2000 -2010 - The Next Millennium
“The Age of 3D CAD Un-Enlightenment!"
This is the fourth in a series of articles documenting my experience with
the introduction of 3D CAD into industrial/mechanical engineering. Please
take some time to read them all. From board draftsman, to 3D CAD designer,
to 3D CAD/CAM program dealer, to 3D CAD teacher, some of this information may
This was the decade of the
Pro/e clone. The Pro/E 3D CAD paradigm became the de facto standard.
Its strict sketch, sketch, constrain, constrain
history only design is cumbersome even for conceptual design. It becomes a
horror show when you have to modify a part or an assembly. This design
process demands that you have a good idea where you are going before you get
there. This is called design intent. If you do not have the extensive
required experience, you may even have to start the part over.
I have to elaborate on the problems with modifying
part and assemblies. This is by far the worst aspect of this paradigm. The
level of experience and even intelligence is incredibly important. The design process is very
precise, if done poorly it may be impossible to modify. Even the original
designer, if away from the part or assembly for a while, may have a hard
time understanding the structure. But if you have inherited a part from an
inexperienced user it can be incredibly frustrating. This can be devastating
it the part is tied to a drawing and is released into the system.
Is 3D CAD Productivity an Oxymoron?
With its separate part,
assembly and drawing files it was by far the least productive 3D CAD
paradigm. This convoluted paradigm led to the most obscure data management
The structure of the separate part and assembly
design has always been problematic. The major 3D CAD vendors have made “Top down” or
“In context” available, but it is not a smooth process. Many
users do not even use
this process. Even then you still have external referenced parts. I have
seen where you can have the complete model in one file. But this seems to be
a poorly designed function and has its own problems and is not widely used.
The drawing or what I like to call the AID
(Associated Information Document) being a separate file adds to the
complexity of PDM and PLM.
The Pro/E paradigm offers no compatibility between
the different Pro/E clones. Each system is in its own world. Each demanding
a high level of training to be proficient. There are 5 popular programs.
This has locked the companies to only look to engineering personnel
with experience on the company’s 3D CAD system. This problem alone has made
me wonder if 3D CAD is more cost effective then the prior system based on
the drawing only. There is no standard process today in the
engineering/manufacturing process. If you think about it all we added was
the 3D model.
This paradigm, driven by
the vested interests of the huge CAD vendors, has cost the industry billions
of dollars in the lack of compatibility, a common user experience, overly
complex document control and complex operations.
Sadly the inability to
handle all of the different formats part, assembly and drawing spawned an
incredibly unworkable system call MBE (Model Based Enterprise) this was an
attempt to use the native 3D CAD file as the authorized engineering
deliverable. They did this by creating a PMI (Product Manufacturing
Information) what could only be called a 3D drawing. Each PMI is unique
since it is dependent on the revision of the native CAD system. This
decision alone, is causing chaos in the industry sending the engineering
Why MBE/MBD/PMI Will FAIL
PMI vs AID
Solidworks Totally Misunderstands MBD
PTC Creo Totally Misunderstands MBD
There were other more productive 3D CAD paradigms
that were overlooked. Direct Edit, the original design paradigm was
reintroduced in this decade to
open the doors to a more compatible 3D CAD world. But today most are still
stuck struggling with Solidworks, Catia, Creo, NX, Solid Edge and
Inventor. But this paradigm is quickly reaching the end of its product
cycle. The major vendors are running out of enhancements and the basic
structure of the paradigm allows only non-integrated add-on modules that can
only be considered Band-Aids. Autodesk running out of new enhancements is the first to try and lock you into
their product by now only “Renting” you the software.
28 Years of 3D CAD Incompatibility - The New Generation of 3D CAD!!
CADKEY or Catia? Boeing’s Billion-Dollar 3D CAD Mistake!
All 3D CAD IS NOW ON THE PC
What a miracle, with the internet
well in place we could now work anywhere.
I was selling CADKEY and
IronCAD as the new century began. Solidworks was dominating the market. With
no copy protection it was being passed around like hotcakes. It was the
system to have. My customers were moving to it even though it was much less
productive because you looked stupid if you weren’t using it.
CADKEY was incredible, it had just delivered the most flexible “Hybrid” 3D
CAD system available. It had wire frame, good intermediate surfacing,
Boolean solid modeling and had just added parametric history based modeling.
The future was very bright indeed!!
