PTC develops data-sharing design and manufacture software

Software developer PTC has developed a new suite of software applications based on a common data platform. It said the programs would be able to exchange design files right across the design and manufacturing process.

Currently in testing and due for release next year, the software is called Creo and represents a new approach to mechanical CAD, claimed PTC’s CEO, Jim Heppelmann. He said that despite the evolution of CAD through 2D drawing to 3D and solid modelling, and then to assembly modelling and product configuration management, the need for each tool has not gone away, leaving users needing to translate or even re-create files.

He added that while some users need ‘power’ CAD software, others only need a subset of that, yet it has been difficult if not impossible for them to use two different tools on the same project. And he claimed that while vendor and product lock-in in the CAD industry has been great for customer retention, it has stifled innovation.

“Creo is being specifically created to solve the big problems remaining in the mechanical CAD market: usability, interoperability, assembly management and technology lock-in,” he asserted.

By operating upon a common shared data model, Creo would enable users to work upon the same project in 2D, 3D direct or 3D parametric, depending on their needs and preferences, said Brian Shepherd, PTC’s executive vice-president for product design. He added that PTC would offer alternative applications for users with different needs, so a concept designer, for example, would get the tools they needed, but not analysis or parametric tools.

All of these apps would be able to access, and if necessary modify, the same project data, Shepherd said. He added that Creo would also be able to pull in and work with data from other vendors’ CAD systems, and also link to PTC’s Windchill software for assembly modelling. Connecting Windchill to Creo would allow the former to do the likes of performance simulation and regulatory compliance checking, he said.

“Third parties will now have the ability to write apps to work on the Creo common data model - we will licence them on simple terms,” added Paul Haimes, PTC’s vice-president, Europe technical sales. He noted though that the company has no plans to open-source or otherwise open up the common platform. “What we’re doing is not a 3D XML, that’s not the intention. It is still PTC’s DNA,” he said.

Heppelmann said that as part of the introduction, PTC’s current design software was being rebranded: Pro/Engineer has become Creo Elements/Pro, CoCreate is now Creo Elements/Direct, and ProductView is Creo Elements/View. He added that data created in these applications will be fully upwards compatible with the Creo family of products.

Those products will enter beta testing in spring 2011, he said, to be followed by a version 1.0 release of seven apps in the summer and then a version 2.0 release to add configuration modelling via Windchill in autumn 2011. PTC customers with maintenance agreements would get the new software at no extra charge as a maintenance upgrade, the company said.

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