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Category Archives: Management

Stratasys Agrees to Buy GrabCAD

Earlier this mornng, Stratasys issued a press release stating that it has “entered into a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held GrabCAD, Inc.”. The sale is expected to be completed by the end of September, 2014.

GrabCAD Purchased by Stratasys

We’ve kept a close eye on GrabCAD since its public launch in 2010, watching it grow with impressive direction and capabilities. Hardi Meybaum, the company CEO may not know exactly which initiative (or combination thereof) sparked the recent surge in interest from the design and engineering industries, but he has demonstrated vision and a consistent winning strategy. Their most recent achievement, the cloud-based Workbench Product Data Management (PDM) software is maturing nicely and has great potential to streamline (and possibly redefine) the needs of small-medium sized (SMB) design/engineering data sharing and collaboration. Its 3D-CAD model viewing (Parasolid) and unbelievably easy to use and secure client space features are some of the factors that increase the company’s value.

Stratasys is one of the premier innovators in the 3D Printing industry, with nearly $2.8 Billion USD in total assets. David Reis, Stratasys Chief Executive Officer was quoted stating that,

“By increasing the collaboration and accessibility of 3D CAD files, we believe we can further accelerate the adoption of 3D printing solutions and Stratasys’ product offerings.”

The company stated that GrabCAD would continue to operate from within the Stratasys Global Products and Technology Group, with Hardi continuing as the company leader. What we don’t know yet: The terms of the sale, how this will change Hardi Meybaun’s strategies, and what direction GrabCAD and its Workbench software will take under Stratasys leadership.

Will GrabCAD Workbench prove to be as effective a platform as Stratasys is betting? It could, but that brings numerous concerns into focus. The biggest one in my mind is, “Exactly how much PDM/PLM does Stratasys need for its own sharing platform vision?” Probably not nearly as much as we need in the general design and engineering industry, and perhaps not even as much as the initiatives we were waiting for in FY15 (These initiatives were under strict non-disclosure agreements between GrabCAD and Design & Motion, but did represent good direction for more down-to-earth needs of designers and engineers in cloud storage, PDM, and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) functionality.)

It would be a great loss for many if Workbench development was halted, however there is some positive potential now that they have a parent company with cash. Stratasys spent about $50 Million USD in R&D last year, and a good boost from Stratasys could really allow GrabCAD to finish the job it started.

I still have hope in the overall mission of GrabCAD. If that mission still exists, remains to be seen.

An Electrifying Threesome – AutoCAD Electrical 2015, Office & Access 2010

Office 2010 32 bit AutoCAD Electrical 64 bit not supported

Microsoft Office 2010 is supported they say, 64 or 32 bit they say… hmm I say. What am I banging on about you say? Well, if you have a 64 bit Operating System installed, which is highly likely if you are running Windows 7 or 8.1. Then when you install the Autodesk Product Design Suite, AutoCAD Electrical or any other Autodesk product that installs the Microsoft Access 2010 Runtime, it will install the 64 bit version of both the CAD applications and the Access Runtime. HOWEVER, if you already have the 32 bit version of Office 2010 installed, then the install will fail. OR if you try to install Office 2010 32 bit AFTER you have install the Autodesk software, then the Office installation will fail.

Office 2013 32 bit 64 bit installation error

Here’s the thing, Microsoft are very clear about wanting people to install the 32 bit version of Office. The 64 bit version is only intended for developers to use. There are far too many conflicts between Office 64 bit and other applications which rely on Office components. SO, the only way you can use Office 2010 with 2015 Autodesk products which have an Access 2010 Runtime prerequisite, is to install the 64 bit version of Office and risk all the issues that come with it. I’m not a database guy, so I can only assume the AutoCAD electrical development team have been forced into using the 64 bit version with 64 bit AutoCAD and the 32 bit version with 32 bit AutoCAD.

OK, so what about Office 2013? That is fine for now, you can happily install 32 & 64 bit versions of Office as long as they are different releases. I’m running Office 2013 32 bit, and AutoCAD Electrical installed Access 2010 Runtime 64 bit on my laptop. So I have two requests of Autodesk:

  1. Please don’t produce 2016 products requiring Access 2013!
  2. Please update your System Requirements for any CAD products requiring Access 2010 Runtime, that also includes the Suites System Requirements.

Design Highlights for August

NASA Develops Multi-Alloy 3D Printing Process – RT.com

August 3rd, 2014. image Researchers at NASA’s Pasadena based Jet Propulsion Lab are actively working with a process that 3D prints an object composed of more than one metal alloy. The team has been working on the project since 2010, after being inspired by wanting to improve on methods of combining parts made from different materials. The team has developed a method of changing the metal powder at will, and using a customized laser sintering process that adds layers tangentially on a rotating shaft. The article noted gradient alloy objects have been developed in the past, but not with definitive separate parts in a single mass. Some possible uses were proposed such as an object with different melting temperatures, densities and even magnetic properties.

