4. Building bridges to CAE. CAE software providers also did not sit on the sidelines when it came to usability. There was a concerted effort to integrate CAE applications directly into CAD offerings -- the goal being to allow engineers to optimize designs using simulation without having to leave their familiar environments. CAD vendors also devoted energy to building those bridges, mostly by adding more sophisticated simulation capabilities to their own tools as witnessed by major CAD upgrades like Siemens PLM Software's NX 8.0, which went heavy on enhancements in this area. (See Slideshow: CAE Goes Mainstream and Siemens PLM Upgrades NX With CAE Enhancements.)
NX 8's high-definition 3D (HD-PLM) environment and visual reporting and analytics tools were expanded in 2011 to enable rich visual interaction.
5. Going mobile. Beyond the usability angle, 2011 was a pivotal year for the design tool segment to keep pace with major trends affecting mainstream business applications. Take mobility, for example, a huge hot button in the enterprise IT space. The trend started to percolate in design tools this year with some of the leading providers, including Siemens PLM Software, PTC, Dassault Systèmes, Maplesoft, IMSI, and, in particular, Autodesk, testing the waters with a handful of early mobile design tool apps meant to test engineers' interest and experiment with what functionality makes sense on a mobile platform. (See: Autodesk Amps Mobile Sim With ForceEffect.)
6. Experimenting in the cloud. The cloud is yet another area where design tools took a step toward enterprise computing. While most major enterprise platforms from CRM to ERP have embraced the cloud format for a couple of years now, CAD and PLM tools have lagged behind, that is until this year when Dassault Systèmes and Autodesk laid out formal cloud strategies for their entire CAD and PLM portfolios. While it's still early in this transition, expect to see a lot more to come in this area. (See: Dassault Makes Major Play in the Cloud and Autodesk Cloud Makes Its Official Debut.)
Despite the fact there wasn't any bang-up technology upheaval this year, 2011 certainly laid a pretty solid foundation for changes that are bound to propel CAD and PLM further away from their niche application roots to becoming key players in the mainstream computing fabric of organizations across all key industries.
Beth, I do agree with you about young engineers coming up through the ranks expecting these kinds of tools. They're second nature to kids, and those kids will soon enough be involved in design. For many young people, social networks -- particularly Facebook -- have replaced email for communication.
William: What you are describing is pretty unbelievable, but I suppose not out of context if you consider how quickly technology evolves and delivers lasting impact. In some ways, dashboards and simulation tools can already provide some of this analysis, but it's placing it in the social context and the ease of presentation where we're likely to see the most dramatic changes.
I think you're right in that engineers won't be looking for social networking as it is. However, you're right when you say the collaboration required will result in a desire to have functionality that will simplify the communication and that may look an awful lot like some of the social networks. Engineers from different continents are working on projects at the same time. And the ability to share designs, concepts and ideas in a quick and easy way will definitely be a selling point in the future.
I think the integration of not only CAD but communication whille still in CAD will be the next big thing. Being able to work on a design and instant message a colleague hundreds of miles away while reviewing the same design will be very helpful. Are there any companies that you know of currently working on this, or are there tools already available?
Fantastic list, Beth! I like the Integration and Cloud pieces. I'm excited about the mobile developments but it looks like that will share the same pinch point as mobile PDAs a decade ago... limited interface baud rate. Even though Jeff Hawkins designed Graffiti, it wasn't until multi-touch and now voice that mobile took off. It is great the industry is preparing for mobile design while the input methods are fleshing out. That way when the interface it right, vendors can rush in with solutions. I'm not at all surprised about Social. Social for humans is a given and will continue to permeate all we do in 2012. What I am excited about is Social Objects. We've made great strides in Object Oriented development -- the next big thing is to have Objects become social. It means the Internet of Things, but it also means Social Software Objects in design -- as in various components communicating with each other within the software application to measure compatibility (proper morphology, material compatibility, load limits, stress distribution). Be prepared for a component to communicate with designers "Sorry, Dave. I would drill and tap a hole at this location, but the current location is in a position of maximum stress for this component according to the FEA. Can we move the position to this location?"
You raise good points, Rob. I don't think simply pasting Facebook functionality into design tools will satisfy any engineer--old or new. I think that CAD and PLM vendors are recognizing that social media is not a fad and implemented correctly, it can add significant value to engineering processes, particularly since the discipline is far more collaborative than it ever has been. In addition, I do think that younger generations coming up the ranks are going to expect this kind of functionality in all of their business tools, be it CAD programs or spreadsheets. The capabilities we see today may not be the capabilities we see tomorrow, but my guess is some sort of social functionality will become a mainstay of engineering tools over time.
Nice overview, Beth. The one that really got me was social media. I'm curious about whether this is a matter of pasting Facebook-look functionality onto everything that moves or whether this is a truly useful addition. the answer could be generational. The younger engineers may find this natural and helpful, while the older engineers are probably rolling their eyes.
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