Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:
When PTC announced Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5.0, the buzzwords were “Design Without Barriers.” This was a nod toward its new real-time dynamic editing capability and faster performance. It was also a wink toward its communications abilities. I can't get around dynamic editing being big news from the company that gave us parametric modeling. But my guess is that history may also record that social design engineering was the real news in version 5.0.
By social design engineering, I'm not yapping about multi-cultural guest seating arrangements by committee. Nor am I saying that version 5.0 is CAD by Facebook and Twitter – though the idea that a model might notify you that a co-worker is a fan of toolpaths strikes my fancy. Rather, what Pro/Engineer Wildfire 5.0 represents is the beginning of the integration of instant messaging, Wikis, and – yep – Facebook-like functionality into the design engineering workflow. This is fascinating.
The social engineering part of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5.0 comes in the form of Windchill ProductPoint. To make a long story short, Windchill ProductPoint brings Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration technologies into the design engineering milieu.
Now, engineering has always been a quasi-team sport. You design something, and the team rips it apart in a review meeting. Not going to change. But with Windchill ProductPoint, what will change first is having to call a 90-minute meeting just to request a small change in a part. You can now pop an instant message to the guy who owns the model, and the two of you can handle it in a typical IM session.
Or you can capture design decisions, methodologies, all that intellectual property stuff you dump into your work in a Wiki-like file linked with a model. Finally, you can fire up a quick collaborative workspace such as you can on Facebook, enabling a bunch of your colleagues to bring their minds together on a design or a lunch date.
Now, I should say that more than 330 development projects have emerged in Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5.0, making it essentially new product with a long history. It's faster and more user-friendly. There's a new extension for finding electrical sparks (pretty cool), a new Rib tool for your plastics people, the Rendering Extension now includes the mental images rendering engine, and all sorts of improvements across the system. You can learn about much of that from today's Pick of the Week write-up. Make sure to hit the link to get an evaluation unit so that you can see for yourself.
Still, it's the social design engineering part that intrigues me. Back in 1987, PTC changed engineering with its introduction of parametric editing. It took a while for the community to really embrace its new way of doing things. Instant messaging, Wiki-like functionality, on the fly collaboration will take time to worm into your workflow. When they do and when everybody else does as PTC did, you'll wonder how the process ever worked without it.
Thanks, Pal. -- Lockwood.
Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering
Read today's Pick of the Week write-up.