PTC Resets Sights With Pro/TOOLMAKER 8.1

Since its acquisition of NC Graphics in May 2007, PTC has focused on delivering a complete solution for optimized toolmaking and high-speed, precision machining processes. Pro/TOOLMAKER is a stand-alone software application that provides multi-CAD support to enable fully associative, reliable NC toolpath programming for Pro/ENGINEER and other CAD systems. Last week PTC announced Pro/TOOLMAKER 8.1.

Toolmakers require best-in-class solutions to meet the challenging demands of their discrete manufacturing customers and to compete in a global marketplace. Additionally, the ability to create molds and dies quickly and accurately is important to the manufacturing and overall product development process. Historically these tools have been created in 2D CAD environments, but are increasingly being designed in 3D CAD/CAM systems. With its optimized high-speed machining capabilities, Pro/TOOLMAKER will offer manufacturing engineers and machinists a powerful package of NC programming capabilities that include NC post-processing and tooling libraries in a single product. Pro/TOOLMAKER enables companies to reduce scrap costs, increase product quality, decrease production time, and deliver products to market faster.

Pro/TOOLMAKER is part of the PTC Product Development System (PDS), and as a result is able to provide a unique connection between product design and manufacturing. Pro/TOOLMAKER and Pro/ENGINEER NC and tooling solutions will enable designers to work side-by-side with manufacturing engineers which allows for real-time changes to designs that lead to optimal product designs created for manufacturability. Additionally, toolpath data created using Pro/TOOLMAKER can be managed in Windchill, PTC's content and process management software, allowing manufacturers to manage all 3D CAD/CAM/CAE information in a centrally located system. This provides the security and flexibility that designers, toolmakers and manufacturers require in order to optimize its product development processes.

"Pro/TOOLMAKER provides a tighter link between product design and manufacturing which will give us the ability to optimize our toolmaking as it supports the complete product development process," said Brett Mitchell, director, RP Tooling. "PTC continues to deliver solutions that are flexible, integral and targeted for our increasingly complex manufacturing requirements. Using PTC's solutions enable us to be successful in this dynamic market."

Pro/TOOLMAKER 8.1 advanced machining capabilities include:
  • Support for 5-axis positioning (3+2 machining)
  • Automatic 3D roughing and rest-roughing for smooth and efficient toolpaths
  • Specialized core and cavity machining strategies with area clearance, core and rest-roughing to maximize material removal
  • Slope-based machining to allow for steep and shallow angle control
  • Flat-surface machining to easily detect all flat surfaces
  • Spiral and radial toolpaths to maintain toolpath efficiency with constant contact
  • Morph and boundary machining to provide excellent surface finish
  • Pencil single-pass and multiple-pass milling
  • Rest-milling for all finishing toolpaths and tool shapes
  • New integration provides associativity with Pro/ENGINEER data
  • Multi-CAD support
  • Includes PTC's GPOST for creating and updating post-processors for any type of CNC machine

"Pro/TOOLMAKER is the newest addition to the PTC PDS and delivers an incredible opportunity for manufacturers who want to improve collaboration across the multiple supply chains responsible for toolmaking," said James Heppelmann, executive vice president software products and chief product officer, PTC. "When time frames for designing and manufacturing molds and die tools are reduced, new products can be introduced to market faster. A tooling development process integrated with the design and the manufacturing teams results in an increase in product quality and a reduction in scrap costs. Through these efficiencies and capabilities, Pro/TOOLMAKER can enable manufacturers to deliver more complex products faster and with less cost."

Pro/TOOLMAKER is planned to be available in August 2007 in six languages, including English, German, French, Japanese, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. Italian, Spanish and Korean versions are expected later this later.

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor

PTC is a company that could certainly use some good news right about now, and Pro/Toolmaker 8.1 may provide some, at least on the product front, anyway.

Earlier this month PTC warned financial analysts that its rate and volume of new license sales are down, and expects to make $10-15 million less this quarter than previously estimated -- around $225 million instead of $235-240 million. This less than anticipated revenue was probably due to potential big software purchase that were pending, and PTC was counting on, but fell through for various reasons.

The immediate future doesn’t appear all that hot either as Q4 is also expected to be not as hoped, so, therefore, revenue forecasts for the entire fiscal year will be down. Until very recently PTC was on track to join the billion-dollar revenue club, along with other current members Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, and UGS/Siemens. Maybe next year.

