Jeff's MCAD Blogging

Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has over 35 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design and engineering. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CG, CAD, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design community. As editor of ShareCG, … More »

Stratasys Grabs CAD

 
September 30th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Along with SpaceClaim being acquired by ANSYS earlier this year, the CAD consolidation train moves to its next stop with Stratasys announcing that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held GrabCAD in an all-cash transaction.

Stratasys Ltd, of course, is one of the leading global providers of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but is rumored to be in the $100 million range. The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of September (that’s today!), subject to the fulfillment of customary closing conditions. Upon completion of the transaction, GrabCAD will operate as a unit within the Stratasys Global Products and Technology Group. Hardi Meybaum, co-founder and CEO of GrabCAD, will continue to lead GrabCAD within the group.

The company’s flagship product, GrabCAD Workbench is its cloud-based PDM for sharing and managing CAD files. The video provides a quick overview of GrabCAD Workbench.

What IS GrabCAD Workbench?

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CG Market Forecast To Be ~$150 Billion By 2017

 
September 23rd, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

At SIGGRAPH 2014 last month we saw and heard many interesting things that greatly influence the computer graphics market – hardware, software, and services. We were invited to a luncheon sponsored by our friends at Jon Peddie Research that included a presentation on the CG market, entitled “Expectations, Fact, and Fantasy.”

As usual, Jon’s comprehensive presentation covered many aspects of the CG market, but the most telling facts were his forecast that the CG market will enjoy at least 5.5% annual growth for the next few years, and that he thinks the CG market as a whole will exceed $149 billion by 2017.

Interview With Jon Peddie Research and Dreamworks Animation

He said that the computer graphics industry has been a growth industry since it was established in the late 1970s. It has weathered the storms of recessions and has emerged renewed vigor and potential, partly due to a big boost from mobile and the move to 4K, but also from emerging technologies including 3D scanning, 3D printing, augmented reality, and VR.

The computer graphics hardware market was worth $120 billion in 2013 and is expected to exceed $149 billion by 2017, with software growing slightly slower than hardware.

The hardware segment of the CG industry has had steady growth, with the exception of gaming PC sales, which dropped by 3% over the past year. The largest growth has been in workstations and monitors, with (the already high) mobile graphics segment coming in a strong third. Gaming PCs have had steady to strong growth, and the total PC gaming hardware market (which includes aftermarket sales and peripherals) is estimated to be worth over $30 billion. New activity in APIs with developments like AMD’s Mantle, Google’s driver extensions for OpenGL ES, Apple’s Metal, and the promise of DirectX 12 in 2015 all will contribute to faster, richer, and higher resolution graphics for everyone.

For CG hardware, the biggest segment for 2017 will be mobile devices, with forecast sales exceeding $127 billion.

In 2013 the CG software market was worth $14 billion (not counting services, maintenance and other aspects) and is expected to grow to $17 billion by 2017 as the industry shakes off the remaining effects of the recession and starts upgrading software tools. The software suppliers (ISVs) have also changed their sales model moving more services to the cloud.

On the CG software side, CAD/CAM software was the largest single segment, with forecast sales of almost $9 billion in 2017.

We will see the development of traditional segments like CAD/CAM expand as new design approaches in automotive, aerospace, and architecture are adopted. The visualization market is showing significant growth due to the availability of more powerful and less expensive visualization technologies. GPU compute employing OpenCL and CUDA is penetrating further into new as well as traditional applications.

The software content creation market has been tough for the market leaders. They’re living with a mature market, with little growth, but stability among the competitors. However, there are new opportunities emerging as new approaches to content creation become practical, new distribution channels open up, and young generations arrive with a new fascination for 3D.

The demand for programmers, artists, scientists, and designers has picked up and the CG market is seeing startups arrive in emerging and reborn markets such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and casual games. The arrival of new APIs, and platforms are also stimulating development. Firms are actively looking for people who can use and exploit these new programs and their associated hardware accelerators.

