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3D solid modeling for all

3D solid modeling for all

think3's inventive business strategy and new 3D design software could revolutionize the $6 billion mechanical CAD software industry. Costello and the more than 200 think3 employees worldwide are looking to create an easy, natural transition path from 2D to 3D. Their software, they say, can be as sophisticated or as practical as the user's needs dictate.

Design News: What do you consider to be the future of CAD/CAM/CAE?

Costello:The transition from 2D to 3D is the big trend of the next five years. This is really think3's mission: to convert the millions of people doing design in 2D, to 3D. We're going to start with mechanical design. This is the biggest opportunity in this market today, and this is the time to do it. In the future, we will expand into other markets, such as architectural design.

Q: What are the factors that will contribute to the change from 2D to 3D?

A: It's a combination of industry, market, and technology factors. The hardware side of the world is definitely ready for the move. You can now run think3 on a $599 machine--and that's a better machine than the vast majority of people are using to do design today. A year from now, that will be under $500. So there's no longer a barrier on the hardware side for performance/cost.

Q: What is stopping people from moving to 3D?

A: Today, the limitations are on the software side. The 3D software has been much too expensive, and 3D software has been much too difficult to learn. Six to twelve months of training is too long for today's markets, where companies can't afford such a big learning curve. In addition, 2D and 3D worlds have been incompatible.

Q: How is think3 different from other 3D software on the market today?

A: think3 has looked at all these problems, and tackled the issues one by one. Too expensive? Let's make our software free--no up-front license fee, just pay maintenance. Difficult to learn technology? We've put a lot of time and energy into producing a game called "The Monkey Wrench Conspiracy," which trains users on the product. Our new updated version includes everything you need to learn to move from 2D to 3D. We're trying to both minimize the time it takes to learn the program and keep the training fun, so users will be motivated to learn the program and concentrate on the important parts of learning design.

Q: What about compatibility across design file types?

A:think3 has also handled the compatibility issue. Our founders decided to create a program that would allow users to do anything--2D and 3D design, solid modeling, wireframe, surfaces--all with one geometric engine (kernel), so it was all integrated together to eliminate the need for add-ons to the core product.

Q: Why would users want a production-worthy 2D environment embedded inside a 2D/3D system?

A:Some people may tell you that 2D drawings will soon be relics of the past, it just isn't so. 2D drawings will continue to be used as the primary documentation standard for a long time to come. Other software systems will even try to force you into changing your design process over-night. But production-worthy drafting is a must-have. That's why think3 has implemented a world-class 2D environment--with an abundance of productivity tools to quickly generate drawings. think3 not only includes 2D drafting and drawing capabilities, but also provides bi-directional associativity between drawings and 3D models.

Q: What is your advice to companies choosing a CAD program?

A: When choosing a CAD program, many companies try to build checklists when reviewing product features. However, what's most important is what the company needs to do with the software. What are the company's mission and goals? What are the design requirements? What design methods are appropriate to reach these goals? Once you have defined a methodology, you can pick the right tool.


Joe Costello joined think3, formerly known as Cad.Lab, in February 1998. Previously, he served as president and CEO of Cadence Design Systems Inc. Under Costello's guidance, Cadence grew to be a leading supplier of electronic design automation (EDA) software and services. Prior to the formation of Cadence, Costello was president and CEO at SDA Systems, president of Electronic Speech Systems, and manager of R&D for digital signal processing and speech at National Semiconductor. He holds a master's of science degree in physics from both Yale University and the University of California, Berkeley.

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