Edit:

A far more detailed review was found at Design Engineering.com, discussing the linear process that has been developed, some drawbacks with brittleness and their workarounds. Additionally, Design Engineering pointed to the full scientific report on the radial deposit process.

The Diverging State of PDM – Lifecycle Insights

By Chad Jackson on Friday, March 28th, 2014. image I enjoyed reading Chad Jackson’s take on the changes that are taking place in the data management space especially after we did our look to 2015. Chad noted how the Product Data Management (PDM) across the industry began to more towards the cloud in a similar path, but sometimes different methodologies. The thing that was significant to all is that everyone was moving together in a common direction. However since 2013 things have begun to fragment, and Chad discusses specific examples of how this is starting to occur, and what the strategies are behind these diverging methodologies. I liked Chad’s statement here:

“This stands as the antithesis of Autodesk’s and Dassault Systèmes approach, which is the automate the manage and tracking of changes as much as possible. GrabCAD’s approach is to give the market what they want. The approach for Autodesk’s and Dassault Systèmes is to be more visionary. [SIC]“

Siemens CAE & Test Symposium 2014 – Siemens

“Smarter Decisions, Better Products” image Siemens has announced their CAE & Test Symposium that is planned for October 22-23, 2014 on a boat of all things – Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. This is the former NX CAE Symposium. Siemens has rebranded the symposium to reflect their expanded capabilities especially after the purchase of LMS International NV in 2012. This should represent the entire lineup of testing and simulation software under their roof. LMS, by the way, was a strategic acquisition and gave Siemens some well-regarded capabilities. Here is a quote from the Siemens 2012 press release: “Siemens will become the first product lifecycle management (PLM) software company to provide a closed-loop systems-driven product development solution extending all the way to integrated test management.” I’d really like to attend this symposium to see how they intent on moving forward with all the luggage they are now carrying.

The One True Part Number System – GrabCAD

By Ed Lopategui on August 5th, 2014. imageEd did a great job on this somewhat humorous write-up, looking at the differences between people’s (often heated) arguments over structured vs. non-structured part numbers. There is significant truth in both arguments, but Ed called for a balance and flexibility that allowed for things to work together. Some items he suggested are:

  • A temporary pool of simple numbers in early-stage design
  • Easy re-identification
  • Gaps in numbering to permit grouping
  • Numbers evolve as the design matures
  • Include only the minimum information, and decide how much that will be.

What is interesting is that these might be considered what GrabCAD has in the works for their Workbench service, which is rapidly evolving as we speak, and has a lot of eyes on it (including my own).

Small Business Design Management Needs

Creativity and CollaborationWe have been reviewing our options for collaborative space and data management needs for business, design, and simulation. I wanted to take a look at how the cloud is enabling the lightweight collaborative design data management needs of some SMBs, and later, try to point out what to watch for in the near future.

Summary of the SMB Design Management Review

SMB Design Management at Autodesk

SMB Design Management Vendors and 2015

Why Collaborative Design Data Management?

Product Lifecycle Management – PLM

Product Design Management – PDM

Enterprise Resource Planning – ERP

Customer Relations Management – CRM

Document Management System – DMS

…and on and on.

The list is endless and quite likely you need some form of most of these in your day to day work. The problem is that the really useful tools are part of very large expensive systems developed by only a handful of vendors, who by virtue of their vast market share, have defined the way we are expected to behave around design data.

New collaborative needs and incredible cost have forced many small businesses to rely on less capable systems, terrible data workflows, and limited features.

Which Features are Important?

That is the crux of the entire issue, and being asked by the wrong people, namely you. In this market it should be the other way around.

Data management software is typically either too vague about how it organizes data, or too specific to one particular industry or another, and all of them require some tuning and programming to get the software to match the way you work.

…and no one wants to do all the customization.

If you are still playing ‘Hansel and Gretel’ data discovery with MS Office and Windows Explorer you are not alone. So why don’t we all just jump out and get some data management?

One important factor is the short period between the emergence and focus on SMB PLM needs, and the sudden upswing in collaborative possibilities. “I need some PLM and PDM, but how do I include collaboration?”

Team Lift, Design, Collaboration

Let’s take a moment and completely jumble everything up. Growing trends in collaboration and market globalization, fueled by accessibility of the internet are pouring in data from all angles and unthought-of workflows. We don’t quite know how to deal with it all yet, and neither do the data management vendors.