But Bob Bean from Baystate Technolgies, owner of
CADKEY, decided that they needed to rewrite CADKEY. But instead of creating
a new product to compete with the likes of Solidworks, Solid Edge and
IronCAD, the 3 mid-ranged products at the time, he basically tried to duplicate CADKEY.
It was a few weeks after 911. We were on one of the
first flights after they lifted the flight ban. I flew out to Boston to meet
with the PTC folks. I could now consider selling Pro/e since it had moved to
the PC. I will get into that later.
CADKEY was having a dealer meeting in Las Vegas. We
were shown the new product line. They were first going to release a
wireframe only package called “Graphx”. I started laughing. No one is going
to buy a wireframe program. They said "Wait Joe. We are going to release
other packages. Creator which would equal regular CADKEY and would add parametrics later."
I said this will never work. CADKEY prior to Baystate
had a collaborative relationship with the dealers. But they did not consult
the dealers and this plan was presented in
stone and was doomed to fail.
Sadly, they did not listen to the
As they released Graphx, the CADKEY customers were
clamoring for fixes and enhancements that they expected in CADKEY 19. They
could not move to or even use Graphx, it would be a huge step backward. So
many made decisions to move to different packages. I sold a few IronCAD
and many of the CADKEY dealers took on Solidworks and started moving their
CADKEY user base to Solidworks.
While in the midst of this change CADKEY lost a suit
brought by another software company for a copywrite infringement. This cost
over a million dollars and drove CADKEY into bankruptcy. Kubotek, a Japanese
company came to the rescue.
The product was finally released as KeyCreator.
CADKEY was still the best program to talk to Catia, so many of the Boeing suppliers
stayed faithful. The CADKEY dealer in Portland went bankrupt at this
time and I took over their user base. KeyCreator V3 finally became as good as
CADKEY and all were happy.
But they did not provide the very necessary
history/parametric design capabilities that would have made them a player in
the future of 3D CAD.
There was one very sad caveat, Robert White, creator
of Fastsurf and Fastsolid, was left out in the cold due to this bankruptcy.
Kubotek reneged on all of the contracts, it was truly a travesty of justice.
Robert tried to sue but failed. I am not sure where KeyCreator would have
gone with the added creativity of Robert White. Robert was truly a genius.
continued on, not as popular, but still a productive Hybrid CAD
solution for years. I will get into this more later.
CNC 3 axis machining was becoming very popular. I
was working with the MasterCam dealer and we were doing very good. but the
fellow decided to sell CADKEY too. So we took on Surfcam. CADKEY with its
intermediate surface capabilities was a great match for any of the surface
based CNC systems. All of the Boeing suppliers had a seat of CADKEY and a
SmartCAM, SurfCAM or MasterCAM. Even the NX guys that were using it for
machining had a CADKEY for support.
Pro/E, Catia 5 and NX were now on the PC
Now that Pro/E was on the
PC they started looking for local dealers. I decided to sell Pro/E. I have
to tell you this was not a great experience. I tried to learn the package.
It was an incredibly convoluted way to design, sketch, sketch, constrain,
constrain. The training was horrible.
First Class: We were given a study manual. All was
fine, but it mostly had us editing existing solids. Then you couldn’t even
keep the training manual and examples. I was a dealer with over a decade in
CAD sales and I just scratched
Second Class: I went to Vancouver, BC for this class.
It had to do with skeleton something and modifying some parametric assemblies.
I was lost and walked out of the class. It was absolutely useless. Remember
I have been selling 3D CAD for over 15 years. I knew how to train 3D CAD.
I have no idea how anyone learned this product. I
struggled and finally did one project of converting drawings of aircraft
parts to solid models. Just too complex to sell, support and use. I was only
selling the basic package. The add-on modules took a staff to support. The
dealer managers were horrible. It was all sales all the time. Being
basically a draftsman I wanted to deliver the best product. This was not the
They came out with Pro/E Desktop to compete with Solidworks at a
lower price. Sort of a Pro/E Lite. It was virtually worthless since it
operated virtually identical to standard Pro/E. PTC will more than likely be
the first of the high end systems to drastically downsize due to the lack of
a mid-ranged program more cost effective solution that Dassault and Siemens
Solidworks were promoting their product to all of the
CADKEY dealers. I just laughed and said who would buy this piece of crap.
How was I to know that Dassault would buy Solidworks for over $300 million? Later I did have it available to bundle with my Surfcam sales.
Still I found it just too limited to do our engineering.
