in engineering software – CAD, PDM and beyond. It can shift the way people are collaborating and eliminate the need for painless check-in/check-out functions that are moving files between servers and desktops. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit OnShape


Why today’s CAD & PLM tools won’t become future platforms?

January 12, 2015

yesterdays-tools-are-failing-todays-engineers

PLM business and software vendors are transforming. Manufacturing companies are looking for new type of solutions that can give a faster ROI as well as become a better place for engineering and manufacturing innovation. The dissatisfaction of customers about slow ROI and low value proposition is growing. Back in 2012 I was listening to Boeing presentation – Reaching for the value of PLM at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. You can read my notes in the old blog post – PLM Innovation: Who will provide PLM to Boeing in 2015. I hope to hear more about new PLM trends at upcoming PLM Innovation congress in Dusseldorf next month and later this year at PI Americas in Boston in November 2015.

Earlier last year I posted – Traditional PLM have reached their limits. My main point was around ability to PLM platform to support a continues pipeline of business solutions in current business environment. Integration is one of the key inhibitors that preventing easy PLM implementation and deployment. However, from a broader perspective, existing PLM platforms were invented 10-20 years ago and vendors made only minor changes since then. In my view it means a lot in terms of changing paradigms of today’s business and computing environment and processes.

I found an interesting explanation about distribution nature of design in a recent blog by OnShape by Jon Hirschtick – Why we started from scratch (again) in the CAD business:

The Design World Has Changed – The way that design and manufacturing teams work together has dramatically changed. Teams that used to be under one roof are now fragmented and globally distributed. And teams are also changing faster, with people coming on and off projects all the time.

on-shape-website

Another provoking statement was made by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass at few conferences last year – Why yesterday’s tools are failing today’s engineers”. He speaks abut inefficient tools and a conflict of paradigms. You can watch his presentation here:

carl-bass-why-yesterday-tools

My attention was caught by CIMdata post – Platformization: The Next Step in PLM’s Evolution by Peter Bilello. An article speaks about what future development can support PLM growth and, specifically, about the impact of circular economy in manufacturing. Here is an interesting passage:

So what should/will the PLM enabling innovation platforms of the future look like? In my opinion, these platform-centric solutions need to be reliable, robust, and boundaryless. Reliable solutions must be able to withstand multiple system upgrades and platform migrations. In turn, these robust solutions must be adaptable, maintainable, extensible, scalable, reconfigurable, compatible, and stable. And finally, these boundaryless solutions must be free of artificial limitations on functionality that are imposed by the marketplace segmentation of design and engineering systems with conventional architectures. Meeting these characteristics will be a tall order for many of today’s commercially available PLM solutions, but one that must be met for the future of PLM to be successful.

I specially liked a notion of boundaryless solution and conventional architecture. It hard to say what is behind, but I wanted to speculate and connect it one of my previous articles – the end of single PLM database architecture is coming. To me it make sense – the amount of data is growing, companies are getting even more distributed, distributed design nature becomes a norm.

What is my conclusion? Existing tools and platforms limitation can slow down engineers and companies to innovate. Desktop tools and existing database architectures are limiting ways to implement and use them for new innovative process. Future PLM platforms will re-think existing design, product data management and business process paradigms by making them distributed and boundaryless. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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