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COFES 2014: Focuses on the Year 2020 and 20/20 Vision

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

I just returned from the Arizona desert and COFES 2014. The annual event (in its fifteenth year), also known as the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES), is more than just an event featuring technology as its central theme for technology’s sake. It’s actually more of an immersive educational experience that brings together many of the best minds in the technical realms of engineering software, hardware, education, and architecture, among many others.

COFES is recognized as a think-tank event that gathers vendors, users, press, and analysts together to discuss the many important issues facing both customers and providers of diverse technologies. The three-day event provides a relaxed and informal atmosphere designed to foster genuine conversation.

According to Cyon Research, the organization behind it, COFES is:

  • A think tank where great minds come together to discuss best practices and to share ideas for managing change
  • A technology summit that promotes discussion and problem-solving among industry thought-leaders, analysts and customers
  • A business event that delivers practical strategies for achieving financial success in the engineering and design technology sector
  • An informal environment where business leaders and technology providers can meet to identify and address key industry issues and challenges

Having been to a few COFES events myself, it is certainly those things, but also a lot more.

The theme for COFES 2014 was “Correcting 2020 Vision,” that forces our attention to look further down the road to a six-year horizon. Many of the discussions centered on the non-linear nature of the future beyond a two-year horizon. The stated goal at COFES 2014 was to help attendees achieve this clearer vision – one that better reflects the business realities we will all face by 2020.

Until the second day of the conference, I couldn’t discern if the 2020 reference was just the year and/or a reference to visual acuity. As it turns out, it was some of both. Although no one can predict the future with absolute certainty, the year 2020 provides a good vision and timeline for what might be on the horizon. The trick is now that the horizon has been set, how do we build the vision?

The format of the Congress encourages active (and sometimes very spirited) exchanges and interactions on everything ranging from PLM to 3D printing to STEM to coding to engineering search engines. The keys are the discussions, dialogs between individuals and not just corporate entities. Discussions take place at all meals, around the pool, outdoors between formal sessions, and around moderated roundtables. Companies, some you’ve heard of and some you haven’t, sponsor briefings in dedicated technology suites. These provide a good opportunity to learn what new and established companies are planning. In any case, all of the discussions point to the value of disagreement, diversity, and respect, as well as rethinking rejected ideas. (more…)

ANSYS Acquires SpaceClaim: May the Force(s) Be With Them

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Well, another CAD company is snapped up, and the technical software consolidation train continues to roll on. That in itself is not too surprising. What is, though, is that a CAE company has acquired a CAD company.

ANSYS announced earlier today that it has acquired SpaceClaim Corp. for a purchase price of $85 million in cash, plus retention and an adjustment for working capital. The transaction closed on April 30, 2014.

ANSYS SpaceClaim Overview
From the beginning, SpaceClaim said it offered a 3D modeling tool that could be used by more than just CAD experts during the product development process (and this is a key point to the acquisition). According to SpaceClaim, this is made possible because of a process, called “direct modeling,” that differs dramatically from traditional CAD software, which is used by a relatively small percentage of engineers – typically late in the development process, to document the detailed design. While direct modeling itself is not unique, SpaceClaims implementation of it is. (more…)

Autodesk Keeps CAM Door Open and Re-Certifies GibbsCAM

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Over the course of the past year, Autodesk has gotten heavily involved with the CAM side of product development.

As a case in point, relatively recently, Autodesk has made it clear that it intends to become a major force in CAM to round out its Digital Prototyping philosophy that also includes design and simulation. As examples to this CAM commitment, in the past year or so it has acquired HSMWorks (a relatively small step in CAM), and more recently announced its intention to acquire Delcam (a relatively giant leap in CAM).

It was really big news when, Autodesk announced its intention to acquire Delcam, one of the world’s leading suppliers of advanced software for manufacturing. The companies offer complementary ranges of software, with Autodesk’s programs for design (CAD) and engineering (CAE) able to be combined with Delcam’s strengths in manufacturing (CAM).

On completion of the acquisition, Delcam will become a subsidiary of Autodesk. It will maintain its focus on continued growth of its market share in the manufacturing sector, counting on added strength that will come from becoming part of a larger organization.

Both Delcam and Autodesk invest heavily in product development, and this will likely continue after the acquisition, as there is likely to be little overlap and duplication of effort.