Here is a distressed project designed in Solidworks
I went back to my KeyCreator sales. I started out
with 700 customers on current maintenance. The KeyCreator rollout fiasco
soon dropped it to a couple hundred with sporadic sales.
Sadly, IronCAD just kept stumbled along. This was a
bit upsetting to me since it was the first 3D CAD tool I turned to for
conceptual design. It was just flat out more productive and still is.
Five Functions that Increase 3D CAD Productivity!!
IronCAD vs Solidworks and the Pro/e Paradigm
Autodesk Inventor was just
released and was Autodesk’s first successful attempt at a professional 3D
CAD system. But like all the others they did nothing more than give us
another Pro/E clone. It is truly shocking as I stated in my preface that
there was so little innovation in the area of 3D CAD by these huge CAD
companies. This safe bet has put them in a corner that is going to be tough
to get out of. But we will get into that in my next article.
I was offered a dealership for Solid Edge. Everyone
in engineering had a copy of Solidworks. Like Pro/E, Solidworks was just too
limited and took too much time as compared to IronCAD and KeyCreator. I
started learning Solid Edge, It was just another Pro/E clone like Solidworks
and I just could not use it. I had a healthy design service going on and the
Pro/E clones did not offer more productivity. I could not sell what I
ENTER DIRECT EDIT
While a Solid Edge Dealer,
Siemens came out with ST (Synchronous Technology) it was standalone robust
direct edit modeler. I had been doing Boolean or direct editing since the
introduction of FastSolids. IronCAD has both history and direct editing
since its inception. It was great to see this capability finally get some
attention by the large 3D CAD companies.
SpaceClaim had also just came out and I was very
interested. It was a direct edit only package like KeyCreator but for solids
only. I decided to become a dealer.
I had both SpaceClaim and Siemens ST on my computer.
Both programs used the new Microsoft Office Ribbon interface. It was quite
strange, at first I thought that Siemens actually bought the technology from
SpaceClaim or visa versa. They were incredibly similar in operations. I
guess there are only so many ways to create solids with direct edit (this
fact makes it much superior to the history based systems). Slowly
I started noticing the differences. Siemens ST was much easier to use.
Since I would not use Solid Edge in my engineering I
quickly lost interest and dropped the product since I could not support it
I sold SpaceClaim for a while but it did no more than
IronCAD and KeyCreator. It was a bit of a strange package and was not
comfortable to use. It was a very good 3D CAD package, but mostly
focused only on editing existing solid models. I feel that you need both
history and direct editing available to productive conceptual 3D design. I finally dropped
it. The company was virtually lacking in marketing experience and had no
idea how to handle the dealers. It was like they were working against us.
Here is a little project I did with SpaceClaim.
I directly attribute the budding popularity of
Direct Editing to SpaceClaim and Siemen's ST. After their release all of the other
packages started to offer Direct Edit functionality. Solidwork, Inventor
Fusion and PTC incorporating CoCreate. Sadly, it has still not become part
of the design process. I have finally come to the conclusion that the Pro/e
History base paradigm cannot be modified to functionally integrate direct
edit and basically stuck history only modeling.
Universal 3D CAD Compatibility is "Not" Here!!
There is only one program that has resisted
incorporating direct edit and that is Catia 5. If there is anyplace where
the only constant is change, it is commercial airplane design.
I have worked with Boeing and
Catia for over 30 years. Dassault is responsible for keeping Boeing one of
the most ignorant and isolated manufacturing companies. Their lack of
interoperability is beyond belief.
THE AGE OF THE PRO/E CLONE
As I described in my preface every popular package
in this decade was a Pro/E Clone. They all had separate part, assembly and
The Death of PLM
The purpose of PLM was to
take all of engineering documentation and streamline it in to one well-oiled
machine. Sadly, it was led by IT experts, MSMEs and PHDs. They had no clue
how the engineering/manufacturing process worked.
I am shocked at their
lack of applicable knowledge.
IT only understood “Data”. But engineering did not
run on data but documentation. Trying to make this documentation into data
would never be. PLM was becoming a major component of the high end 3D CAD
packages. They could not maintain all of these different files. They came
out with MBD (Model Based Definition). But we had already been doing this for years.
The Embedded Title Block! A PLM Solution!
