Thanks for the intel @JPW. Blender sounds interesting and something I'm sure some of our community members would love to check out. What's your experience with the whole open source model--do you regularly contribute to the community and do you find that other contributions in terms of code/model sharing etc. are helpful?
Companies that make microcontrollers (MCUs) often have a set of programming tools they make available for free. They also have a couple of tiers of software tools at higher places and with more capabilities. So, people can learn to use the tools and create and debug some code that runs on the semiconductor vendor's MCUs. Of course the MCU vendor hopes to make up for free or low-cost tools by selling you more chips. Yet many third parties also sell programming tools and seem to make money doing so. They enhance their products with added bells and whistles that programmers need and want. And they, too, have different prices for different levels of code optimization, add-ons, etc.
Perhaps the CAD-software people need a business model that gives away free software that lets a user create only x number of surfaces, CAD files of only y megabytes, and so on. Then if you want to upgrade, you buy the next license step which adds more features and allows for bigger designs. They could also put a time limit on the steps, so if I want the top package for only 6 months, I pay only for what I need and for as long as I need it.
A few years ago I tried Google's SketchUp and Alibre. Both seemed counterintuitive and difficult to use. I hope CAD software has improved.
I've downloaded and played around with a CAD OpenSource program called Blender. It is very popular I'm told with Makerspace (hackerspace) people. I recenlty joined a Makerspace in Southeastern Massachusetts.
***NOTE: this is a polygonal modeler; not a B-Rep, though I'm told if requested it will most likely get added.
The models I've seen done in Blender are quite impressive.
The interface is more complex than most MCAD packages; however, there are lots of tutorials on YouTube.
@JPW: You raise some interesting comparisons and I think you are right about the high price tag not corresponding well to everyone's picture of an enterprise application. Also, I don't think IT has any kind of role in choosing CAD tools so the expenditure comes right out of engineering's budget--not any kind of enterprise IT fund.
The open source avenue is interesting. I've heard some good things about the open source CFD tools. Have you come across any other popular design tools that make sense in an open source forum?
People by nature like the latest and greatest. CAD companies followed this idea for years. Then we found out most of us only need a smaller part of the features, plus the features are getting real expensive. Slimmer version were made available - then competion between the best slimmer versions, etc.
I am a PE consultant engineer. Most of the time, I use Inventor 11. This "old" software competes well against almost anything out there for what I need.
The only real problem is upward compatability, if I need to share with newer versions. This is mostly a money making gimmick. It would be easy to strip new feature off a file and let older programs run them. It seems that downward compatability is as easy as pie - there's money in it.
It's good to see a pay as you go model. Very often I'm working on a project and only need a tool for a couple of months, then a year goes by before I need to use the tool again. The full price tag is just too much for that kind of use and then add the maintenance fee, because the next time I need the tool it will be out of date. If the CAD vendors are going that way do you think the compiler vendors will do the same? I hate paying $1000+ every year just so my tool doesn't get out of date, because sometimes a couple of years go by before I use that particular micro again. With one compiler I stopped renewing the maintenance fee because the annual subscription is 1/3 the cost of a new license. It's a great tool, but I'll take the gamble that I won't need the update for three years.
Hi Beth, to me the pricing is a perspective issue. Most "business" software that businesses use on a daily basis; MS Office, Accounting, Graphics apps, fall in the <$2K range. When business people see the price of a MCAD product they are shocked and then they see that it has a maintenance contract; something not found in other common business apps and they are shocked again. They perceive that business software should be in the <$2K range or even <$1K, unless it is an enterprise wide software like an ERP package.
Thus, the MCAD is a really difficult sell (I know from experience) for engineering/CAD managers due to the MCAD pricing model; especially because MCAD is not an enterprise wide system.
On FEA it gets worse, and there I am personally turning to OpenSource software.
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That very well be, Rob, but it's high time for the vendors to rethink their licensing fee structures to reflect the times and how customers want and expect to pay for software. Increasing, the cloud is enabling pay-as-you go pricing and that's what customers are demanding. Keep in mind that software vendors also don't just make money on the actual license fee, but on annual subscription and maintenance fees. Those fees aren't going away, in many cases. And by offering subscription pricing, coupled with newer 3D visualization and design collaboration tools, vendors are actually expanding their user base for CAD and design tools--another way to amortize seemingly lost revenues for a different pricing model.
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