PTC announced the availability of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0, a major release of its integrated 3D CAD/CAM/CAE software and a key component of the PTC Product Development System. With this release, PTC expands the industry's most comprehensive parametric solution for product development teams, delivering new industry leading capabilities to help customers optimize key global and electromechanical design processes. Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 enables customers to create innovative, winning products with faster time-to-market, improved quality and reduced costs.
"Discrete manufacturers need a product development system that will help them compete in a fast-paced global environment. They must optimize their product development processes and adopt the latest design solutions that will help them improve their efficiency, time-to-market, product quality and cost," said Marc Halpern, research director at information technology research firm Gartner.
Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 offers powerful new capabilities and usability enhancements that optimize key global design processes and further improve personal and process productivity:
Innovative new Auto Round Technology -- Saves valuable time with automated rounding of even the most complex features. A rounding task which took an expert user 20 minutes to complete was accomplished by Auto Round in 40 seconds.
Improved Large Assembly Performance -- Automated and optimized assembly file management using simplified representations reduces memory consumption by 40% and model retrieval times by 60%.
Enhanced 3D Drawings -- Automatically displays dimensions in 3D drawings which increases design information reuse and delivers production ready drawings. Publishes and accesses saved 3D drawing views in PTC ProductView.
Advancements in Surface Editing -- Helps optimize designs with new capabilities for directly editing surfaces including multi-resolution editing and smoothing.
Faster Surface Removal -- Quickly removes round and hole geometry to prepare designs for mold making or simplify designs for analysis. Reduces model editing time by up to 50%.
New Pro/ENGINEER Tolerance Analysis Extension Powered by CETOL Technology -- This new module quickly analyzes geometric tolerances and variances directly in the CAD model.
New Feature Recognition Tool -- Quickly converts imported geometries to features in your model.
Enhanced Import DataDoctor -- New data repair capabilities and easy-to-use, modernized user interface dramatically improves the ability to reuse legacy and 3rd party data.
Improved Data Exchange -- New and upgraded processors allow customers to better leverage other CAD data (including new module Pro/ENGINEER Interface for JT), publish Pro/ENGINEER data in 3D PDFs, and import exact product representations from ProductView.
New Pro/ENGINEER Rights Management Extension -- This new module persistently and dynamically protects valuable design intellectual property (IP) enabling additional levels of security when collaborating across and beyond the enterprise.
Verification and Validation
Easier and Enhanced Simulation -- Helps customers analyze designs faster and easier with smart diagnostics, improved meshing, better assembly connectivity management and analysis of results.
Manufacturing Tooling and Factory Equipment Design
Improved Usability -- Simplifies and automates the transformation of engineering designs into manufacturing processes with an easy to use, powerful process manager for toolpath definition, annotation features, and other key capabilities.
Electromechanical Design Enhancements
New Ribbon Cabling -- Creates electromechanical designs faster with intelligent, automated capabilities for adding and routing ribbon cables.
Faster Design Collaboration -- New Pro/ENGINEER ECAD-MCAD Collaboration Extension accelerates electromechanical design with a new interface between MCAD and ECAD designs. Users can automatically identify incremental changes and cross-highlight between MCAD and ECAD board designs.
"Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 provides numerous enhancements and resolutions to some key product development challenges," said Frank Menendez, principle engineer, Alcon Research. "We have no doubt that the added functionality and increased flexibility of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0, coupled with the improvements we've seen in Windchill(R) PDMLink(R) 9.0, will assist us in continuing to improve product development processes at Alcon."
"The improvements in electromechanical design capabilities will increase productivity at Daktronics," states Jon Sprang, engineer, Daktronics. "Importing a complex design that used to take over three hours to complete we can now do in about 15 minutes with Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0. Efficient ECAD-MCAD design collaboration is also an area that we have been struggling with. The new ECAD-MCAD collaboration capabilities will help us address these challenges."
"The new capabilities in Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 focus on strengthening key processes that have the greatest impact on the success of a customer's global development initiatives," said James E. Heppelmann, executive vice president, software products, and chief product officer, PTC. "This release also underscores PTC's continued emphasis on quality, usability and responsiveness to customer needs. By constantly evaluating our customers' needs and the trends impacting the industry, PTC has made a significant investment in new capabilities for Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 that will continue to speed new product development in a globally dispersed environment."
Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 was scheduled to be available late in January.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
The newest version of PTC's flagship design application, Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0, was a bit long in coming— almost two years after the previous version rather than the 12 months from many other vendors, although, for various reasons, a lot of users don’t seem to mind a longer release cycle. But for Pro/ENGINEER users this release may prove to be worth the wait. Instead of again just piling on an additional zillion new features and capabilities that only a relative few designers use, PTC (like some of its competitors) chose to improve Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 in other ways that matter to most customers, namely, software stability, better consistency across modeling functions and promotion of more efficient workflows. Although these areas of enhancement may not exactly contribute to a so-called “blockbuster” release, they will definitely prove beneficial to most users in terms of ease of use and productivity, and, afterall, isn’t that what counts most?
Although there are, indeed, several new features and capabilities (listed above), PTC seems to have listened to its customers and focused on the core product. The user interface, for example, continues to get more consistent and Windows-compliant than it's ever been across functions, making these tasks easier and more efficient to accomplish. Many of these tasks are admittedly routine, but tasks that are performed by the vast majority of users. Doing it this way, however, provides a higher return on investment for everybody - customers are more satisfied so vendors feel their development dollars are better spent.
Of course, PTC isn't the only software company taking this approach, but does represent a trend that customers are increasingly getting what they want and pay for. Namely, more stable, and therefore, more reliable software.
One of my main complaints regarding Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3 was the relative difficulty encountered in installing and authorizing the software. Hopefully, that problem has been addressed and resolved this time around. As I've said in the past, I can understand PTC's concern with ensuring that it's dealing with legitimate users, but the installation procedure took much longer than what I'm accustomed to with most other MCAD products.
In the past one of the most daunting aspects of learning and using Pro/ENGINEER was its multiple layers of cascading menus. In addition, one of the biggest obstacles that confronts users new to a CAD product is, "Where do I begin?" These issues seem to have been addressed and resolved through Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire’s user interface, which continues to improve with each release.
At the bottom of the interface is the Dashboard, introduced in the first version of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire. It replaced the antiquated Menu Manager in pre-Wildfire versions of Pro/ENGINEER. The Dashboard is used for one of two modeling approaches in Pro/E and guides you through the process with menus and dialog boxes. With the Dashboard approach, you execute an action first and then select references where the action will be applied. For more advanced users, a second design approach, known as direct modeling, lets you work on a model directly by selecting references first and then applying an action. Most users with some experience will probably prefer the direct-modeling approach over the Dashboard because it's a lot quicker. However, you can combine and use either approach to best suit your needs. Interestingly, and although it may be called something else, an increasing number of vendors have implemented an approach in their products that is analogous to PTC’s direct modeling approach.
As I said at the outset, Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 doesn’t appear to be a “blockbuster” release bloated with new features, capabilities, and bells and whistles. It does, however, seem to offer many things that will make users and their workflows more efficient. It's also more adaptable and this is important because even within an organization with design rules and methods, no two users are the same. Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4.0 demonstrates that PTC is committed to releasing its products with a release strategy and schedule that should benefit its customers.