New opportunities are also growing out of mainstream applications for the web and consumer applications. The social web remains a strong engine for growth. Social networks are encouraging people to learn new tools, create content for pleasure, and even look for jobs in the field. What used to be a very closed society of experts is now opening up due to the democratization of CG, fueled by Moore’s law and price-elasticity due to lower software costs.
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MAXON CINEMA 4D Provides Versatile CG Tools for Media, Entertainment, and MCAD

 
September 17th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

During SIGGRAPH 2014, we talked to a lot of attendees and exhibitors. One of the CG software developers we spent time with was MAXON, whose flagship product line is CINEMA 4D. Admittedly, this software product is targeted primarily to the media/entertainment market, but also has a place in the MCAD world as well, just as Autodesk’s Maya and 3ds Max have. Certainly not a huge market, but one that has a place for these specialized applications.

CINEMA 4D is a 3D modeling, animation and rendering application developed by MAXON Computer GmbH (Friedrichsdorf, Germany). It is capable of procedural and polygonal/surface modeling, animating, lighting, texturing, rendering, and common features found in 3D modeling applications.

We spoke with Paul Babb, President and CEO of MAXON for the Americas. He said that CINEMA 4D is an animation product used for motion graphics for broadcast television, visual effects, scientific/medical animation, video game graphics, and architectural and engineering visualization.

At their SIGGRAPH 2014 exhibit, MAXON employed a wide range of artists at the booth showing what CINEMA 4D can do, such as game developers, visual effects artists, and motion graphics experts. Also exhibited at the booth were demonstrations showing integration with the Arnold renderer and the Houdini graphics engine.

What is CINEMA 4D?

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IMTS 2014: Manufacturing Innovation and Much More

 
September 11th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

We just returned from three exhausting but exhilarating days at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2014 in Chicago. This biennial, week-long exhibition and conference is by far the biggest manufacturing showcase in North America. As a matter of fact, it had over 110,000 registrants when we left the show at the end of its third day. IMTS occupies virtually all of the buildings at McCormick Place, covering millions of square feet, so you have to strategize how to see everything you want to see. It showcases just about anything you can imagine for manufacturing – metal cutting, abrasives, additive processes, CAD/CAM, controls, inspection – you name it, and it’s probably at IMTS.

IMTSTV – Live IMTS Coverage

MCADCafe conducted several video interviews that will be available for viewing in the very near future at www.mcadcafe.com. The interviewees were a diverse group, everything from traditional CAD/CAM vendors, to software component suppliers, and even a reseller.

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Communicating PMI With New SOLIDWORKS MBD

 
September 4th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Remember a long time ago when the so-called “paperless office” was just around the corner. Well, we’ve all turned a lot of corners over the years waiting for the nirvana that still seems to be “just around the corner.”

Of course, strides have been made for a way to communicate design engineering information in a paperless manner, but one of the most promising developments has been model-based definition (MBD) and model-based engineering/enterprise (MBE).

We spoke with Aaron Kelly, SOLIDWORKS’ Vice President, User Experience & Product Portfolio Management about many things regarding the SOLIDWORKS 2015 portfolio launch, including a brand new offering called SOLIDWORKS MBD. It is designed to help improve communication between design and manufacturing teams by enabling them to communicate product and manufacturing information (PMI) in 3D. The intent here is to use Model Based Definition and to no longer use 2D drawings to define products.

MBD2_white

SOLIDWORKS MBD

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SIGGRAPH 2014: Clara.io – Cloud-based 3D Modeling, Rendering, and Animation

 
August 27th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Although SIGGRAPH is primarily focused on computer graphics (CG) as it relates to media and entertainment (M&E), there were several technologies that could be used constructively in the MCAD arena.

One of the more interesting ones we came across with possible MCAD implications was Clara.io, a web-based 3D computer graphics software developed by Exocortex, a Canadian software company. Clara.io was announced in July 2013 and first presented as part of the SIGGRAPH 2013 program later that month. With that in mind, we checked it out earlier this month at SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Clara.io: Basics of Polygon Modeling

Clara.io is offered on what the company calls a freemium basis, a pricing strategy by which a product or service (typically a digital offering such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for proprietary features and functionality. Clar.io freemium pricing structure is discussed below.

Clara.io is part of an ongoing proliferation of web/cloud-based 3D technologies. WebGL, HMTL5, CSS3D, and Canvas were the start, and were followed by a myriad libraries and other 3D software that runs inside web browsers, and also can run under any OS, tablet, or smartphone.

Clara.io is an impressive example of such burgeoning cloud-based technology. Instead of being a proof of concept or a set of limited features, Clara.io is a comprehensive 3D app. It’s also open source and promises to support the Blender file format in the future (more about Blender later).

