From CAD file versions comparison to cloud PDM

December 21, 2013


A trend towards moving design related work to the cloud is growing. Despite a chorus of security, speed and connectivity concerned people, we can see how companies are growing their cloud data management solution towards supporting more robust features online. Few months ago, I was posting about Github moving towards the support of 3D models – GitHub PDM: is it for real? The ability of GitHub to work with 3D models together with core SCM functionality created an interesting tool for a specific market niche. Data management for individual designers, 3D printing offices and small teams.

Yesterday, my attention was caught by TechCrunch article – GitHub Adds 3D Modeling Features That Make It A Printer-Agnostic Choice For Object Sharing. Article speaks about GitHub adding a very specific 3D feature – ability to compare and finding difference in models. The following passage explains how it works.

…basically it takes each version and then overlays over the next using some nice transitions. Not unlike code diffs – the processes of comparing two iterations of a piece of software – this gives you far more control over the design process and lets you see where someone screwed up (or did something amazing).

Picture below shows how it looks like in the user interface:


Interesting enough, this feature reminded me another solution – GrabCAD CPD. GrabCAD recently introduced Workbench as part of their collaborative product development (CPD) suite. You can read my blog from last month – GrabCAD CPD wants to disrupt CAD file management. One of the GrabCAD Workbench features – visualization and comparison of versions.


Both GrabCAD and GitHub features made me think about new trend in cloud PDM development going bottom up and starting from very simple storage, file manipulation and sharing. Now it comes to revision comparison. Opposite to PDM dinosaurs trying to establish full top down file control and data management, these online tools are trying to find a right “feature” that will give them wide customer adoption.

What is my conclusion? Cloud provides an interesting opportunity to develop old solutions differently. GitHub and GrabCAD are not selling PDM first, but provide platforms for share data and compare revisions. Between these two, GrabCAD is probably looks more like a traditional PDM. GItHub popularity among software developers and SCM feature set can create an interesting perspective for different people in organization – software engineers, mechanical engineers, etc. to share the same platform. It means broader adoption – PDM industry was looking for these last 2 decades. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

GitHub PDM: Is It For Real?

September 19, 2013

GitHub is a well known social network for programmers. According to Wikipedia article, 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 code repository site for open source projects. If you in a development space these days, it is hard to believe you are not aware about GitHub. The statistic of GitHub usage is amazing – On 16 January 2013, GitHub announced it had passed the 3 million users mark and was then hosting more than 5 million repositories.

GitHub made an initial 3D entrance earlier this year by providing support for 3D. You might notice my article – 3D printing, GitHub and PDM erosion. However, if you are mechanical engineer, GitHub is probably new territory for you. However, the question I want to task today – for how long? Navigate your browser to the following TechCrunch article – GitHub Adds 3D Modeling Features That Make It A Printer-Agnostic Choice For Object Sharing. In a nutshell, it means you can use GitHub to manage your STL files. The new feature allows you to compare geometry and by doing that, create sort of 3D revision management functionality on top of GitHub. Here is how this functionality explained by GitHub folks:

How does this work? We take both versions of the model, and using binary space partitioning, we compute the added, removed, and unchanged parts. This is done using csgtool, a C library paired with a Ruby gem via FFI. These pieces are cached and displayed by the 3D viewer we already have, though we color them differently and play with their transparency to help illustrate the changes.

The new functionality announced by GitHub made me think again about the potential opportunity GitHub can discover in manufacturing space. The first time, I shared it in my post exactly one year ago – What is behind GitHub for CAD marketing buzz? That story wasn’t specifically about GitHub. I mentioned few companies that actively using "GitHub" buzz to market their new approach in PDM/PLM space – GrabCAD, I can confirm that all companies made some progress towards delivery of new online work paradigm. It obviously includes new PDM paradigms as well. One of them is GrabCAD Workbench. The ideas how to convert close engineering CAD/PDM world into open and dynamic environment is widely discussed among vendors and industry pundits. The idea of viewing of 3D models on GitHub is getting traction too.

