January 21, 2008
SpaceClaim Releases Low-Cost 3D Products
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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SpaceClaim Corp., a provider of 3D design solutions, announced the introduction of its SpaceClaim LT (USD $695) and LTX (USD $895) 3D design products, and in the process, has established state-of-the-art solid modeling as a companion to existing design workflow. For the first time, anybody can work in 3D without the hindrances of the traditional CAD learning curve and associated CAD costs.

SpaceClaim LT and LTX are ideal for designers, architects and engineers who already have efficient and cost-effective 2D tools, as well as hobbyists who would take advantage of affordable 3D design software. SpaceClaim’s general-purpose solid modeling adds value to existing processes, enabling customers to combine 2D and 3D techniques to enhance the vast breadth of use cases where 2D tools - such as the AutoCAD family of products.

SpaceClaim LT and LTX feature the ability to:

• Quickly create 3D solid models

• Open, edit, and document 3D solid models from colleagues, suppliers, and customers

• Bring 2D drawings into 3D to improve communication and accuracy

SpaceClaim LT and LTX leverage the identical software architecture and technology of the company’s flagship design system, SpaceClaim Professional 2007+, providing users a revolutionary solid modeling environment with a modern user interface. Unlike traditional history-based modelers that require operators to be trained in feature programming, SpaceClaim delivers a radical new paradigm for creating 3D solid models. SpaceClaim models can easily be moved into popular 2D and 3D offerings, where they can be further documented, manipulated, and rendered.

“I’m thrilled about SpaceClaim LT and LTX for the metal working industry,” said Dan White, President of Keuka Studios, a custom fabricator of architectural iron work. “Much of this industry is based in 2D, and SpaceClaim appears to be the first 3D tool that’s practical for our business.”

“SpaceClaim is accessible to all designers, regardless of their trade, while traditional solid modeling systems tend to require dedicated operators running domain-specific, vertical applications,” said Mike Payne, SpaceClaim Chief Executive Officer. “We’re making 3D as straightforward to use as 2D and therefore we expect it to become as ubiquitous.”

The main differences between SpaceClaim’s products are import and export capabilities, as well as some options and services that are available with SpaceClaim Professional 2007+. SpaceClaim LT provides import of STEP, IGES, DXF, DWG, BMP, JPG and PNG file formats and export of DXF, DWG, XAML, STL, VRML, BMP, JPG and PNG file formats. SpaceClaim LTX provides these capabilities as well as export of STEP and IGES files for other 3D systems.

SpaceClaim LT and LTX customers can apply 50% of the cost of SpaceClaim LT or LTX toward the purchase of SpaceClaim Professional 2007+ within the first six months. SpaceClaim 2007+ includes a range of modules such as 3D data exchange (including Rhino and other popular mechanical CAD formats), CATIA, JT Open, sheet metal, TraceParts standard parts library, ECAD and ANSYS integration.

Available immediately, SpaceClaim LT and LTX are offered in English, Japanese, German, French, Korean, Italian, Traditional and Simplified Chinese languages and can be purchased online through SpaceClaim and its network of resellers. Regional pricing is available online.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

Although less than a year since I became aware of it and its initial product launch, SpaceClaim, the company, has been a busy place the past few weeks. First some of its employees were cut loose, including COO Mike McGuinness who departed. However, this alone isn’t all that unusual for companies at this stage in their lives, as well as cutting costs to appease the venture capitalists funding the company. Then came this announcement for the lower cost products with import/export capabilities being the main differentiators between them.

According to the company, SpaceClaim LT uses the same software architecture as the flagship product, SpaceClaim Professional 2007+; the main differences being the import/export capabilities. With SpaceClaim LT you can import STEP, IGES, DXF, and DWG file formats; and export DXF, DWG, XAML, STL, VRML, BMP, JPG, and PNG file formats. SpaceClaim LTX is identical to SpaceClaim LT with the additional ability to export STEP and IGES files for other 3D systems. That’s a lot of formats, and thankfully, SpaceClaim has not felt it necessary to burden us with yet another proprietary one.

For both SpaceClaim LT and SpaceClaim LTX, live support is not included, maintenance is not offered, and service packs are included through to the next release only. There’s also no API support for either of the new products, so no add-ins. However, this is probably intentional – if you could tack on enough add-ins via the API, why would you need SpaceClaim Professional? Even with these limitations, both of the products seem like reasonable deals when cost and level of functionality weigh in. They’re even less expensive than some 2D CAD packages, including AutoCAD LT’s retail price.

Will the new products be enough this time around and give SpaceClaim some much-needed market presence? That’s hard to say because it’s a much different world in the MCAD market than it was 20, 10, 5, or even 2 years ago. That is to say, the MCAD market has become much more competitive.

Targeted at the casual CAD user, SpaceClaim’s products have ACIS as its underlying geometric modeling kernel (not that that makes a huge difference anymore). From the beginning, one of the main focuses of the product was to make it as intuitive as possible for users new to CAD or those who had experienced difficulties with it in the past, meaning that it was “designer oriented,” and not necessarily “operator oriented.” It has an “open” ASCII-readable product structure and can be used in using top-down or bottom-up design methods. It could be used as a standalone design product or in a complementary role alongside another MCAD application, such
as SolidWorks, and the company thus far has really stressed the latter role. This is one of the difficulties I have had with SpaceClaim since the start, namely, having to purchase an additional CAD product to supplement one I already have.

Is SpaceClaim Professional as intuitive as the company insists? I’m not going to speculate on that one until I have some personal hands-on experience with it; and I hope to do so in the coming weeks.

Will SpaceClaim succeed where others have also succeeded, but also where many have failed? That’s really a loaded question for a number of different reasons. I would have to say, that while the odds are against it, you can’t say they’re not trying to make it. The company has been heavily scrutinized by industry pundits and the competition, but appears to have remained resilient. There is still an untapped resource of future revenue from current 2D users and every vendor is going after them, and this is where SpaceClaim LT and LTX might do well. Does the MCAD market really need another product? That’s for the market to decide.

The Week’s Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

Dassault Systemes announced that CATIA was used in the development of nearly 75 percent of the introductory and concept vehicles launched at the 2008 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) taking place in Detroit. In ten years, the number of new vehicle models has increased by 33 percent. The latest release of CATIA empowers powertrain and chassis designers with the debut of breakthrough auto-draft capabilities, as well as introducing end-to-end industry process coverage for composite design to manufacturing, electrical harness creation and documentation, and printed circuit-board design. It also consolidates functional modeling support for the design of complex machined parts,
extending the approach to more manufacturing processes.

Cimatron Limited, a provider of integrated CAD/CAM solutions for the toolmaking and manufacturing industries, and Gibbs System, Inc., also known as Gibbs & Associates, developer of GibbsCAM, software for programming CNC machine tools, announced they have completed the merger of Gibbs into a newly established US subsidiary of Cimatron, as previously announced on January 2, 2008.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.


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