Not too surprisingly, with the announcement, the share price dropped over 20% almost immediately with the company losing well over $500 million in market capitalization. On an average day about 1.5 million PTC shares are traded, but the trading day following the announcement, almost 10 times that amount changed hands, as some investors felt that that PTC had an uncertain future (at least short-term through the fiscal year), while other investors seized the opportunity to buy shares at bargain prices. Events like this are the scourge of publicly-owned CAD vendors that promise perpetual higher profits, so any snag on the promise will always result in a reaction to the stock price as just happened with PTC.

The lower market capitalization prompted me and more than one of my peers to speculate that PTC might make for an attractive takeover target. Although unlikely, possible CAD vendors who might be interested in PTC included Autodesk and Bentley Systems. This is unlikely because Autodesk does not need another CAD technology (and file format) to deal with, and Bentley Systems doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to do it (although they did once market a product called MicroStation Modeler for MCAD). For some time I’ve thought that other possibilities included an acquisition by SAP or Oracle, a private equity firm, or another Siemens/UGS-like deal. However, none of these scenarios seem likely to pass, so PTC will probably have to go it alone.

Things fell apart so precipitously because lower license revenue is not only bad today as far as initial sales are concerned, but also does not bode well for the future because of lower associated subscription and maintenance revenue spun off of a license. The probable bottom line is that things are not going to turnaround for PTC overnight and the company will be forced to implement several cost-cutting initiatives starting very soon, including staff reductions and shuffling resources. Hopefully these measures won’t too adversely affect customers.

Maybe PTC just bit off more than it could chew while losing focus and neglecting some of its legacy that got it to where it is today, namely Pro/ENGINEER and to a lesser extent, Windchill. The company has made several acquisitions over the years, some better than others, and some integrated into its core products much better than others, and Pro/TOOLMAKER might prove to be one of the better ones on both counts.

Pro/TOOLMAKER 8.1 is PTC's first release since the acquisition of NC Graphics that occurred just a couple months ago in May. From its beginnings, Pro/TOOLMAKER has provided the power of high-speed machining for toolmaking and other precision machining applications, that is relatively easy-to-use, and includes an NC toolpath programming application. What is known as Pro/TOOLMAKER 8.1 today combines the capabilities of the product formerly known as DEPOCAM with additional functionality including GPOST post-processing and Pro/ENGINEER. I contacted PTC for clarification on a couple Pro/TOOLMAKER issues, but never heard back, so I’ll just forge ahead the best I can with what I know.

DEPOCAM was a CAM software application software sold by NC Graphics for generating G-codes for 3-axis CNC machines. Its specialty was in the area of high speed machining. The DEPO part of the name originated with DEPO GmbH, a German milling cutter manufacturer, with whom NC Graphics formed a partnership in the early 1990s to develop and market the software. The software was originally called Machining STRATEGIST, but this product and the development team was sold to Vero International in 2002 following an OEM deal to compile the software into a Geometric modeling kernel for use in Visicam. NC Graphics retained rights to the source code and have built up a new development team and, in 2005, signed another OEM deal with CNC Software/Mastercam where the software became the basis of its new high speed machining routines. Then came the acquisition by PTC earlier this year.

For easier CNC programming and full 5-axis machining, DEPOCAM included features for generating simultaneous, collision free 5-axis tool-paths (side-step machining) from existing 3-axis tool-paths. One of the real plusses for the software was that it enabled deep core machining and cavities using short cutters for improved surface finish and accuracy, as well as better tool life.

What PTC now refers to simply as GPOST was known as Pro/NC-GPOST that was integrated into Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire for simplifying post-processor development and reducing the need of macro development. GPOST came from from Intercim Austin NC.

Pro/TOOLMAKER 8.1 is a comprehensive package that includes NC programming capabilities, NC post-processing, and tooling libraries in a single product. Will Pro/TOOLMAKER 8.1 totally change PTC’s fortunes. By itself, obviously not, but it make spark some new interest in the company and generate some revenue that could help the company get back on the right path.

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Review Article
  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'draftingbydon'
    Excellent article, been using PTC since 1996. I like the wildfire versions 2 & 3.0 which I'm current on. However, I'm glad to see they have competition with Acad Inventor, Solid works & others. I'm glad to see PTC on their toes. Some of my contract employers were unhappy with them for a while. This made my job harder as a drafter since I only had PTC & the old 2D Acad as a skill set. Anyway I hope they keep up the good work.

      2 of 2 found this review helpful.
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