How cloud CAD can avoid “double PDM tax”

March 5, 2015

cloud-cad-API

My yesterday post – Will cloud CAD inherit data interoperability problem? raised few interesting discussion about cloud data management in PDM/PLM implementations. How cloud CAD/PDM will make our life simpler? In my view, the most important part is to exclude files from data management chain. By doing that, new cloud based CAD systems are able to make data flow much easier. Existing check-in/out behavior will become redundant in cloud systems, cloud applications can save data instantaneously and redundantly and will allow you to restore to any point of changes. I also hope cloud CAD systems will have lock function in case you want to prevent somebody else from changing your design. The same mechanism will also provide a way to branch design options much easily by leveraging direct data access to all design data stored in the cloud databases. This is my dream scenario.

However, data interoperability of new CAD/PDM bundles seems to be a potential point of failure. And it is can slow down adoption of cloud CAD systems in environments that require integration with existing desktop CAD, PDM and PLM systems. The following Engineering.com article can give you some context to the problem –Dassault or Siemens PLM? The Contrasting Paths of Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo Cars. It speaks about challenges of large manufacturing companies related to usage of CATIA V6 / ENOVIA PDM. Here are few passages that caught my attention:

Volvo invested in Siemens PLM solution Teamcenter as a backbone, and kept CATIA V5. However, the automaker is reluctant to switch to CATIA V6 and the 3DEXPERIENCE/Enovia V6 platform. "We will not use the V6 version if it requires double PDM installations", says VCC’s Andreas Westholm, IT Director – Geely Liaison.

Volvo will not use CATIA V6 if it requires a second PDM implementationAll CATIA files are managed in Teamcenter. Since Volvo does not have any plans at this time to migrate to CATIA V6, they don’t need Dassault’s Enovia PDM as an intermediate step in the data management.

”It is not possible to work effectively with two PDM systems”, asserts the Volvo IT-director. ”And we will not use CATIA V6 if it requires double PDM installations. However, we will bring in a new V5-V6 release that facilitates the import of V6 information”.

Potentially, any cloud CAD (with embedded PDM functionality) can create a situation similar to CATIA V6, which is a problem. Engineering and manufacturing companies have very slow process of new software adoption. So, to be successful, cloud CAD systems will have to co-exist and be used alongside with existing desktop CAD systems. What is even more important, new cloud CAD systems will have to be integrated with existing PLM products to become part of product development processes. How to prevent future cloud CAD systems from a problem described by Volvo? How to avoid future "double PDM tax" on cloud CAD systems?

I think the answer is in a new cloud system architecture. It reminded me one of my old posts – Why PLM needs to learn Web APIs? A potential solution to the double PDM integration problem is future cloud CAD platforms, web APIs and data openness. Think about the way most of modern web platforms are consuming data. Seamless data streaming, avoiding local temp file storage and standard REST-based API is allowing us to create better integration between web systems. This is a way new cloud CAD solutions can be seamlessly integrated into existing PLM solutions and eliminate "double PDM tax".

What is my conclusion? Future of cloud CAD/PDM bundles is promising and can provide many advantages to users – transparent data management, ease of revision management and collaboration. However, it is very important to think how new cloud solutions will be integrated with existing PLM platforms. Openness and web-based APIs are two most critical elements to support integration and adoption of new systems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will cloud CAD inherit data interoperability problem?

March 3, 2015

cloud-cad-pdm-interop

Cloud and CAD are probably getting to the point where it starts become a real thing. Autodesk Fusion360, Onshape, SolidWork Industrial design. It is likely to absorb some PDM functionality to make collaboration, branching, revisions and other data management tasks easier. Cloud CAD means no files, so engineers have nothing to mess with… Life is getting more Googley if you read John McEleney Onshape blog.

However, here is the thing… What if (for some crazy reason, which is easy to imagine when you deal with engineers :)), customer will decide to do a work with two cloud CAD systems? It is not unusual to see multiple desktop CAD systems in engineering organizations, so why cloud CAD will be any different.

In my yesterday blog – Cloud CAD infrastructure is getting more PDM-ish, I draw the picture of cloud CAD/PDM bundle helping us to collaborate and manage revisions. Now how two cloud CAD systems will work together? I’ve been trying to bring my cloud imagination and thought about Google Docs and Office 365 services co-existence. Actually, it is not very nice story- I can easy get my files distributed between my Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive accounts. So, what if my parts will be stored on Google Drive and Assembly on Dropbox? Not sure I will like it…

Similar problem in PLM world created many debates and issues. Do you remember Dassault CATIA V6 story, which required ENOVIA backend to run it? It made few customers unhappy when they discovered that they need to run two PDM/PLM systems. I can see some similarity with multiple CAD/PDM cloud bundles co-existence and interoperability.

What is my conclusion? How engineers will collaborate using multiple CAD cloud software? Cloud technology is great, but it looks like cannot magically resolve some old fundamental problems of multiple systems, collaboration and interoperability. I wish cloud CAD / PDM vendors will think about it upfront before customers will find themselves in the middle of messy CAD / import/export/migrate data scenarios. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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

autodesk-fusion360-rev-branches

carl-bass-fusion-360-au2014-2

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

solidworks-industrial-design-1

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

engineers-plm-brain

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


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