The Secret of Part Numbers
The Death of the Drawing
They quickly realized they could not manage the
part, assemblies and drawings that were part of the Pro/E clone world. They
needed one file to maintain. They decided to develope MBE (Model Based
Enterprise) use the native CAD file in the form of the PMI (Product Manufacturing Information). This was a mistake made by those with virtually no
applicable knowledge. Since the late 1990’s the standard engineering
deliverable was the 3D model in a native or neutral format and an AID
(Associated Information Document) in
the form of a PDF. They were put into an email sent to the suppliers.
The native file is not a good conduit to dispense engineering information to
manufacturing even if it is in the same CAD system. I have fellows at Boeing
using Catia CNC and they are having the same problems as the outside
suppliers. It is a bit funny that Boeing has 160 seats of Mastercam. I
wonder if the inside groups are required to create a validation sheet?
Just FYI they are still sending engineering information by email.
Compare and Validation Programs? Band-Aids for Self Inflicted Wounds!
(Advance Drawing Change Notice) vs MBE
The 3D CAD PLM system is
now in charge of the engineering process, requiring the engineer to now be a
data management expert. The Document Control Group was a subset but separate part of
engineering. Engineers engineered in those days.
This is an incredible waste of time for the engineer
and is really outside his profession. But then so is drafting, for that
But this was the first decade. The die has been cast.
It is being driven by an incredible level of ignorance and vested interest. It is truly a failed system. But there
are only very few that see
this. They never asked the Drafting Group that did all of the documentation
for their opinion.
The Death of the Draftsman or “Where has
all the talent gone?”
Engineering Documentation Today!
2009 was a devastating time for TECH-NET. KeyCreator
sales were down to a trickle. We still had a couple of hundred current
maintenance contracts that were our bread and butter.
The folks at Kubotek were struggling and saw this maintenance money
and decided they wanted it. They went direct. This put me in a bind for a
hybrid modeling package. Today you rarely see KeyCreator used. Direct edit
only packages offer only half the design capabilities. You truly need both
functions integrated and available for design. IronCAD is the very best with
ZW3D is a close second.
I found ZW3D which is the most complete Hybrid 3D
CAD/CAM system to replace KeyCreator. I first got it for my associate that
was supporting the CNC package in KeyCreator. He said he just could not use
KeyCreator CNC and I we took on ZW3D with its integrated CNC. I found it a bit weak in
the CAD area. While it could do the job it was like Solidworks and Solid
Edge to use. But the ZW3D folks have been working on the user interface and
it is a much more user friendly product with usable integrated direct edit.
With much more capabilities than KeyCreator. Both KeyCreator and ZW3D had a
single model environment and integrated drawings which allows you to do
complete projects in one file. How easy would that be.
Ultimate 3D CAD System
The Integrated Drawing in 3D CAD
Basically the only real enhancement to the popular
programs in this decade was the introduction of direct edit. I was hoping
that this would open the door to complete compatibility but direct edit is
just a clumsy add-on to the Pro/E clones and cannot be effectively used in
the design process.
Universal 3D CAD Compatibility is
So we come to the end of
the new centuries first decade. We were now stuck with a dated 29 plus year
old modeling paradigm. 3D CAD delivered in this format has not added much
productivity. The popular 3D CAD systems keep stringing the users on by adding a
few enhancements here and there. Most are starting to realize that it is not
worth keeping their maintenance current.
Autodesk moving to
subscription only is the writing on the wall after losing half a billion
You are Not Stuck with Autodesk
The Pro/E paradigm cannot be made into the new Hybrid
Modeling that offer unlimited flexibility in design. Today many use
separate modules that do not smoothly work together. Many even use separate
packages like Alias to do surface design with a separate solid modeler. PTC
has both Creo Parametric and Creo Direct, doubling the work and causing
ZW3D is rising to the top of the Hybrid Modelers.
Learning 3D Mechanical CAD
But I am getting ahead of myself. The next decade
offers little for the existing popular 3D CAD programs.
Enter the Cloud!!
And the questions the CAD vendors are starting to ask
“How do we keep these suckers on board?”
2010+ – The age of 3D CAD for rent!!
3D CAD TODAY!
Please feel free to stop by our website
below for a variety of articles on the State of our Industry, interesting articles on 3D
CAD Productivity and a few of our projects!
Viewpoints on Today's 3D CAD and
Here is a taste
of what is there. This is my favorite and
most popular article.
The Worst to Best 3D CAD System and Why
TECH-NET Engineering Services!
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services throughout the USA and Canada!
If you are interested in adding professional hybrid
modeling capabilities or looking for a new solution to increase your
productivity. Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions or would
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