Delcam is a publicly traded company and will be purchased with cash that Autodesk has stashed outside the U.S., keeping it there most likely for advantageous tax purposes and for opportunities for transactions like this one.

GibbsCAM and Autodesk Inventor Interoperability

Cimatron Limited, a developer of integrated CAD/CAM software for toolmaking and manufacturing, announced this week that its GibbsCAM software has been certified for Autodesk Inventor 2015 under the Autodesk Certified Apps Program. This marks the fourteenth consecutive year that GibbsCAM has been certified under the program.

GibbsCAM directly opens Autodesk Inventor part models, allowing CNC programmers and machinists to program machine tools from the models, extending cost reduction and efficiency through the programming and machining processes. GibbsCAM provides integration with Autodesk Inventor, by directly reading Autodesk Inventor IPT (part model) files, preserving all color information, features and attributes assigned within Inventor to provide continuity in recognizing and communicating part and feature attributes. Alternatively, with the GibbsCAM Autodesk Inventor Add-in, Inventor users can transfer files directly into GibbsCAM with the “Transfer to GibbsCAM” menu option of Inventor software running on the same workstation. Once machining processes are defined in GibbsCAM, they are automatically updated when the Inventor model is revised.

“We are gratified for our continuing partnership with Autodesk and for Autodesk’s recognition of GibbsCAM interoperability with Autodesk Inventor,” said Robb Weinstein, Senior Vice President of Sales and Strategic Planning of Gibbs and Associates, a Cimatron subsidiary. “Our commitment to joint customers around the world remains unchanged, despite changing marketplace dynamics, as we continue to optimize the CNC-programming power and flexibility GibbsCAM provides Autodesk users.”

“We are very pleased to have Gibbs and Associates affirm their continuing dedication to interoperability with Autodesk Inventor through Inventor certification for GibbsCAM,” said Carl White, Senior  Director, Manufacturing Engineering, Autodesk. “Having companies like Gibbs and Associates as partners is highly beneficial to our manufacturing customers.”

In 2008, Gibbs and Associates merged with Cimatron Ltd., and is now operating as a wholly owned subsidiary.

The GibbsCAM product line supports 2- through 5-axis milling, turning, mill/turning, multi-task simultaneous machining and wire-EDM.  GibbsCAM also provides fully integrated manufacturing modeling capabilities that include 2D, 2.5D, 3D wireframe, surface, and solid modeling. GibbsCAM is either offered or endorsed by a number of leading worldwide control and machine tool manufacturers, including GE Fanuc, Infimatic, Siemens, Doosan Infracore, DMG MORI, Haas, Index, MAG, Mazak, Mitsubishi, Okuma, and Tornos.


Jury Awards Millions For Simulation Software Misappropriation (and Misunderstanding?)

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Earlier this week, MSC Software Corp. announced that a jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan found that Altair Engineering willfully and maliciously took MSC Software trade secrets (from Adams simulation software) to use in its MotionSolve product. In other words, the ruling spells out that Altair Engineering knowingly took MSC Software trade secrets with malicious intent.

Keep in mind, though, that this award was no slam-dunk, as the suit was first filed in July 2007 as MSC Software Corp. versus Altair Engineering Inc. The six-week trial ended with two days of jury deliberation.

The jury awarded MSC Software $26.1 million for misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of confidentiality agreements by Altair and two former MSC employees who are currently executives at Altair.

Jurors found that Altair had misappropriated some source code as well as concepts or processes that are used to write the code from MSC, and that the employees had also violated one or more non-solicitation, confidentiality, or severance agreements with MSC.

According to the lawsuit, after Altair hired some former MSC Software employees, Altair began developing a software product called MotionSolve that competed directly with MSC’s Adams/Solver.

MSC had previously alleged that at least eight employees had left MSC between 2005 and 2007 and took jobs at Altair. Five of those employee claims were dismissed prior to trial.


SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual Hits the Market, But Does It Hit the Mark?

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

With surprisingly relatively little fanfare, DS SOLIDWORKS last week announced the availability of its long-awaited new product, Mechanical Conceptual (MC for short). Dassault Systemes says that MC is the first SOLIDWORKS application on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform — “that embraces the new realities of today’s world of design in the age of experience: it is more social and conceptual and delivers on the promise of ease-of-collaboration among key contributors.” All of this is something I’m still unclear exactly what it is, what it does, and what it means.

