Hara, who is also president of MICROCADAM's parent, CADAM Systems Company (CSC) of Japan, is an engineering graduate from UCLA. He founded CSC in 1984 and co-founded the former CADAM, Inc., then a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed, in 1982, serving as its first vice president of software engineering. Prior to the establishment of CADAM, Inc., he was director of computing for Lockheed-California Co., where the CADAM™ product was first developed and commercialized.
To make their software easier to use, CAD/CAM developers must not only address the needs of engineer users, but also of those who provide on-site support.
Design News: MICROCADAM® is reportedly the leading engineering software package in Japan. What software capabilities are more important to Japanese engineers than those in the U.S. and Europe?
Hara: Beyond the obvious differences in languages and drafting standards (ANSI, ISO, and JES), the differences are not very substantial. Japanese engineers are, however, considerably more demanding in terms of product quality, reliability, and customer services than their U.S. and European counterparts. Japanese companies are more interested in production-proven capabilities and vendor credibility than in being the first to employ leading-edge technology.
Q: What is the major obstacle to wider use of software?
A: Today, the chief obstacle to truly exploiting even relatively mature technologies like CAD- CAM is the required change in organizational structure, design practices, operational procedures, and so forth. It is always difficult to make sweeping changes. Firms will generally undertake pilot projects or otherwise limit the use of a new technology before going forward.
Q: How can CAD/CAM companies improve ease of use?
A: For engineers, the use of on-line tutorials, context-sensitive help, engineering terminology, intuitive user interfaces, and so forth will make the systems easier to learn and use. The software should be as transparent as possible. Engineers should be able to accomplish what they want without consciously dealing with the idiosyncrasies of the computer tools. Software should support national languages and comply with relevant standards. CAD/CAE products must fit into the customer's environment with minimal effort. The systems must allow for legacy data. And, vendors must provide responsive support.
Q: What is the fastest growing segment of the CAD/CAE market?
A: The fastest growing-although immature-segment is product data management. While products such as Product Data Manager from IBM and DMS from Sherpa have been available for some, there are several recent entrants such as Mantra, CMS, and Matrix. Many customers, particularly large customers, are finding that the management of their data and design processes is a major challenge. This is particularly true in heterogeneous software and hardware environments. Further, in the era of concurrent or simultaneous engineering, the need for communications across all functional departments involved in the product life cycle grows.
Q: What will be the next big technological breakthrough in engineering software?
A: The trends toward lower price, increased speed and capacity, greater configuration flexibility, improved integration, more modern user interfaces, and so forth will clearly continue. The incorporation of more raster and multimedia capabilities is equally assured. History has shown that it takes many years for a new technology to become widespread. Solid modeling needed more than a decade to achieve extensive acceptability. Product Data Management appears to be gaining. Longer term, I see mechanical engineering following the lead of electronic engineering by moving towards design synthesis and design automation rather than concentrating on analysis of proposed designs.
Q:You describe your core product as 2 ½. What does that mean?
A: First, we are on the verge of releasing a state-of-the-art solid modeling product. But, we consider our production-proven core product MICROCADAM Plus to be considerably more than lines-on-paper 2-D drafting. It facilitates the creation of drawings of sophisticated designs without the complexities and limitations of wireframe modelers. The underlying approach is based on descriptive geometry. A drawing consists of multiple views that can be orthographic, isometric, or true views. Geometry can be projected from one view to another. A third view can be generated from two existing views. The relationship between views in three-dimensional space is preserved even when views are moved, scaled, or rotated. In addition, there are overlays and details to assist in the generation of fully annotated engineering drawings in compliance with national, international, and corporate standards.