Just a little over a month ago, Dassault Systèmes rounded up a a number of press and analyst folks to give us a some insight into the 2015 version of ENOVIA. It included an update on their business overall and new functionality. However, it also covered a healthy dose of the transition of Dassault Systèmes overall towards 3DEXPERIENCE apps.

For me, one of the most interesting moments of the day came when one of their customers, Jeff Erno from GE Power and Water, joined us to talk about their use of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. That’s what I’ll be covering here.

Multi-CAD Part Design, Fileless Assembly Design

Back in October 2013, I first wrote about ENOVIA Data Management: Less PDM-ish, More PLM-ish. Essentially, the way that ENOVIA manages CAD data is changing. In 3DEXPERIENCE apps, all that meta-data that used to be controlled inside a CAD files now becomes separate entries in a database. With that change, you can modify them simultaneously yet separately. Fast forward to today, and GE Power and Water is starting to take advantage of that functionality.

Based on comments from Jeff Erno, who is a mix of a Chief and Principal Engineer at GE Power and Water, their interest was primarily driven in solving problems around collaboration. In his words, when dealing with a classic assembly file, you have to take turns. People are bumping their heads when they want to make changes. For the design of their products, which include gas and large steam turbines, it is important to design in the context of the overall product. Another critical point was that moving that large assembly file around the world to their different technical centers or suppliers was a tremendous drain on resources.

Interestingly, Jeff stated that they aren’t immediately migrating to CATIA or the 3DEXPERIENCE apps to design piece parts. Their real focus right now is on assemblies. Logically, that makes sense. That  is where most of the collaboration occurs. But the implication is that internal engineers and suppliers can still design in their traditional desktop CAD applications.

Broader Implications

What’s the takeaway here? There are a few.

First, the file-less movement is now more reality than vision. The functionality in CAD-in-the-Cloud offerings truly make it accessible today. And while the sharing and collaborating enabled by cloud-based CAD offerings are interesting, there is real value in the simultaneous design within an assembly between internal engineers. That value prop isn’t some pie in the sky new practice organizations will need to adopt. It is a simple one to adopt.

Second, the assembly file will vanish a good bit before part files do. This blending of assemblies with databases isn’t exclusive to Dassault Systèmes’ ENOVIA or 3DEXPERIENCE. PTC has done something similar to Creo and Windchill. Autodesk’s Fusion 360 works without files. So does Onshape. Between all of these options, we very well could see a distinctive split between desktop-based CAD for part design and cloud-based fileless CAD for assembly design.

Third, not all of the issues are resolved. Consider this: what happens if a supplier designs a component in a desktop CAD application and customer pulls together the assembly in cloud-based CAD service? The initial assembly is easy enough. But what about updates? More interestingly, what happens when the supplier designs a part in a cloud-based CAD service and the customer cobbles the assembly together in a different cloud-based CAD service? I guess the supplier downloads the part and email it to the customer. But there are some interesting interoperability implications. Could the cloud-based assembly have a subscription to the cloud-based part instead so it would be updated automatically? There are some potentially powerful but complicated possibilities.

Recap and Conclusion

  • GE Power and Water is in the early stages of bringing together cloud-based assemblies of their products in 3DEXPERIENCE apps while piece parts are designed in other desktop-based CAD applications.
  • Their main motivation has been to enable simultaneous modification of the assembly without conflicts, a possibility enabled when everything is a different database entry that can be modified separately.
  • The fileless movement is real. The assembly file will likely fade away first. The move of CAD into the cloud raises some interesting implications for interoperability.

That’s my take folks. Let me know yours. Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.