Wishful thinking

I had no sooner finished my earlier post today on the myopic nature of the CAD world than I ran across this post from the CEO of Alibre lamenting the slow pace of conversion to 3D.

I know why Greg is frustrated. [But at least he isn't trying to get AEC users to 3D. Talk about impossible! Manufacturers get the the benefits of 3D directly (whether you believe there are any or not…and I do). In AEC, the benefits are dispersed along a supply chain from architects to constructors, diluting any apparent benefits.]

But, ramblings aside, what really struck me about Greg's post is that Alibre and all the others are still battling for the CAD dollar in a saturated market. 3D, PLM, all these newfangled things that are "just around the corner" run up against the most implacable barrier of them all: satiated customers. You can rant all you want about "80/20 feature-use ratios" and diabolical file-format lock-in (and I have..plenty of times). It isn't going to change a thing. 

Sorry for the platitude, but the horse just ain't gonna drink the water until it gets thirsty.

Our prescription for making 3D relevant (and the horse thirsty) is simple: stop focusing on "converting" 2D CAD users. Instead, make 3D design product information a corporate imperative. How? Simple: make it clear that 3D alone can generate the service animations, create the illustrations for product collateral and be used in ERP and CRM systems.

In short, if this industry really does want new growth, it can't have it both ways. It can't be both an island and a growth territory. They just don't make more land on islands (except in Singapore, but that's another story). It's time to fill in the channel between the CAD world and the rest of the enterprise.

5 comments to Wishful thinking

  • Richard Williams  says:

    I agree with you but we have to keep trying to get the idea of 3D across to those who haven’t made the switch as yet. I’m frustrated too when I try to get teachers to get their students involved with 3D CAD. I am teaching it to children in the middle school ages and I’m surprised at how quickly they pick up on it. Take care

  • Greg  says:

    Hey Mojo/Alex,

    I just like to rant.

    On a related note, we/I really don’t see it as converting people from 2D to 3D, but simply making 3D another tool in the toolkit. I call it adopting 3D. Sometimes it’s the right tool for the job, sometimes not. I believe even the most dyed-in-the-wool user of 2D can find a benefit to using 3D on at least some projects. We (Alibre) try to make it accessible enough that that approach to using it is feasible for anyone.

    Keep 2D. Love 2D. Buy more 2D. Buy some 3D too.

    It’s happening, and it’s accelerating.

  • S. Wertel  says:

    I have to concur with much that is being said here, as well as provide independent thought on the matter.

    I started my company to perform mechanical engineering consulting. My niche is actually helping small shops realize the value of 3D modeling and design. When I get a client referred to me, they’re first question typically isn’t “I need 3D CAD to remain competitive, show me how.” Rather, the come in stating that they are thinking about 3D CAD, tell them how it can benefit them, and then help them through the long process of weeding through all the avaible tools (3D CAD Vendors), setting up the file management that is a pure headache for those used to dealing with only 1 file per drawing, and recommending workstation and network improvements to handle the amount of data that will be amassing.

    Interestingly enough, by the time a company is referred to me, they usually have contacted several well known vendors and done the canned demos. In the end, they still have a question as to “Why bother?”. Some even come to me asking “What the H#!! was that?” (referring to the canned demo and how it didn’t apply what-so-ever to their processes).

    So in reality, it is not about the benefits of 3D at all. Nor is about being aware of the availability of 3D. They are already aware of the benefits otherwise they wouldn’t be looking at transitioning from 2D. They are also well aware of all the options. As a matter of fact, they are overwhelmed with options too monumentous to deal with on their own. They are not CAD gurus or pundits, they don’t care about market trends, they just care about staying in business, staying competitive, and investing in the right tool for the job to remain so.

    In the end, the real issue they have is sorting through the mountains of information and the plethora of options to find the right tool for the job to give them a corporate-wide benefit and not just a departmental benefit. I don’t think a single CAD company can do that. More to the point, one more CAD company only adds to the confusion. The good news is, the more CAD companies that come into the market that realize there are other profitable niches still out there, even in this saturated market (which I don’t think really is saturated), the more tools available to chose from so the person looking – with a little professional help – can truely find the right tool for the job. Perhaps one day MCAD will be seamlessly interoperable and the user only need to pick a CAD package that has the tool set he needs. Data sharing to a vendor with brand X CAD – with its own feature-set suitable for the vendor – will be transparent.

  • Chris Williams  says:

    S. Wertel thanks for your feedback. Don’t hold your breath, the CAD guys keep their price and their value by not allowing interoperability. THIS WILL NOT CHANGE IN THE NEAR FUTURE. At this point I think many companies have found working methods around this problem. Look at companies like Proficiency that did feature translation between CAD systems. After 60+ Million of venture money they are a failure due to no customer up take. Certainly it would be better to have interoperability but I think there are other more powerful approaches appearing in the market. For instnace the idea of a mockup, or non-CAD centric application where you manage the assembly/product. In many products this is simply required due to the fact the CAD system cannot manage to get all the data on the screen (for instnace a backhoe or tractor). Yes the CAD guys give you things like simplified reps but this is one more complicated thing to manage and learn as a user. The other driver to a mockup approach is the reality of the world – design/product development is no longer a single company / single CAD system endeavour. So think about a single application that allows non-modeler type people to interact with the design giving them the ability to drive the product definition as well as define all the procedures such as assembly instructions and service instructions. Think about being able to interact with the design based on any Bill of Material (BOM) that makes sense to you (Not being forced to use the random BOM defined by the result of modeling)…

  • […] I was just reading the comment from R Weztel on "Wishful Thinking" (link to 3dmojo.com) and I got thinking about something I have long been thinking about…  Is CAD a Component design tool or an Assembly/Product design tool????  The CAD companies would certianly tell you it is a Product design tool, but after you visit 100's of cusotmers and look at their woking practices you find they constrain the tools to Component design tools.  A great example of this is the RULE many customers have about "Assembly Features (Features made in the assembly mode of the CAD system)".  NOT ALLOWED!  This is very interesting because the functionality is very powerful.  But the confussion of relations it creates reek havoc in the user community… […]

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