PDM + SCM = ?

Traditionally, Product Data Management (PDM) was focused on the world of mechanical engineers. EDM, TDM, PDM… these are systems that originally were born to manage mechanical CAD documents. Opposite to that, software configuration management (SCM) was established as a separate domain to provide source and revision control for software projects. Will these two worlds continue to be distinct and manage data in a separate way? When the number of software code is skyrocketing in every manufacturing product, I can easy see how PDM and SCM domains will converge in a new software discipline sooner than later.

What is my conclusion? The idea of innovation in PDM space is getting some traction. Even, an old fashion PDM systems are still "safe harbor" for most of manufacturing companies and engineers these days, I can clearly see new trends and interest from engineers how to manage data in a different way. CAD/PDM vendors need to take note before they will find mechanical engineers using GitHub repositories to manage CAD data. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

3D printing, GitHub, and PDM erosion

January 4, 2013

3D printing is still a narrow niche play zone. In my view, we are not going to see 3D printer at every home soon. At the same time, manufacturing companies and larger service vendors are getting more and more interested in the 3D opportunity. As it happens with regular printers and scanners in offices, these resources are often shared and can be used by more than one person in a company. Looking back, print management and remote printing utility or service was one of the most requested functionality in early EDM/PDM systems. Guess what? The same is going to happen with 3D printing nowadays.

The following article caught my attention earlier today – GitHub Codes Up Computer-Less 3-D Printer Software. For those of you not aware, GitHub is hosted document revision control system. According to Wikipedia: 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] In other words, if you are software developer, the change you and/or your team will end up using GitHub for source control management is pretty high.

The problem is that 3D print job takes a lot of time. You don’t want to hook your computer and keep it busy with this job. Remember old pen plotters 20 years ago? The problem is exactly the same. According to the article, GitHub will provide a service to send print jobs to 3D printer remotely. Here is the quote:

GitHub, the popular and well-funded version-control company, is entering the 3-D printing market. They aren’t jumping into the world of hardware (not yet at least), but instead are automating tedious workflow issues, namely printing parts without leaving a laptop tethered to the 3-D printer for hours at a time. Their solution, called Make Me, allows users to push files to the MakerBot via HTTP and monitor the build process via webcam.

However, I found the following passage even more interesting.

The tool itself is a handy utility, but it also helps illuminate GitHub’s corporate culture. “We tend to do these internal hacks/projects in three stages,” says Zach Holman, a developer at GitHub. ”Get something cool (new technology, 3-D printer, what have you); hook it up to a rudimentary service that we can interact with through Hubot, our chat room robot; build on top of it and do something pretty awesome we couldn’t really predict in the first place. So, from that perspective, we’re on stage two. Curious to see what’ll happen in the future (if anything!)”

It made me think beyond "remote printing" idea. Software is a significant part of every manufactured product these days. Mobile phone, automobile and aircraft are containing huge amount of software code that needs to be managed by development and engineering. To manage software versions is one of the requirements we started to hear more and more during PDM/PLM implementations. PLM vendors are starting to pay attention to that. Take a look on PTC/MKS acqusition or TeanCenter mechatronic process management.

What is my conclusion? Business environment is changing very fast these days. Proven open source software combined with some good ideas can provide a good foundation for new innovative projects. How long will to build some PDM rudimentary services for GitHub to provide a solution to small manufacturing firms management 3D CAD and software design project? Probably not much and it can become a holiday or summer time project for one of GitHub developers. PDM/PLM vendors can discover a new competition coming from unusual and unexpected direction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

What is behind “GitHub for CAD” marketing buzz?

October 16, 2012

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, 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: blast out of beta, snags "GitHub for 3D design’ title. Here is how Josh describes

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. press release outlines the following functionality of 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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