Component Technology (SDK) Is Powerful Fuel for Developers

Developers can use component technology to create an endless array of products. SDKs can be leveraged across multiple sectors.

Jonathan Girroir , senior director of marketing

May 1, 2024

5 Min Read
Software Development Kits
Bin kontan for iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

At a Glance

  • SDKs help you do the basics right.
  • You can use component technology to gain efficiency in your development.

In my 25+ years of experience, I have seen firsthand that component technology can offer a huge advantage to the companies that take advantage of it. Despite every developer's unique circumstance, there are several common areas where software development kits (SDKs) consistently impact a developer's experience.

SOLIDWORKS staked its competitive position in the world of CAD in part through its use of component technology. The company has become a poster child for the benefits of using component technology at the right time. We will examine its story and that of its competition to highlight four of the biggest reasons to consider using component technology.

Speed to Market

Speed to market is everything in the software industry. If you see a market opportunity, others likely do too. First-mover advantage is crucial, and using ready-made software components can give developers a vital advantage in the production race. Those who use SDKs can have their product out the door while their competitors are still fumbling with in-house development. An “in-house development only” mindset is limiting, outdated, and can cost you vital opportunities.

When CAD software was a market in its infancy, SOLIDWORKS leveraged a modeling kernel component called Parasolid, which was new at the time. A competitor, Autodesk, took advantage of the same opportunity to create what would eventually become Autodesk Inventor using a similar modeling kernel called ACIS. Today, these companies and their products control a huge portion of the market. Being the first to cross the finish line was instrumental to their success.

Related:Dassault Systemes Extends Cloud Connection to Every SOLIDWORKS Seat

The juggernauts of the modern CAD market were not the only ones to see the market in its infancy. The speed of SOLIDWORKS, Inventor, and others helped them quickly dominate their markets and become well-known, while their competitors faded into obscurity.

Cost Efficiency

Undercutting the competition's pricing with a product of comparable quality can allow your company to cement itself as a big player in its industry. When SOLIDWORKS and the other component-based CAD systems were released on Windows, they were priced at around $3,000 per seat. Their competition was anywhere from $10,000 – $30,000 per seat. How were these vendors able to blow their competition out of the water in terms of competitive pricing? Component technology.

Good development teams are expensive and creating an entire CAD system from scratch can take even the most talented teams years to develop. Data translation, graphics, simulation, and modeling engines require a substantial number of highly specialized experts in their field to build and maintain. Most software companies simply don’t have in-house expertise or funding to develop these systems themselves. They license software components at a significant cost savings. SOLIDWORKS passed these savings to users and disrupted the market with software at a radically different price point.

Related:Autodesk and Epic Games Collaborate on Immersive Design

Overall, component technology makes companies far more efficient with their development. This can translate to higher profits, more competitive pricing, and overall better results for the company.

Specialized Expertise

Organizations often seek out component technology for highly specialized fields, such as modeling, constraint management, advanced visualization, CAD data translation, surface and volume meshing, solving, mesh healing, and more. Development in these areas requires teams of highly experienced, specialized experts, often with years or decades of unique experience.

Simply put, there aren’t that many of these individuals around, and it is impractical and prohibitively expensive for most companies to assemble multiple teams, each focused on a core piece of CAD functionality.

Component technology vendors, on the other hand, specialize in exactly what you are looking for – market-hardened, performance-tuned, innovative software components focused on supporting your exact workflows.

Returning to the SOLIDWORKS example, the company could have found the talent to build the modeling kernel they needed. To do so, they would have had to pluck a team out of the very small number of experts in the world, pay them well enough to leave their existing roles, and wait for them to do it all over again. Possible, but very wasteful. Instead, they focused on what made them unique, not reinventing what already existed in the market. 

Focus on Differentiation

We have touched on a common axiom in business – a company should focus as much attention as possible on the areas where it can differentiate themselves from the competition.

Component technology is a resource that empowers companies to do exactly that. A developer in the CAE space that is creating a method for data-solving faster than its competition wouldn’t waste their time and money creating parts of the product that already exist. You want to work on the secret sauce that sets you apart from the competition.

Inventor and SOLIDWORKS were created by developers who understood how mechanical engineers wanted to design. They worked to make that as seamless as possible. No designer, engineer, artist, or creative person of any kind wants to be interrupted. The two companies understood what they needed to do to empower their customers to design freely, without interruption or inefficiency. The user wasn’t concerned with who made the modeling kernel under the hood. SOLIDWORKS focused on their specialty, and it worked.

Component technology allows your product to provide features that may be viewed as “the basics” with a level of polish and reliability that comes with being market-tested for years. Customers will likely expect CAD import functionality in a new CAD product as a “basic” feature. Developing this capability is anything but simple. Creating these features from scratch is more than just expensive and time-consuming. It can result in differentiating yourself in the worst possible way: doing the basics poorly.

One common concern about using component technology is the idea of differentiation. “If we license a component used in other tools, won’t my product be just like everyone else's?” SDKs are tools in your toolbox. If you needed to drive a nail, you wouldn’t make a hammer from scratch. In the same vein, you wouldn’t develop your own UI toolkit, memory manager, video codex, or communicator protocol. CAD data translation, visualization, and modeling have also become commodities and should be treated as such. Second, see above: focus on what makes your product different, not what makes it the same.

Component technology is a foundation from which skilled, creative developer teams can create an endless array of products. Strong teams consistently use the same component technology to create different products for diverse, unrelated markets. Simply put, if your idea is strong and your team capable, component technology is a springboard to help focus on what makes you special.

About the Author(s)

Jonathan Girroir

senior director of marketing , Tech Soft 3D

Jonathan Girroir has a passion for 3D software, CAD, and innovation. For the last 22 years, Jonathan has been supporting software developers to build and utilize 3D visualization tools.

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