I need to catalogue…:

  • Information, instructions, correspondence, and specifications for clients, subcontractors and manufacturers
  • Proposals, agreements, and correspondence
  • Design and non-design data, including iterations, versions, and revisions
  • Industry / company standards and compliance
  • Visualization data
  • The almighty BOM(s)
  • Subcontractor orders, inspections, and correspondence
  • Deliverables
  • Municipal and organizational review comments
  • Supplies
  • Analysis data and reports

 

This scenario represents the least common denominator of many company’s needs, regardless of size. All of this information must be tied together in a project type relevance, but also permitted to associate with other data inherently. This information needs to be discoverable in a myriad of ways, and it needs to be accessible, and easy to use.

The trick is that we also need this data to be compiled between multiple collaborators that are all part of the common design process, on a globally accessible, but relatively light-weight framework.

So, which software serves SMB design firms best? 

Take a look at how Autodesk is changing their management and collaboration software solutions.

We’d love to hear from everyone about what has been going right for you, and what has not. Are there holes in your data management setup, or do you have the magic balance of management and collaboration? Leave a comment and let us know what you’ve discovered.

Image Credit: Norman Lear Center – Flickr


 

Small Business Design Management at Autodesk

The Cloud IronyDid you know that the very same Cloud that was demonized by so many design firms resistant to any change, is the same platform that is making possible the cost effective, flexible management systems that the same SMB firms desperately need? Irony.

* Software as a Service (Saas)

* Platform as a service (PaaS)

* Integration as a Service (IaaS)

The cloud solves many issues including infrastructure and platform at a substantially reduced price. All you really need to do is access the software and make it work for you.

What Software?

There are a few companies that are working hard to fill the void.

These include Autodesk PLM 360, Microsoft Office 365 and Sharepoint, Arena PLM, Aras PLM, Ally PLM, Kenesto, Siemens Solid Edge SP, CADAC Organice, Autodesk 360, GrabCAD, and more.

Almost all of these have one factor in common. They were built for companies in the SMB space to fit a wide array of workflows and needs. All have very interesting strong points, but none fit the small, but broad range of needs. Today I want to review what Autodesk has been doing.

The Fusion Platform

I’d like to mention Autodesk’s Fusion /Sim/CAM 360. The entire data framework was built on PLM 360 platform, enabling a single, true source for all software to interact with. Managed data would no longer require aggregation from multiple design sources. They truly have a really good overall plan to integrate all these collaborative data management needs in a lightweight framework. The raw data is not accessible enough, nor are there instrumental workflow features yet, but I love the concept and wanted to give them an honorable mention here.

Jitterbit

Jitterbit (not affiliated with Autodesk) has a wonderful service that connects you’re a-la-carte datasets in a fluid manner, but at a substantial premium. Each paid connection increases the price and brings us right back to data management costing way too much for small companies. I mentioned them here because they have a great partnership with Autodesk for connecting Vault and PLM 360.

Autodesk PLM 360

Autodesk went after the overall need to manage data, developing a reasonably customizable framework and really did provide a good value and easy-to-adapt data management tool. The problem was that while they included some great design workflows and controls, there are some basic refinements that need to be fulfilled, and Autodesk completely left out the design data part. There is just no realistic method to store and catalogue CAD data on their cloud.

This is understandable as Autodesk already offers CAD PDM, Autodesk Vault, to their customers. Remember SMB data management is now a-la-carte. Jitterbit will gladly connect these two, but at an annual cost, and without any collaborative features. Viewing this from the perspective of a company who has purchased Vault Professional, it does seem weird that Autodesk expects customers used to transferring complex data between their CAD applications for free, to pay a significant annual fee to transfer metadata between their PDM and PLM products.

Autodesk 360 is getting an Overhaul

This product many of you know has been developed as a collaborative storage space. CAD

data is easily accessed by Autodesk CAD software, and people can be invited into the space to collaborate and discuss the design. There are numerous problems from a productive design platform perspective, including the fact that the files are not well discoverable, nor is there any method to catalogue data, and no real management. It’s simply storage and collaboration, and it’s not really comfortable to work in.

I sat in on a meeting with Sheila Wakida, Autodesk’s Sr. product manager for the cloud, who discussed the changes that are taking place in the Autodesk 360 platform. She discussed the timeline for the year and what the company was doing with Autodesk 360.

 The New Plans in Autodesk 360

Better model viewing capabilities, CAD agnostic assembly and dependency detection, and integration with software and services to include things like Dropbox and Autodesk PLM 360.

That’s right. Shortly after Autodesk 360 becomes a premium service this summer, they will integrate PLM 360 in order to merge their capabilities (at this stage the service will only be available in the U.S., U.K., and Germany). That changes the scope of things substantially. Where companies would shun each product because it lacked the other’s capabilities, tying them together opens up a new realm of possibilities for some.