I contacted Kishore Boyalakuntla, Director, Product Management, SOLIDWORKS, who is in charge of managing Mechanical Conceptual for some clarification on what the press release announcing the launch lacked.

Mechanical Conceptual was formally introduced a few months ago at SOLIDWORKS World with the following four basic tenets — conceptual, social (collaboration), connected, and instinctive. The conceptual part I understand, because that’s the primary purpose of MC. It also lends itself to collaborative methods because it’s a cloud-based application, as well as instinctive, because it has direct modeling/editing capabilities. The connected part, though, especially to SOLIDWORKS is still a bit of a mystery. (more…)

LEDAS Geometry Comparison Technology Embeds ASCON C3D Kernel

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

LEDAS Ltd. and ASCON recently announced the integration of ASCON’s C3D kernel into LEDAS Geometry Comparison technology. According to both companies, this is the first third-party component to benefit from the C3D kernel. Previously, third parties had only developed CAD/CAM software as applications on top of C3D.

Geometry Comparison software deals with the problem of detecting differences in 3D models within a specified tolerance.

LEDAS developed its Geometry Comparison technology to check and locate all of the differences between similar-looking geometric models. These changes can come about through:

  • revisions made to a model
  • from files generated by different CAD systems of the same model
  • the result of polygon and NURBS representations of the same geometry
  • data generated by various steps in the processing of 3D geometry.

When comparing two similar-looking 3D models, it is essential to distinguish between differences that are important and defects that are negligible. So this makes 3D model comparisons very different from a simple text comparison, where only text that is fully identical is considered as having no difference.

Making comparisons between 3D geometry requires operations performed at the most basic levels, and so are usually provided by 3D modeling kernels, of which C3D is an example. Geometry comparison is a component technology powered by C3D, and so this integration expands C3D’s sphere of application. The kernel is now being marketed as a general purpose tool for any engineering software needing advanced 3D modeling.

Until now, geometry comparison has been mostly done through Boolean subtraction operations, which is a core function of geometric kernels, such as Parasolid and ACIS. The difference between 3D bodies is found by subtracting the volume of one body from another.

3D geometry consists of two levels of geometry representation: topology (made of faces, edges, vertices), and underlying geometry (surfaces and curves that define the form of faces and edges). It is relatively easy to map topology of one 3D model to the topology of another model: each entity gets its counterpart, and if mapping for some entities does not exist, then the difference is found at the topological level. It is more complicated to find difference (or to check that there are no differences) when taking into account underlying geometry and specified tolerances. The solution developed by LEDAS makes it possible to detect differences at both the topological and geometric levels.

For those of us who have grown up with and seen the CAD industry evolve, it means experiencing CAD from a relatively narrow perspective, that is, a US perspective. As it turns out, the CAD development realm actually extends far beyond our shores, and is becoming more competitive over time. Some of the most noteworthy competitors are coming from Russia.

One of the more interesting CAD tools I’ve come across in the past few years is from Russia — ASCON’s KOMPAS-3D for associative 3D modeling. Models can be made from original designs, standard part libraries, or combination if the two. While that’s not especially unique, KOMPAS-3D’s parametric technology lets you generate ranges (different configurations) of products based on a single source model.

A distinguishing feature of KOMPAS-3D is that it uses its own modeling kernel and parametric system, both of which were developed at ASCON — something I have always considered an advantage over licensing components that form the basis of a CAD product.

The following video clip provides a brief overview of the KOMPAS 3D geometric modeling kernel:

KOMPAS 3D Modeling Kernel

What the video lacks in detail introduces the possibility that ASCON and its 3D modeling kernel could increasingly become a power to be reckoned with in the future.

A couple of years ago ASCON Group made public its proprietary geometry kernel, C3D, as the foundation for creating CAD systems and applications.

Development of the C3D kernel began in 1995, and became the basis for ASCON’s KOMPAS-3D in 2000. The company continued to update the kernel, and last year launched it as a separate product for the CAD component market. It can handle several aspects of a CAD system, icluding 2D drawing and sketching, 3D hybrid and solid modeling, parametric constraints, and translation.

The main feature of ASCON kernel is that it is comprehensive. The core of C3D combines just about everything necessary for developing engineering application software with modules that include:

  • C3D Modeler — the geometric modeler with functions for 3D solid and hybrid modeling, sketching, and 2D drawing.
  • C3D Solver — the parametric constraints solver with functions for creating and solving parametric constraints on 2D and 3D geometry.
  • C3D Converter — the translator module that reads and writes geometric models in all primary exchange formats.

