PTC has a large stable of tools that work with its famously powerful but cantankerous CAD platform, Pro/Engineer. It uses them to extend the power of solid modeling throughout the "three C's"—control, collaborate, and create.
But in PTC's worldview, one thing was missing—a connection between its "create"-level applications (Pro/Intralink, Pro/Desktop, ConceptOne, Routed Systems Designer, and Pro/Mechanica) and its collaborate and control-level applications (PDMLink, ProjectLink, Pro/Collaborate, PartsLink, and DynamicDesignLink).
That's an awfully diverse field of products for any customer to comprehend. Perhaps recognizing that, PTC now releases Pro/Engineer Wildfire.
In a demonstration at PTC's headquarters, MCAD Marketing Director Thomas Shoemaker said Wildfire would bridge the gap between easy-to-use CAD programs that allow individual designers to be creative, and complex design environments that enforce high corporate productivity. Examples of the first are "the Solid-X's" such as Dassault's SolidWorks and EDS' Solid Edge, Shoemaker says. An example of the second is a customized implementation of Dassault's Catia V4.
That's asking a lot of a new product. But Pro/E Wildfire truly does offer a more user-friendly CAD platform than anyone's seen before from PTC.
Pro/ENGINEER gets user-friendly with its Wildfire release, featuring better dialog boxes, lifelike displays, snap-to lines, and-gasp!-a departure from its famous blue background.
That includes WYSIWYG displays, intuitive snapping, a gray background instead of its trademark blue, and dashboard-style dialog boxes that offer drill-down options on demand. You can use context-sensitive right-clicking, and even "expose parameters" to change, to do more creative design or let Wildfire's Behavioral Modeling feature optimize the model itself. Another new feature is a Web browser that's part of the Wildfire desktop, integrated so tightly that users can drag-and-drop CAD parts from online catalogs. That Web connectivity also enables Napster-like file sharing using Groove, the peer-to-peer collaboration platform.
Another nice feature is that you can import a "dumb" iges file and stretch or resize it with global associativity, like a native Pro/E model. You can also apply lightweight components, to save memory on multiple iterations of the same piece, like screws in an assembly. There's simple analysis and motion simulation through Pro/Mechanica, and even model quality-checking.
In a simplified benchmark, PTC says the result is a CAD program that can make parts with fewer mouse clicks. A sample part that looks like the handle on my kitchen cabinet took 253 clicks to create in Pro/E 2001. PTC says it took 216 clicks in the "mainstream CAD" competition (that means the Solid-Xs). And it took just 180 clicks in Pro/E Wildfire.
That's all great, but how about the copy of Pro/E 2001 that's loaded on your PC today? Shoemaker says Wildfire offers backward compatibility with the last three releases—Pro/E 2001, Pro/E 2000i2, and Pro/E 2000i.
What's the motivation for the big change? Aside from an inferred sense of urgency related to PTC's infamously dropping stock price, they list three reasons: first, aesthetics do matter, even in CAD software. Second, there's great inefficiency to be wrung out of the product development process—they quote stats like 90% of product development costs are incurred in manufacturing, and 60-70% of new products are developed from existing data. And third is a startling admission from a high-end CAD company like PTC; customers don't use their software alone, but exist in a multi-CAD environment.
The company also insists this release offers "revolutionary data openness," which may come as some surprise to those who accuse PTC of encrypting their allegedly open Granite One interoperability kernel (the core of Pro/E, Pro/D, and IronCAD). But Shoemaker says Wildfire will share data via a DXF export wizard, Parasolid, or Acis export. He also listed Pro/Engineer and Pro/Desktop as evidence, but interoperability with one's own platforms does not solve many problems for those design shops with heterogenous CAD environments.
PTC's approach to the product development process has been similar to the rest of the industry's—to move intellectual property from crude abstractions such as BOMs and documents toward more sophisticated abstractions like schematics and drawings.
PTC's "digital product" now combines them all, and does it over the product's whole lifecycle. PTC's Jim Heppelmann, CTO and EVP of software products, likes to show a powerpoint slide listing the "six chevrons" of product development: plan, design, source, make, sell, and service. Together, they comprise the digital product.
This release brings it one step closer.
For more information about Wildfire from PTC, www.ptc.com: Enter 537