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The Potential Advantages and Outstanding Concerns of PTC’s Creo

This series of posts will cover new product releases, changes in product strategy and acquisitions by engineering software providers affect engineering stakeholders. New posts in this series will be published based on software provider activities. Today’s post goes beyond the news around the launch of PTC’s Creo to analyze and assess the potential advantages, the reality and outstanding concerns for the new product.

Dates and Events: On October 28th 2010, PTC announced their new consolidated strategy for CAD (PTC press release). The following are the highlights of that strategy.

  • A new product line called Creo will be released in summer of 2011. This product line will include numerous role specific apps (applications) built from the same modular set of capabilities.
  • Three existing products are now part of the Creo product line. Pro/ENGINEER is now Creo Elements/Pro. CoCreate is now Creo Elements/Direct. ProductView is now Creo Elements/View. PTC will continue to provide support for customers of these products with upgrades to Creo to match current functionality at no additional cost.

Capabilities Provided by PTC’s Creo: By now, you may have seen lots of news in the form of articles and posts on the launch of Creo including Desktop Engineering’s article, DEVELOP3D’s article and Managing Automation’s article. In fact, there’s a deluge on this type of information over at the new Creo site where they keep an ongoing list of reaction articles. The points of the news focus on AnyRole Apps, AnyMode Modeling, AnyData Adoption and AnyBOM Assembly. However, I’d like to move beyond the news of the event and highlight what I think are the most important capabilities of Creo in more layman terms.

  • Switching between 2D, Direct 3D and Parametric 3D Modeling: PTC is combining functionality from CoCreate and Pro/ENGINEER into a single set of modeling capabilities.
  • Multi-CAD and Application Interoperability: PTC is going to use ProductView’s ability to read design models from practically any CAD application as a core capability of Creo. Also, when switching between apps, design data will move seamlessly along with the user. And finally, all of the apps within the Creo suite uses the same data model.
  • Configuration Generated Design Models: An integration between Creo and Windchilll will allow a user to define a product configuration via a text table type of interaction which Creo can then auto-assemble based on an interface functionality from Pro/ENGINEER.
  • Modular Architecture to Enable Role Specific Apps: Essentially PTC is breaking their existing software applications, like Pro/ENGINEER and ProductView, down into modules, which they are calling apps, that can be combined to make new software applications for a specific job. The difference here is that any one of the modules (apps) can run and operate on their own.
  • An Open System: PTC intends to make Creo an open environment where software partners can create their own apps, exposing their software capabilities in the Creo environment.

Analysis and Commentary: Now there certainly is a lot to talk about because there are so many implications for so many stakeholders in the product development process. Here are my thoughts: the beneficial, the reality and the concerns.

The Potential Advantages: Overall, I see a lot of good with Creo. Here are the high points.

  • Admission that 2D Has a Rightful Place in Design: For the longest time, 2D has practically been a dirty word in this industry. Almost every vendor has been a huge rush to get every manufacturer to 3D. But the reality is that 2D is useful in specific scenarios. Recently, both DS with DraftSight and Siemens PLM have openly discussed 2D’s place in the design process. Enabling stakeholders to utilize that type of capability and make sure it is forward compatible with 3D models is huge.
  • The Role Focus of Creo Apps: While I don’t think that any single technology capability of Creo is necessarily groundbreaking, I do believe the approach to offering apps that are focused on serving specific roles is unique. In recent posts such as Who builds 3D models? Engineers? Designers? Drafters? and The Subtle Distinction Between Designing and Documenting Products, I firmly believe that different stakeholders should have different sets of functionality exposed to them. Above and beyond all else, I think this is the true value in Creo. I’ll be dedicating more specific posts to Creo’s implications for specific roles in the near future.
  • Making Multi-CAD Interoperability… Forgettable: The use of ProductView’s ability to read design data from just about any other MCAD software is important. Right now, it generates ‘viewables’ from that design data and I rarely hear of any issues with it. In fact, it’s forgettable. If PTC can apply that paradigm to multi-CAD interoperability, it have a huge impact. Dealing with multi-CAD data interoperability is not a value-add activity in product development.
  • The Pragmatic Concession to the Reality of Table Based Configurations: Every day, thousands of engineers are managing complex product configurations through text based tables in spreadsheets. I’m glad PTC has been pragmatic in offering a means of validating those designs in a realistic manner.

The Reality: Some of PTC’s strategy is to their own benefit.

  • A Modular Architecture Benefits PTC as Much as Their Customers: While I really like the idea of role-specific apps and the modular product architecture that makes it possible, I realize that this move may benefit PTC as much as their customers. Rationalization of the numerous products they have acquired over the past ten years requires an expansive development team. With a rationalized set of software modules, they can dedicate more resources on new functionality. In the end, it’s a win-win.

The Concerns: Despite all the positives, there are some concerns that I harbor.

  • Will each bundle of AnyRole apps be sized and scaled appropriately? I don’t think PTC has worked all of this out quite yet, but it’s a serious question. I imagine manufacturers will be able to buy some preset combination of apps. But will that preset combination be the right one? I could almost see being able to purchase apps only on an individual basis and simply switching between them as necessary. Time will tell.
  • What about drawing and drafting? During the launch, PTC proposed that a simple and advanced means of 2D modeling, 3D modeling and assembly modeling was needed. The result was a 2 by 3 matrix in which 6 different types of capabilities were needed. However this could be extended far out to other capabilities provided in CAD applications. For example, should there be simple and powerful alternatives to drawings and drafting? What about simple and powerful means of performing simulation? The same could be said for interconnect (cabling and piping) and much more.
  • Application of Parametric Modification to Multi-CAD Models? The presentation seemed to imply that Creo could import design data from anywhere and start modifying it. However the ability to do so with Direct Modeling capabilities, such as those from Siemen PLM’s Synchronous Technology inference engine or Spaceclaim, has been available on the market for some time. Do they also mean to provide a means of modifying geometry from other CAD applications with parametric definitions? It would be an incredible capability. But attempts at feature recognition in the past have not come to any production level capability.
  • AnyBOM requires Windchill: On the face of the launch, the integration requiring Windchill makes sense. However, Pro/ENGINEER has used a text table functionality to automate the generation of assembly models for quite some time through family tables. Why was this not used? Does this mean that family tables will not be available?

Summary and Conclusion: On October 28th 2010, PTC announced the intent to launch a new product line called Creo in the summer of 2011. This new product line will absorb Pro/ENGINEER, CoCreate and ProductView. The highlights of Creo, from my perspective, includes new combined modeling capabilities, data and application interoperability, configuration generated design models, role specific apps and an open system. While I have many outstanding questions and concerns, I believe this new product line offers the potential of great value to many product development stakeholders. We just have to wait until summer 2011 to see if PTC delivers.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

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