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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has over 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design … More »

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

May 1st, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

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.

The two companies know each other pretty well because SpaceClaim and ANSYS have partnered in the past to offer customers ANSYS SpaceClaim Direct Modeler. Since 2009, SpaceClaim had been available as an option to ANSYS customers for enabling simulation engineering teams to address business, engineering, and geometry issues in 3D.

ANSYS SpaceClaim Direct Modeler brought 3D solid modeling to analysts who work in a 3D world but do not want to be forced into becoming experts in traditional, feature-based CAD systems. It enabled product development and design engineers to create and modify 3D geometry models without needing to learn complex CAD systems. As a result, simulation could be conducted earlier in the product development process, where it can have the most impact on performance, cost, and time-to-market.

ANSYS’ long-term vision is “Simulation Driven Product Development,” where organizations derive value by using computer simulation early in the design cycle to predict how a product will perform in the real world. With the addition of SpaceClaim, ANSYS will provide customers with a 3D direct modeling solution for creating new concepts and then leveraging the simulation to iterate designs. The broad appeal of the SpaceClaim technology can help ANSYS deliver simulation tools to the non-traditional CAD user, which is a good thing, especially for potential market – at the earliest stages of the design cycle.

Since ANSYS has always been an essentially open platform and SpaceClaim’s offerings are also relatively CAD-neutral, users can modify geometries regardless of the system in which they were created – and this is a good thing.

According to the company, the benefits of the acquisition include:

  • Acceleration of ANSYS’ technological product roadmap and longtime vision for Simulation Driven Product Development. SpaceClaim can help simplify and automate what has traditionally been a time-consuming process of preparing geometry for use in a simulation system, enhancing ease-of-use to help ANSYS accelerate product adoption and the growth of the simulation market overall. The transaction enables ANSYS to accomplish what would have taken the company many years (if ever) to develop alone.
  • Enhanced customer offering through complementary technologies. The transaction enablesANSYS to provide its customers with a 3D direct modeling solution to author new concepts and then leverage simulation to iterate on these designs.
  • Drives growth through an expanded customer base and cross-selling opportunities. The broad appeal of SpaceClaim’s technology can help ANSYS deliver simulation tools to any engineer in any industry – at the earliest stages of the design cycle – expanding ANSYS’ user base from analysts and expert users to 5 million design and systems engineers. This, I believe was the primary motivation behind the acquisition – millions of prospective customers.
  • Increased innovation. SpaceClaim’s flagship product is SpaceClaim Engineer, 3D direct modeler, and offers UI/UX design for both 3D applications and mobile devices.

“This transaction is consistent with our strategic vision and M&A strategy, and accelerates our technological product roadmap to enhance our customer offering and drive growth,” said Jim Cashman, president and CEO of ANSYS. “SpaceClaim is an exciting addition to our portfolio, as it addresses unmet 3D modeling needs in the conceptual modeling, manufacturing and 3D printing spaces, which represents an audience of 5 million users. In addition to driving innovation, the addition of SpaceClaim helps ANSYS accelerate the growth of the simulation market by broadening our user base from analysts and expert users to the millions of design and systems engineers in the industry. We welcome the SpaceClaim team to ANSYS.”

Founded in 2005, the company has never been shy about how it stacks up against and trumps the competition with regard to cost and ease of use and continued to tout those claims with each succeeding release. Founded or unfounded? True to an extent, but really not at the level the marketeers had hoped for.

Targeted at the so-called “casual” CAD user, SpaceClaim’s products have ACIS as the 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 (and now simulation) 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.

SpaceClaim 2014

As it evolved, SpaceClaim’s customer base continued to expand with each release and includes several manufacturing heavy weights, including Bosch, Ford Motor Co., General Dynamics, GE Aviation, Toyota, and Volvo, among others.

Manufacturing came a long way in SpaceClaim, probably owing in big part to the company’s relationship with TRUMPF, a big player in sheet metal fabrication machinery and industrial lasers.

At one time, SpaceClaim claimed that it was the most comprehensive JT editor on the market. Quite a statement. I always wondered what Siemens PLM Software had to say about that, but they would never comment.

Also, SpaceClaim positioned direct modeling as its product, and not just a feature or capability. SpaceClaim bet the farm on that one, because direct modeling is all they do.

While I had been somewhat skeptical about SpaceClaim’s long-term prospects, I have tracked SpaceClaim and its products and have seen how they have fared favorably in specific parts of the MCAD marketplace. The acquisition reinforces that they have done quite well in their niches.

Is SpaceClaim as intuitive and easy to use as the company has always insisted? I’m not going to touch that one until I have some personal hands-on experience with it (hopefully soon); however, there are several aspects that continue to make it look promising, especially in light of the ANSYS acquisition.

Now for the million-dollar question, “Will SpaceClaim continue to succeed where others have also succeeded, but also where many have failed?” That’s still really a loaded question for a number of different reasons. I would have to say, however, that while the odds might still be against it, based on the personnel and products coming out of the companies with the acquisition by ANSYS, their collective track record betters those odds in their favor.

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One Response to “ANSYS Acquires SpaceClaim: May the Force(s) Be With Them”

  1. Avatar Heather says:

    As someone who has to work with all CAD interfaces (NX, Creo, SolidWorks, Catia, SpaceClaim), but someone who is the “casual user”, I find SpaceClaim the most intuitive. It used to be that if I needed to create a model for testing, I would open SolidWorks. Now I almost exclusively open SpaceClaim for these needs.

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