In our annual poll of executives at leading design and virtual prototyping software companies, we found that in difficult economic times, providing customers with easy-to-use, value-added products is even more important. We asked executives to give their views on the importance of 2D to 3D, upfront simulation, and trends that will affect the software market in 2010.

The 2D-to-3D Barrier

alt Each year, CAD users cite that there are still barriers to migrating from 2D to 3D, and most include ease of use as one of those barriers. But, according to Jeff Ray, CEO of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks, more people than ever before are adopting 3D. “Once they make the change, they never go back. For us, it’s respecting the user’s reality – they still need 2D to get the job done,” Ray explained.

Ease of adoption of a 3D product also continues to be a major concern for many customers. The learning curve, cost, and change in processes all lead to hesitation in migrating to 3D. “Modeling in 3D is a slightly different design process from modeling in 2D,” said Tom Shoemaker, vice president of solutions marketing for PTC. “Users must change their way of thinking about a design from simple 2D tasks like drawing lines and geometries, to something that resembles sculpting or a richer 3D visualization of a shape. 3D products are becoming more intuitive and much easier to use, which helps overcome the ease-of-use barrier,” he added.

altDan Staples, director of Solid Edge product development for Siemens PLM Software, agrees that ease of adoption is critical. “Most 2D users are familiar with product development and refining designs using a certain workflow. Generally, that workflow is to design in each orthogonal view,” he explained. “Then when changes are required, they manipulate specific elements within each view accordingly. The process is simple to grasp and master, but is not automated. Most 3D CAD systems automate by replaying the model’s design steps upon an edit. So, the 2D user has to learn how to program a model so it reacts a certain way during an edit.”

Simplifying the 3D environment also helps in adoption from 2D. “Feature-based solid modeling is conceptually challenging compared to 2D, most 3D CAD systems are overloaded with features, and 3D itself is difficult to conceptualize,” according to Chris Randles, president and CEO of SpaceClaim. “We address the first problem by being fully dedicated to direct modeling, which brings the ease of 2D editing to 3D.”

For Autodesk, the biggest barrier to 3D adoption is the status quo, according to Amy Bunszel, senior director of Digital Engineering. “It’s human nature that when people are comfortable with something, they don’t want to rock the boat. We hear, ‘It works today, why change?’ The downturn in the economy will be the biggest advantage to people changing. It’s not business as usual and old methods simply will not work anymore.” Added Bunszel, “Companies must rethink their design-to-manufacturing processes with fewer people to take on the workload. One way to be more effective and increase productivity is with 3D design.”

But with the down economy, cost also is a factor, although Shoemaker believes it should not be a barrier to migrating to 3D. “There are general misconceptions about the cost of 2D versus 3D CAD products. The price of a 2D package is roughly the same as an entry-level 3D CAD product. The benefits of 3D modeling in a design process can also significantly outweigh the initial cost of the 3D application,” he added. “The higher fidelity, richer 3D model enables engineers to streamline design, analysis, and manufacturing processes.”

Integrating Simulation and Analysis

So, as organizations are required to do more with less due to cutbacks, designers and engineers are being asked to wear more hats – assuming the role of analyst in some cases, and looking for more upfront simulation and analysis capabilities in their design software.

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