A Competitive Edge
Simulation and analysis software has improved drastically over the past few years, becoming easier to use and also becoming a necessity for manufacturers seeking a competitive advantage. As part of its reinvention, CAD software needs to follow suit.
“It can be easy for vendors to get complacent, to look at a software technology like traditional CAD that’s been around a while and say, ‘that’s good enough, let’s move on to the next thing.’ But there’s often a better approach, and we feel that’s the case with CAD,” said Fox. “There’s a lot to be gained when you step back and rethink old approaches.”
Old approaches are still being used, according to Randles. “Speaking strictly of CAD, no, it has not followed suit. CAD companies have not abandoned the core technology that makes it impossible for their software to be used by non-experts. CAD is deeply embedded into the processes of many companies, and at the same time, unadoptable for the majority of engineers,” he said. “One interesting trend we’ve seen recently is the expansion of 3D beyond product design, analysis, and manufacturing. While 3D design is increasingly necessary for companies to keep up competitively, that does not imply growth in CAD use, which has been, and will likely remain, relatively flat.”
The integration of simulation with design software is key, said Kelly. “Simulation functionality has been proven to give customers a competitive advantage. It took a little time, but CAD has evolved to include simulation functionality.”
Trends for 2014
A common trend that has been developing, and will continue to do so, is cloud applications of design software. Engineers and designers still experience some uncertainty about the role the cloud plays, and about the security of their designs being stored online. “The concerns we hear about are more centered around where data is stored than where the software is running,” said Thompson. “Most companies are not yet comfortable with their IP being stored in a cloud server, unless that server is within their own enterprise network. Cost advantages are significant enough that many companies concerned about IP protection are likely to keep an open mind and continue to investigate ways of leveraging cloud-based technologies in their own enterprise.”
While it’s likely that companies will have concerns about the public cloud, Randles stated that it is a point on which he will not ask customers to compromise. “There is a spectrum of concern, and the challenge is meeting the security demands of the most protective companies while delivering the collaboration power sought by the most permissive.” SpaceClaim’s plans for a cloud-enabled, live 3D collaboration system are expected to meet customer expectations without violating that “prime directive,” said Randles.
Kelly explained that SolidWorks also has spoken with customers about their design data being securely stored online. “Customers, as expected, have some questions, but are open to it,” Kelly said. “Most customers discuss how they are already using company information on the cloud. Customers embrace the advantages of connectivity that only the cloud offers. We think the design software industry is trailing other categories in the move to cloudbased offerings.”
Trends in mainstream CAD and engineering also will play a vital role this year. “The trend toward systems engineering and other forces democratizing 3D will continue, requiring all parties involved in product design, testing, and manufacturing to further integrate their efforts to stay competitive,” said Randles. “The single-model, single-vendor dogma is obsolete. Manufacturing has become global, and supply chains and partnerships are constantly changing. Therefore, the CAD and engineering software environment is heterogeneous, and manufacturers have to be able to work with a variety of data, especially CAD data,” he said.
Fox explained that a recent survey showed that one of the top frustrations about current CAD offerings is that companies can’t always afford the functionality they need. “The perpetual license model will always have its place, but we’re finding subscriptions are an attractive option for some customers. We see other, smaller companies and startups using subscriptions as an easy and affordable way to get access to a level of professional CAD that would otherwise have been out of reach.”