Add in very deep search algorithms, new dashboards for situation awareness and many more features, and Autodesk suddenly becomes much better suited to provide a useful data management solution that is accessible to small design firms.

… and the Battle Begins

Autodesk is not the only game in town. Vendors are diligently pulling together their ideas and solutions in an attempt to answer the question, “Who is providing USEFUL design management tools that meet the flexible needs of today’s small design companies?”. Come see what we found.

Image Credit: Mike King – Flickr & Autodesk


 

Small Business Design Management Vendors and 2015

In recent articles, we’ve been discussing the design data management needs of design firms in the SMB space (Small-to-Medium Sized Businesses). I touched on what Autodesk has been planning as well. Now I’d like to go beyond Autodesk, and look at some other options that we have been reviewing, and how all of the factors I’ve discussed may affect your future.

Management Software Vendors Offer More Flexibility

GrabCAD

GrabCAD started off as a great place to showcase your designs, developed by Hardi Meybaum and Indrek Narusk. It began to change into a collaborative workspace and enabler, ultimately becoming their recent launch of GrabCAD Workbench.

GrabCAD WorkBench Project File Version

The funny thing is that while many have discounted the new service as a novelty, the company is very aggressively developing far more robust capabilities to fill the needs of exactly who we are talking about, the SMB design companies. GrabCAD has already licensed the Parasolid model in order to better develop their viewing and inspection capabilities. Now they are adding useful Bill of Materials (BOM) features, engineering workflows, and much more. Have you checked it out recently? Their CAD viewer is off the hook. It’s worth a look to see just how useful the storage and collaborative space is at this point before all the changes begin to form.

GrabCAD CAD Viewer exploded in section

CADAC Organice

Cadac Group specializes in providing IT solutions to create, manage and share digital design information. That sounds pretty close to what we are talking about.

This team has been aggregating CAD storage and data for some time on SharePoint, and are leveraging that on their hosted SharePoint Cloud. They have vast knowledge and experience in dealing with CAD model data management and have already been involved in Inventor upload add-ins. I am very much hoping for a design and manufacturing specific SharePoint app release for Office 365 Small and Medium business in the near future.

SharePoint and Office 365

SharePoint as part of Office 365 is emerging as a real contender for the small design market. How is that? SharePoint sucks right?

Well, yes and no.

The SharePoint interface itself is clunky, not really design component or process related, and it is still a collection of poorly joined resources, but let’s look at it as a Platform instead.

SharePoint Site Image with Database

Every purchase of Office 365 Small and Medium Business gets you a SharePoint cloud site and a large amount of storage. The current version is 2013 and has been substantially cleaned up which makes it reasonably functional.

* Easy to use and pre-configured collaborative and project management spaces

* Document versioning and control

* Smooth Outlook and Office integration are valuable tools as well

* Pre-configured, streamlined Exchange servers on Microsoft’s Azure server

* Tons of storage with triple redundancy backups

…at no additional cost to your Office licenses. That means that almost every licensed user will have access to a SharePoint cloud site, all their collaboration and records, and their versioned data files in a controlled and secured environment.

Get this: as one Microsoft engineer told me, you can license only the in-house seats you need, but invite the entire world to collaborate with no additional cost. This is hugely significant considering that other services require each invited collaborator to occupy one of your paid seats. Microsoft is pushing collaboration on SharePoint hard.

Also Microsoft is heavily investing in the SharePoint App approach, where companies can develop custom apps that run inside the SharePoint team-site envelope. This means that 3rd-party vendors van develop well-customized data, forms UI, and workflows that can leverage the existing data structures, managed storage, and collaborative spaces, and provide design firms with a powerful well rounded solution.

All the SMB design industry needs is a solid 3rd-3rd party SharePoint application and it’ll be on like Donkey-Kong.

Why is 2015 Significant?

I believe that 2015 will be the baseline for the SMB data management service. Companies are racing to develop useful tools that are reasonably CAD Agnostic, and meets the collaborative, aggregate, storage, discoverability, and accessibility needs that have become so evident in the last few years.

What is more important is that the company that delivers a complete, easy to use, extremely configurable deep-search tool that stores, catalogues, aggregates, and secures design models and data, with customizable form UI, and accessible storage and delivery pipeline by the end of 2015 will set the stage for how small companies will collaborate, and will shape the way we work in the near future.

Will GrabCAD with its beautiful collaborative and viewing interface bring enough management tools to the party? Will Autodesk 360’s integration with Autodesk PLM really tie together all the parts we need in a useful, non-frustrating way? Will one of the fledgling data management vendors put together a comprehensive SharePoint Cloud app that better aggregates data and offers CAD model viewing?

If any of these things occur, D&M will likely be the first company to purchase seats.