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PTC’s Design Exploration Extension: Acknowledging Comparative Design

At practically every software user event, there’s an overwhelming number of activities. In the rush to catch user presentations, keynotes and product updates, its easy to miss a thing or two.

At the PTC Live event in June this year, that was definitely the case. PTC was talking about the Internet of Things, Service Lifecycle Management and their role in it. Among this, along with a few other major updates on Creo, I think this little tidbit was lost.

At the event, PTC launched a new Creo extension, Design Exploration Extension. In this post, I’ll tell you what it does and why it is important. Let’s proceed.

Capabilities Provided

Usually, I just jump into the capabilities provided by the new product or technology. However, in this case, we need some context.

I think we all understand that designing in a CAD application is an iterative thing. Sometimes, you’re exploring different design alternatives. Other times, you’re looking at different means of modeling to get to the most robust set of geometry. In either case, you end up with many different iterations of the model.

Now, take note that these really aren’t progressive versions of a single design. These are alternatives designs, of which you will choose one that will proceed. The rest are left as learnings or potential designs for the future. Understand the difference?

Today, there’s not a really good way of capturing, tracking and comparing those alternatives to one another. That’s where the new Design Exploration Extension comes into play.

OK. So what exactly does this thing do? As users are modeling, they push a button to create something akin to a ‘checkpoint.’ But furthermore, this extension understands how you got to this ‘checkpoint.’ It understands if the fifth one branched off from the second or third one. Along the way, it builds a visual representation of this branching that you can expand and contract. You can switch between those ‘checkpoints.’

Additionally, those of you not using Windchill products to manage your CAD models don’t need to be worried. This functionality does not need Windchill to work, implying that all of these ‘checkpoints’ are stored within the file itself. However, if you do use Windchill, these ‘checkpoints’ are exposed. But it is not clear if Windchill has been enhanced to expose these ‘checkpoints’ independently of Creo as of yet.

Commentary and Analysis

What is the value?

I think the biggest impact lies in some real support of comparative design. Direct Modeling approaches in Creo, and other CAD applications, enable non-experts to quickly and easily generate 3D geometry. Do so again and again, they can develop many design alternatives. However, this is the first set of capabilities that allow those engineers to save, track and manage them in a reasonable way. Kudos to PTC for doing so.

Additionally, there is value during design reviews. Engineers in a meeting amongst their peers can walk them through the design alternatives that were considered. This is far more efficient that generating and perhaps even recreating models.

Now, where are the holes? There are a few minor ones that may or may not be addressed over time.

  • Ultimately, engineers don’t just compare and contrast geometry when considering design alternatives. There is a lot of textual data, ranging from weight, simulation peak stresses, spreadsheet calculations, suppliers, inventory and much more that come into the equation. Some tabular representation of this information would be highly valuable as well.
  • Integration here with Mathcad makes perfect sense as well. Running the same equations and recording their results against each checkpoint would be very valuable.
  • Continuing along those lines, fully exposing all of the Design Exploration functionality within Windchill would be a boon. In fact, if this were done in concert with the textual information described immediately above, you would have a great design decision making tool.
  • Which brings me to my last point on engineering notebooks. Back in 2012, I wrote a series of posts on engineering notebooks, which I saw as an unaddressed need in the market. This, with integrations with Creo Sketch, Mathcad, Windchill as described above, would make a relatively serious offering in that area.

Recap

  • PTC Creo’s Design Exploration Extension allows users to create ‘checkpoints’ of a model as it is changed and morphed. These represent different design alternatives or modeling approaches.
  • Even though it kind feels like PDM, it does not require Windchill, implying that the ‘checkpoints’ are stored within the model. It does, however, have some integration with Windchill.
  • The value of this tool, in my eyes, lies in how it would work with Direct Modeling and Sketching during the concept phase to enable the creation of design alternatives. There aren’t many ways to track and manage such designs today.
  • I think there is more potential value in integrations. In fact, integrations with Creo Sketch, Mathcad and Windchill could turn into an interesting engineering notebook solution.

That’s my take folks! What’s yours? Sound off in the comments and let me know your thoughts.

Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.

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