If you think the development of DARPA’s next-generation amphibious infantry vehicle is a hush-hush project taking place in the secret bowel of a military base, restricted to chief engineers from Northrop Grumman, you’d be wrong. The design and construction of DARPA’s fast, adaptable, next-generation ground vehicle (dubbed FANG) is taking place on the web, in a three-phase contest with cash prizes ranging from $1,000,000 to $2,000,000. Continue reading →
What are your thoughts on the role of social media and mobile apps in the business of manufacturing? Do they have a role to play? Or should they be banned altogether to prevent your business from unnecessary exposure?
Al Bunshaft, once an IBM executive, now calls Dassault Systemes (DS) his home. Last October, when DS decided to buy IBM’s product lifecycle management (PLM) salesforce, Bunshaft, IBM’s VP of PLM sales at the time, joined the new owner. This April, six months after he shed his IBM skin, he became DS’s managing director of Americas. Last week, at DS Customer Conference 2010 (DSCC 2010), Bunshaft was the master of ceremony, shepherding the program and keeping time.
It seems the PLM industry itself is ready to shed its old skin. After three decades of pedaling enterprise visions (and software suites as a means to realize those visions), DS re-engineers itself as the company to bring you “lifelike experiences.” One aspect of that transition is to promote the use of 3D assets created in DS products like 3DVIA, CATIA, and SolidWorks in the same way their physical counterparts would be deployed in real life (for example, using the digital model of a purse that can be rotated, inspected, and opened to sell the purse itself). The other aspect of the transition is to promote the use of social media-like platforms for brainstorming, concept analysis, and project management, just as you would perform these tasks in real life through interpersonal relationships.
“Social innovation and collaboration — we’re part of it, and we think you should be too,” said Bunshaft, a former PLM salesman, in his opening address at DSCC 2010.
DS is currently beta-testing (closed beta, by invitation only) 3DSwYm, a web-based platform for community development and management, targeted at businesses. (Think of it as project management and professional collaboration via enterprise-level Facebook.) Though details about how it’ll be marketed or how much it’ll cost to sign up, Bruno Delahaye, DS’s VP of ENOVIA, revealed the company plans to offer Swym-related services under the SaaS (software as a service) model, hinting at subscription rather than perpetual licensing. (DS’s rival PTC is similarly promoting what it calls social product development, complemented by PTC Windchill SocialLink software.)
Since social media-facilitated interactions tend to generate unstructured data (discussion threads on the strength of certain materials, for example) rather than structured data (3D CAD models and bills of materials), DS hopes its search engine Exalead will give its applications an edge.
In June, DS acquired Exalead, the French search engine that caters to enterprises, for about €135 million (U.S. $166 million). “With Exalead and its partners, we can provide a new class of search-based applications for collaborative communities,” said DS CEO Bernard Charles. Earlier this year, at the user conference for DS subsidiary SolidWorks, DS gave attendees a glimpse of 3D SwYm.
DS is not only pitching social innovation but also using it within its R&D and customer relationship management efforts. The first functional community hosted on SwYm is DS’s own user community for DraftSight, a free 2D drafting and drawing program.
For more, watch the slide show from the conference below:
What would a family of social media-inspired applets developed to run behind an enterprise firewall look like? It might look like PTC’s Windchill SocialLink, unveiled at PTC User World this year.
Running on Microsoft SharePoint, PTC’s Windchill SocialLink allows you to deploy functions similar to Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger. Robin Siatz, PTC’s senior VP of solutions marketing, explained, “There’s agreement in strategy across the company [PTC] that social product development services should be available to the whole product development system.”
Socialized Product Development
Last year, PTC launched a new product called Windchill ProductPoint, also based on Microsoft SharePoint. Whereas ProductPoint is meant as a product data vault, visualization, markup, and collaboration platform, SocialLink lets you tag content (as you would your photos in Flickr), communicate with colleagues and partners in short text blurbs (as you do on Twitter), find potential collaborators within your firm (as you might identify new friends on Facebook), and receive RSS feeds about your SocialLink associates’ activities.
SocialLink is a standalone package, but to derive its benefits fully, it should be deployed alongside other products like Windchill PDMLink, Siatz explained. Some SocialLink services (as these components are called) may appear as a toolbar in select PTC products, allowing you to engage with colleagues while you work.
“What’s missing in most companies is a sense of community, a shared birds-of-a-feather experience,” noted Brian Shepherd, PTC’s executive VP of product development. “SocialLink will allow these communities to form and flourish, allowing you to capture their collective wisdom.”
PTC plans to roll out SocialLink later this year. PTC’s PLM (product lifecycle management) rival Dassault Systemes is currently developing a similar enterprise-focused social-media platform, dubbed 3dswymer (in closed beta).
Service Manuals via Arbortext
Ever since it acquired document-composer Arbortext in 2007, PTC has been looking for ways to market its XML-based dynamic text formatting and publishing technology to PLM users. This year, PTC may have found the best approach — as a package for producing service manual and technical content.
The core component of this approach is the Arbortext Illustrator application, which lets you create animations and technical drawings. This will become part of PTC’s Arbortext service information solutions. The linkage between Windchill PDMLink and Arbortext ensures that when the source data (the original Pro/ENGINEER model) is modified, service publication managers receive alerts to update the technical content.
PTC’s rival Autodesk recently released a similar application, known as Autodesk Inventor Publisher. Another competitor, Dassault Systemes, also offers its own version, called 3DVIA Composer.
Though Pro/ENGINEER is primarily a parametric modeler catering mechanical engineers, those who must create free-form shapes and surfaces can employ the ISDX (interactive surface design extension) module to sculpt complex solids and surfaces. In Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 6.0, a new subdivisional modeling module is set to become available.
Paul Sager, PTC’s director of product management for surfacing and industrial design, explained, “Subdivisional modeling is primarily used in animation, for sculpting faces. It exists in products like [Autodesk's] 3ds Max or Maya.”
With the new module, by subdividing the control mesh (think of it as a wirecage enveloping your 3D model), you can drag, pinch, push, and pull on specific points to deform your model’s geometry. “What it creates is high-quality B-Spline surfaces,” said Sager. “It’s not going to be available till next year.”
The module is driven by technology developed in-house. Currently, it exists only as early Alpha code.
Recently, PTC debut a new version of CoCreate, the direct modeling package it acquired in 2007. Version 17 marks CoCreate’s reemergence under PTC’s guidance. At the same time, some of CoCreate’s modeling techniques may be finding their ways into PTC’s core parametric package Pro/ENGINEER.
CoCreate’s Copilot navigation tool (a compass-like directional icon that allows you to rotate, push, or pull edges and surfaces along axises and angles) is now poised to appear in Pro/E. The function is currently in the hands of beta testers, according to Sandy Joung, PTC’s director of product marketing for Pro/E and Mathcad.
For more, read “PTC User World 2010: Lightning to Reinvigorate CAD and PLM.”
To see captions of photos in the slide show below, hover your mouse over the image and click on the “i” icon.