“The feature set in mature 3D systems has been able to provide complete digital prototyping for some time,” added Staples. “You can digitally test fit and function to determine mass properties, interferences, motion, and structural integrity. While most of these capabilities are available in a mature 3D system, the real difference between them becomes evident when it’s time to refine or optimize a product’s function and finish. Physical prototypes are still produced. Digital or virtual prototyping has reduced them by 35 percent from what we have seen at our customers,” according to Staples.

But according to Randles, the true value of CAE is not in virtual prototyping, but in using simulation at the beginning of the design process, before constructing detailed CAD models. “Certainly, CAE technology can successfully model an increasingly broad set of multiphysics problems, which narrows the gap between what can be accomplished virtually and physically. With today’s rapid prototyping technology, the cost of creating a detailed model in CAD is often far greater than the cost of constructing a physical prototype,” Randles explained. “If simulation is merely used to test a virtual prototype, it does not add significant value over testing a physical prototype.”

The Forecast for 2010

While there are some glimmers of hope for economic recovery this year, software vendors are generally cautious regarding what 2010 will bring. Some vendors have adjusted pricing, release schedules, and other aspects of their business, while others are proceeding with business as usual. “The economy has absolutely no impact on our investment in R&D,” stated Ray. “We have actually increased our investment in technology.”

alt Autodesk also is staying the course with its current release cycle. Said Bunszel, “We are still committed to release new versions of our products as always. We are certainly focused on affordable innovation for mainstream manufacturers, however. Our customers need to be innovative, but they need to do so in a way that allows them to be profitable,” she added.

According to Randles, SpaceClaim has adopted a continuous development process in which they release new functionality every few months. “In contrast to large CAD and engineering software vendors who rarely release significant new functionality more than once a year, we work closely with customers and partners to get them the capabilities they need as soon as practicable.”

Mark Anderson, vice president of software for Concepts NREC, agrees that while the recession is affecting customer demands on the pricing side, it has not affected the company’s product release cycle. “In general, the time cycle of a recession is not significantly long enough to directly impact longer-term product strategy in software. Customers are asking for a lot more specifics about what they can expect and when in the next versions. They are also becoming more upfront about specific demands and requirements,” he added. “The nature of these requests is not new, but the pressure to control costs and get maximum value is definitely higher than I’ve seen in a long time.”

As far as new trends in the software market for 2010, hardware continues to be important, with multicore processing. Added Anderson, “I see hardware changes driving a lot of trends. New and inexpensive multiple-core processors are really starting to change how computationally intensive applications are designed and sold.”

Another trend is the impact of data management within CAD. Said Bunszel, “Due to workforce cutbacks, we’re seeing a trend to invest more in data management. Previously, designs may have been organized on a file system, but now there aren’t as many people to maintain processes manually.”

altStaples agrees that data management will play a larger role in selecting CAD products. “PDM and CAD are inseparable. Anyone purchasing CAD today is also making a decision on their next-generation PDM system. The key here is selecting a vendor that can take you from a single user to thousands while protecting your data,” he explained.

“Improved collaboration – making it easier for engineers to share their designs and get help, regardless of technology, time zones, or geographies” will be an important trend, according to Ray. “Products will ‘play better’ together and new collaboration tools will help engineers design great things.”

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