Keep in mind, though, that the C3D kernel is not the only Russian kernel being developed there. There is also a Russian government-financed mandate to develop a “national” CAD engine, the Russian Geometry Kernel (RGK), a B-rep modeler that can create NURBS curves and surfaces. The RGK is being developed by Russian university mathematicians, and like the C3D modeler, it supports GPU acceleration and multi-threading.

The ultimate winner of the Russian kernel competition is anybody’s guess, but ASCON seems to have a number of technical things in place to make it a real player in the worldwide CAD arena. To a large extent, because it’s in control of its base product components, it may have better control over its destiny in a competitive market.

“We first became familiar with C3D when we began a joint project with ASCON aimed at integrating our LEDAS VDM (Variational Direct Modeling) technology into C3D and KOMPAS-3D,” said Ivan Rykov, CTO of LEDAS. “Our long experience in developing and using 3D modeling software makes it possible for us to easily identify the advantages and bottlenecks of any 3D modeling kernel. C3D made a really positive impression on us while we were testing it in our Geometric Comparison project, especially with regards to its stability and with the technical support from ASCON.”


Building a House with a 3D Printer

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

We’ve all witnessed the explosive growth of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing over the past several years. The possibilities for AM seem limitless and literally grow by the day, for mechanical design and now architecture. Sure, custom printing iPhone cases and jewelry are one thing, but the capabilities of 3D printing have grown so much, in fact, they’re now as big as a house.

The 3D Print Canal House is an exhibition, research, and building site for 3D Printing Architecture. This is a unique project where an international team of partners collaborates in “research & doing” linking science, design, construction and community, by 3D printing a house at an exposition site in the heart of Amsterdam.

3D Print Canal House


MCADCafe Call for Bloggers – Extend Your Reach and Exposure!

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Do you have something to share with the MCAD community, such as opinions, thought-provoking topics, or commentary?, the leading mechanical design, engineering, and manufacturing portal is seeking the following types of blogging contributor categories:

  • Industry Expert/Consultant Blog
    • Provide thought leadership, industry expertise
    • Benefit by promoting yourself and your expertise
    • No cost involved if the article is not promotional in nature
  • Guest Blog
    • Tied to an existing blog on MCADCafe
    •  Write one blog post or post periodically
    • No cost involved if the article is not promotional in nature
  • Custom Blog
    • Will have a unique name and identity
    • Produce at least one blog post per month
    • No cost involved if the articles are not promotional in nature
  • Custom Corporate Blog
    • Industry-leading companies, such as software and hardware vendors, service bureaus, etc.
    • Multiple logins for publishing blog entries from multiple authors
    • Cost is $700/month or $6,000/year.

MCADCafe has 60,000 unique visitors per month; as well as 24,000 subscribers to our daily newsletter and MCAD Weekly. Translation: People like to spend time at MCADCafe.

We’re looking for the following types of content from you:

Tips – in other words “how to do something.”

Success Stories — narratives or interviews about projects you’ve worked on, skill development, or how you have succeeded in your career.

What’s On Your Mind – what do you like, not like, what bothers you about the MCAD industry?

Topics for any of the types of content may range and cover the following (but this is just a sampling of possibilities):

  • Money (making or management)
  • Productivity/Performance tips and best practices
  • Team work or professional partnerships and collaboration
  • Awesome designs and how they were created
  • Communications (either professional interpersonal or marketing)
  • Technology (apps, useful websites, tools, etc.)
  • Hardware and software evaluations and experiences
  • Management (of teams, projects, or time)
  • Professional development (training, books, lectures, videos)
  • Other: Any reasonable topic will be considered


Epson Showcases Its Augmented Reality “Smart Glasses”

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Last year we got pretty excited when Google Glass was first introduced and the possibilities it offered, both generally and for CAD users.

Although I’m gradually coming around, I still personally find the Google Glass technology/device concept intrusive, but have to admit it is innovative and possibly inevitable. Google Glass is still being tested and has received mixed reviews. Even though not generally yet, there are already several places and events where Google Glass will be banned.

According to Google, “Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that is being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project, with the mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer.” Like all things Google, Glass runs under Android, and this might be a good thing for wide acceptance.

