3D Modeling Debate Spurs New Generation of CAD Tools: Page 3 of 4

CAD providers have taken the
cross-pollination strategy to a new level, blending both modeling technologies
in a single product. Siemens PLM Software launched its strategy last June, with
, which it touts as a history-free, feature-based modeling
approach now offered in both its NX and SolidEdge CAD products. Based on a
proprietary application layer built on top of Siemens D-Cubed and Parasolid
software, Synchronous Technology employs live rules and solver technology to
overcome the order dependencies that have frequently dogged the performance of
history-based CAD tools. Through this technique, Siemens is able to preserve
the controls and automation advantages of a parametric modeling approach while
taking advantage of the flexibility, direct interaction and scalability that
have been the hallmark of direct modelers, according to Dan Staples, director
of SolidEdge product development at Siemens.

Autodesk appears to be taking a similar approach with its Inventor Fusion technology, which it
recently previewed and is slated for a future Inventor release. Fusion technology
will enable engineers to switch between parametric and direct workflows as it
make sense for a particular task and the software will take responsibility for
how to bring the two models together and to track the changes in a single
digital model. "Customers need a two-way street," says Andrew Anagnost, vice
president of CAD/CAE for Autodesk Manufacturing Solutions. "They want to be
able to directly edit a model when they want to and lock it down in parametric
when they want to. They want to keep parametric when they want it and throw it
away when they don't. That's what we've done with Fusion."

It's still too early to tell whether Fusion - or any of these new direct
modeling technologies - will ultimately give engineers that ultimate level of
design freedom. One thing is clear, however; we're finally getting to a point
where engineers may soon benefit from the best of both worlds. "Parametric has
some very good points, but it also has some weaknesses," says Ken Versprille,
PLM research director at CDP Assoc.
, a market research firm specializing in CAD and engineering. "Where we
are today is getting to the point where we can avoid the weaknesses."

That is welcome news for Jonathan Gamble, director of engineering for Magnet-Schultz of America Inc. ,
a privately-held manufacturer of electromagnetic devices with headquarters in
Germany. A long-time SolidWorks user, Gamble was getting pressure from the
parent company to switch to the CoCreate SolidDesigner direct modeler, which
was used extensively at the company's German divisions. Yet, Gamble said he had reservations. The
company's FEA tool and PDM system were not compatible with the CoCreate
technology, and Gamble was concerned about how the lack of history-tree
technology would affect the design of families of parts, which was critical to
the Magnet-Schultz product family.

As a result, Gamble opted not to switch and keep both tools in house.
Still, he's pleased by all the recent activity related to bridging the worlds
of direct modeling with history-based CAD. "There's room for both. The trend I
see is that history-based modelers are starting

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