There’s an on-going debate in the 3D CAD space about the virtues of the traditional parametric or history-based approach vs. the newer, some argue more flexible, direct modeling method. PTC last week took steps to ensure it has an argument that supports both sides.
The 3D CAD leader, which claims to have pioneered the traditional history-based CAD method in the 1990s with the introduction of ProENGINEER, acquired CoCreate Software GmbH, a privately-held, German-based firm for $250 million.
CoCreate has been marketing the OneSpace platform, which employs a direct modeling approach, for years and has approximately 5,000 global customers, including market giants Hewlett-Packard and Agilent, among others. Unlike history or parametric-based CAD tools, which maintain a history of all the sketches, extrusions and changes used to create a solid, direct modelers like OneSpace build a solid from the geometric characteristics. That makes it easier to make changes to a model without having to impact all the underlying past history, an approach proponents claim make CAD operations easier, more intuitive and less time consuming than traditional methods.
PTC’s Brian Shepard, division vice president, product management, says both methods have merit, depending upon the application—hence a central driver for PTC’s acquisition. Parametric-based CAD tools like Pro/E make sense, he says, 90% of the time in design scenarios, particularly when there are families of products that share common design criteria. Direct modelers, or explicit modeling as Shepard calls it, is best suited for instances such as concepting when a fast, lightweight design approach is best. “We’re now the only company that has a complete set of offerings—we don’t have to be religious about what approach is best,” Shepard says.
PTC will continue to maintain and enhance the CoCreate product family, which will be positioned as the company’s sixth product line. Beyond the explicit or direct modeling capabilities, the CoCreate acquisition also delivers a loyal set of customers in the electronics and high-tech manufacturing space. PTC envisions being able to cross-sell these customers its PLM offerings that go beyond pure CAD functionality.
Besides CoCreate and PTC, other vendors are branching out with the direct modeling capabilities. SpaceClaim is a newcomer to the CAD market touting a direct modeling approach, while companies such as Alibre Inc. and Siemens PLM Software are adding direct modeling functionality to their parametric-based CAD suites.