Any negativity shown toward the device, however, has not stopped many companies from exploring the possibilities of Google Glass. In fact, a CAD company last year announced an app for Google Glass — TurboSite from IMSI/Design.

OK, TurboSite for Goggle Glass is an AEC application, but you have to believe it could also be used in plant design and verification, as well as facilities management.

As for MCAD, I envision that it could be used in automotive, aerospace, consumer product design sectors, and shipbuilding (after all, a ship is just a horizontal building that floats). This marks the dawn of a new age of design with hardware shrinking from yesterday’s main frames to today’s wearable computers that will only continue to get smaller as their utility becomes bigger.

I’ve heard rumors that Autodesk and SolidWorks may be working on apps for Google Glass and other so-called “smart glasses.”

Earlier this week, Epson America showcased conceptual demos of its second-generation Moverio BT-200 “smart glasses” for augmented and virtual reality experiences at the SXSW Conference in Austin. Augmented reality (AR) allows for a digitally enhanced view of the real world. AR can add layers of digital information on top of items in the world around us.

Epson’s second generation augmented reality smart glasses debuted earlier this year at CES 2014. Keep in mind, though, the Moverio BT-200 shouldn’t be confused as a Google Glass competitor. For example, you wouldn’t want to wear the Moverio everywhere you go. It’s meant primarily for your personal time or maybe on a long flight, but there are certainly business applications for the technology as well. Since the display is visible to both eyes, movies and games translate well to it. Going forward, augmented reality is going to be the focal point for both games and commercial business use.


Book Review: Re-Use Your CAD-The Model-Based CAD Handbook

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Over the course of a year I read a lot of books — technical, non-fiction, hardcopy, and digital. Most of them I get through, although there are some I don’t even try to finish, and a few become favorites and are kept for future reading on my bookshelf. I just finished a book entitled Re-Use Your CAD: The Model-Based Handbook by Jennifer Herron. When I saw Handbook in the title, I thought it would be just a dry reference book, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was much more than that — it’s a good learning resource.

First, a little about the author and model-based engineering/model-based design (MBE/MBD).

I’ve known Jennifer for several years as we’ve crossed paths at software conferences. She is the owner of Action Engineering, a company that specializes in the promotion, process development, and standardization of 3D CAD MBE and MBD. She is an expert in multiple CAD packages, which she uses along with her practical design experience to hone standards and processes that optimize the ROI of all CAD systems.

She also offers model-based documentation education seminars, MIL-STD-31000A schema and modeling best practice training, as well as planning consulting services for Model-Based Engineering implementation. Keep in mind as you read the book that based on her experience, she is a stickler for standards, such as ISO, but you realize that’s probably a good thing.

Her company is a consulting firm that transitions government organizations and companies to effectively and efficiently implement Model Based Engineering. With a specialty in training organizations to document and tailor their business practices to be compatible with CAD, PDM and PLM software tools, Action advises companies in: CAD modeling standards and best practice, designer modeling efficiency, CAD configuration management, MBE training, team collaboration and CAD interoperability.

The concept(s) of MBE/MBD have received a lot of attention in the past few years because this approach handles product development using a digital master model, and not just necessarily CAD. All downstream activities can be derived from the master model to develop a product. The MBE/MBD approach replaces puzzling documents and can minimize the need for physical prototypes before an optimized design has been developed. In other words, engineers and designers can simulate and iterate as much as necessary to refine a model while also meeting requirements and adhering to design constraints.

Now on to the book . . .

Reuse Your CAD Handbook

The book is structured in a logical manner for those both new and experienced with MBE/MBD. Throughout, it stresses the importance of standardizing, centralizing, documenting, and reusing a CAD database. It’s written in a CAD-agnostic manner, so its principles can be applied in any CAD environment, regardless of vendor.

A sampling of some of the topics covered in the book include:

  • Explanation of the philosophy of designing products using CAD model-based life-cycles
  • Implementation guide to model-based commercial (ASME Y14.41), government (MIL-STD-31000A) and company standards
  • Model-based benefits, risks, and action plans
  • 3D MBD model organizational schema
  • 3D MBD model protocols to satisfy the schema CAD agnostically
  • Part and assembly modeling best practice
  • Mass property implementation methods
  • 3D model Data Exchange (DEX) methods
  • MBE support infrastructure requirements
  • Product data management (PDM) fundamentals and requirements


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