Clara.io: Real-time Collaboration

Clara.io has many interesting following features, including:

  • Hierarchical scene graph
  • Lights and cameras
  • Robust support for Polymeshes, including indexed UV, Normal and Color maps
  • Flexible operators (known as “modifiers” in 3DS Max.
  • Keyframe-based animation
  • Powerful sub-object editing
  • Renderer and pass management
  • Extensive materials
  • Sharing/collaboration capabilities
  • Rudimentary bones and skinning
  • Real-time multi-user collaborative editing
  • Automatic versioning with history (somewhat analogous to parametric, history-based CAD modeling and a PDM system)
  • Plugin model
  • Script log
  • FBX, Collada, OBJ, ThreeJS and STL file format support.

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The (Possible) Future of MCAD CG and Interaction Innovation Showcased at SIGGRAPH 2014

 
August 20th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

 

We just returned from one of the most interesting events of the year for us and one that we always look forward to – SIGGRAPH 2014. SIGGRAPH (short for Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques) is the name of the annual conference on computer graphics (CG) convened by the ACM SIGGRAPH organization.

The first SIGGRAPH conference was in 1974, and this year’s event was held in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.

As usual, we found the most interesting aspects of the conference to be the SIGGRAPH Emerging Technologies program and the exhibit floor.

SIGGRAPH 2014 Emerging Technologies Preview

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Going Mobile with Autodesk’s PLM 360

 
August 6th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

In just about any industry or market segment you can think of, the words “cloud,” “mobile,” and “app” are about as ubiquitous as it gets. PLM is proving no different, although acceptance and implementation seem slow in coming. However, the tide is beginning to turn.

PLM, of course has received considerable support from large organizations, and is finally being embraced by significant numbers of SMBs. To date, the two biggest obstacles for SMBs considering PLM, much less implementing it, have been cost and complexity – whether real or perceived.

Although hardly the first or only one, a couple years ago Autodesk launched a major effort to bring PLM to the SMB masses with the introduction of cloud-based PLM 360. More recently it launched a PLM 360 app for iOS and Android mobile devices.

Autodesk PLM 360 Mobile App Overview

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MCAD Mystery: Whatever Happened To . . . ?

 
July 30th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

If you’ve been around the technical/engineering software business as long as I have, as with any business, nothing stays the same. This includes founders, executives, and other major players who were once prominent in the industry, but for many reasons have moved on. Some, to other companies in the industry, some to other industries, and some who have just plain disappeared. History never stands still and the CAx industry is no exception.

Although it’s a bit dated and based on a research project, check out the video below for a very short recap on the history of CAD:

A Short History of CAD

During the coming weeks and months we’ll try and track down players who were formerly very prominent in the MCAD arena and see what they’re up to now. Some of these folks include:

  • John Walker – Autodesk
  • Mike Riddle – Autodesk
  • Carol Bartz – Autodesk
  • Dominic Gallello – Autodesk
  • Dick Harrison – PTC
  • Steve Walske – PTC
  • Jim Meadlock – Intergraph
  • Joe Costello – Think3
  • Pat Hanratty — MCS
  • Martin Newell – Ashlar
  • Jon Hirschtick – SolidWorks
  • John McEleney — SolidWorks
  • Jeff Ray – SolidWorks
  • Jason Lemon – SDRC
  • Fontaine Richardson – Applicon
  • John Wright – United Computing (later Unigraphics)
  • Thomas Curry – MSC Software
  • Robert Bean – CADKEY

Obviously, this list only scratches the surface of possibilities. If there is anyone currently or formerly renowned in the CAD/CAM/CAE/CAx industry you would like to see us track down and update what they’re up to, send an email to me at jeff@ibsystems.com with a subject line that reads, “Where Are They Now?”, and we’ll do our best to respond in an upcoming blog on a person’s whereabouts and more recent accomplishments.

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PTC Strengthens IoT Position By Acquiring Axeda

 
July 25th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

It appears that PTC is wading deeper into Internet of Things (IoT) waters with the announcement that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held Axeda Corp., a pioneer in the development of technologies that connect machines and sensors to the cloud. Paying approximately $170 million in cash, PTC’s primary motivations behind the acquisition are Axeda’s innovative technology, customer base, and partnerships that could directly complement the PTC ThingWorx business across the entire Internet of Things technology stack.

Axeda IoT ROI and Value Curve Overview

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