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11/15/05 05:37 AM
Do Native File Format Demands Diminish Quality Products? Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

Do Native File Format Demands Diminish Quality Products?

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Buzz Smith
11/15/05 11:08 PM
As Deep Throat said, "Follow the money." new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

Having been an application engineer on the software side of the business (both with resellers and software companies) and now an end-user, I agree whole-heartedly that the demand for "native" CAD is preposterous for reasons given in the article. I would add one other: 3D solid modeling is an intimate process. Have you ever tried to make a MAJOR modification to someone else's design? I have complained about laziness, lack of understanding of the software, and just the plain stupidity of the original designer many times when attempting this task. So what if I give you a file in your native format??? Are you really going to spend the time understanding the how and why the part was modeled the way it was, or go back to the original designer and have them make the change? However, I doubt the Vice-President of Engineering is the source of the problem (much less understands it). So, who is driving this? Most major industries/companies have selected their design platform of choice and the software manufacturers know the chance of changing this selection is slim to none. In the past, the CAD companies relied on their reseller channel to handle the "riff-raff" of small to mid-sized companies because the software manufacturer didn't deem them worthy of their sales effort. Many resellers cropped up to address this large market, but could only pursue each small company independently. The cost of this sales approach was very high, but when features-based solid modelers cost $20,000 per seat and up, the resellers were more than happy to go after that business. Now, a very powerful CAD system can be had for less than $5000. Over the years the reseller channel has diminished for several reasons, not the least of which is the decreasing price of the product they sell. Customized demonstrations, benchmarks and long-term sales efforts are simply not feasible when the potential payback to the reseller is so small. The software manufacturers, however, must keep bringing in more customers. Hmmm.... How can we get a lot of new customers without having to convince each one individually? How can we keep the smaller CAD companies from growing into strong competitiors? I've got it! Have our customers (i.e. the large OEMs) force the CAD decision on their suppliers! Genius! The marketing person who thought up that plan is probably retired on some Caribbean island now. The VP of Engineering probably has never sat down to use a modern CAD tool and just can't understand the issues involved as intimately as we, the end users, can. The result of this poor decision to standardize causes downstream vendors to end up buying multiple CAD systems, just to keep their options open. But we all know, no one person can be an expert at all of them. Daily, I use Catia V4 and V5, Pro/Engineer 2001 and Wildfire, MasterCAM and SolidWorks. I have seen many files that won't translate between these platforms (usually due to poor modeling techniques) so I feel the pain the larger companies are trying to avoid. If this native-CAD trend continues, supplier companies will have to select the industry they want to compete within, in order to use the tool with which they are most skilled, so that they provide the most valuable service. Reduced competition will result in higher prices for the larger companies. Already, we are seeing ads for systems that claim to be able to read and write foreign formats natively. This may be an end-run around the native-CAD decision, but I doubt this will ever be done efficiently or successfully, because the larger, more established CAD companies won't allow it. How do we all go native-CAD? Easy. When the major CAD suppliers have wiped out their smaller competitiors with this decree and then duke it out for final primacy. The Armageddon of the CAD wars. Or maybe not. It's just a sales ploy.

Tim McLellan
11/16/05 08:14 PM
Simply Yes new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

Having been in this business for quite some time it continues to amaze me that any company is moving down this path. Sadly I believe it is lack of knowledge of the cost and complexity of CAD today. Unfortunately Engineering VPs continue to view CAD as drafting rather than an integral part of the product development system. If you ask yourself is CAD in your critical path for product development the odds are the answer is yes. Therefore the easy answer is to get everyone to deliver data in my native format. However, the ultimate issue will be cost as outlined in the editorial above. Until some large OEM drive their product development from a neutral file type, or even better, a light weight file format (U3D, JT, Product View, XVL3D, etc.) no one wins. Just as the industry went through a big change to solid modeling it now needs to go one step further and move to a neutral format. Any knowledgeable person working with today's modern CAD tools knows working on someone else’s model can be painful. It requires highly technical skills in the tool of choice and more importantly an expert knowledge in that specific product. Do you want someone familiar with automotive frames/chassis making changes to a fuel tank model created by an expert in fuel tanks? I wrote an article a few years back which I had gotten a quote from a design house which said something to the effect (paraphrasing), “I told the OEM (Large Automotive Company) I could do the job twice as fast and at less cost in another tool and they ignored it and paid the higher price”. If you get a chance take a look at the article at (3.7MB PDF). Innovation is not going to come from native CAD formats but rather from Companies with processes, methodologies, techniques, and most importantly expertise in their own product development. Tim

11/17/05 04:55 AM
Excellent comments! new Report this article as Inappropriate to us !!!Login to Reply

I agree 100%, Tom. I often hear that "We bought this CAD software because the majority of customers we deal with use it." Although I, too, dealt with customers, machine shops, and second-party vendors who have asked for a certain native file or two, I have never noticed a trend regarding a problem because of the type of file I sent. In fact, I have sent many types of files(mostly IGES, X_T, SAT, and STEP) to these people and never once received a call back, telling me that the generic file "didn't work". The act of demanding native files does and will stifle creativity - kinda like asking a left-handed .400 batter to bat righty - not a good idea if your goal is winning! Let's face it, no single MCAD software will ever mimic Microsoft and "dominate the world". My advice to those who are on a mission to force everyone to use what they use for no other reason than for their own convenience - wake up and smell the coffee! Dave

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