Forget what it says on your calendar. It's still Christmas for engineers looking for more software tools to help them design better products. New releases are blanketing the landscape like snowflakes in a winter storm. Among them: Wildfire, the latest release of PTC's Pro/ENGINEER. The much-awaited enhancement of PTC's flagship CAD product, due out as Design News went to press, is a major overhaul of Pro/ENGINEER. It includes a completely new interface, new capabilities for high-performance assembly modeling, and built-in Web communications for collaboration, among other features. www.ptc.com.
Solid Edge Version 14. EDS plans to launch this release next month at its user conference in Orlando, FL. It includes what EDS calls a new "Rapid Blue" technology that lets engineers create unique product shapes. firstname.lastname@example.org.
CADKEY Workshop Version 21. It adds skinning/lofting, filleting, and other surfacing features to the CADKEY solid modeling package. www.cadkey.com.
SolidWorks 2003. Introduced last fall, this latest version of the 3D solid modeling package incorporates COSMOSXpress finite element modeling. www.solidworks.com.
Unigraphics NX. Like its mid-range cousin in the EDS family, NX integrates collaboration tools. It also enables reuse of engineering information. www.eds.com.
Autodesk Inventor 6. It boasts 200 new and improved features for enhancing drawing productivity, as well as other features. www.autodesk.com.
The releases most talked about by industry analysts, consultants, and power users alike—at least so far—are Wildfire and SolidWorks 2003. Peter Marks, managing director of Santa Cruz, CA-based consulting firm Design Insight, says Wildfire shows PTC's commitment to compete against SolidWorks, while the latter's latest release "continues the company's respect for customers' time and learning curve."
While it was still in the testing phase, Wildfire made a big impression on engineers at Moen, the faucet manufacturing company—so much so that Senior Product Design Technician Mike Brattoli decided to switch to it from an earlier version of Pro/ENGINEER. The first Moen team to change over will be industrial designers, who currently use PTC's CDRS software. Next, says Brattoli, will be the mechanical engineers.
"One of the things I like most about Wildfire," says Brattoli, "is its ease of use." There are a lot of occasional CAD users at Moen, he says. "For engineers who don't use the software all the time, there is a lot to remember in core Pro/ENGINEER. Wildfire is more instinctive, and the occasional users can be productive right away."
Just as important to him is a feature that lets you change your mind. "It's a common problem," he says. "You're in a hurry and you do a protrusion when you meant to do a cut. With Wildfire, just click on an icon and you're done, no waste of time." Previously, he would have to delete the feature and then recreate it. "I've been requesting they change that for a long time," Brattoli says.
Bill Davis, senior project engineer at Brookfield, WI engineering firm Impact Engineering Solutions, raves about the multibody features of SolidWorks 2003. "Multibody lets us do conceptual design at two points and not worry about what's between the points," he says. His example: a transmission. "You know where the ends are supposed to function, so you can design both ends and ignore the shaft between them."