Five years ago, we asked executives at leading CAD companies if, in five years, most design engineers would be using 3D design tools rather than 2D, and all of them said yes. Yet, there are still barriers that design engineers face in migrating from 2D to 3D. Jeff Ray, CEO of SolidWorks, believes one major barrier continues to be fear of change.

“It’s the classic technology lifecycle adoption conundrum: the pain of change has to be less than the pain of the status quo,” Ray explained. “The disruption in the global markets is putting enormous pressure on companies that have been doing business in 2D to design. People are suffering doing what they’ve been doing. Lessening the pain of the change is all about making it easier to migrate to 3D.”

“I think that this year, there will not be as many CAD vendors as there were last year. Market forces will filter out the marginal players who do not have a rock-solid product that provides a high degree of value.” -Jeff Ray, SolidWorks

Dan Staples, director of Solid Edge product development for Siemens PLM Software, agrees that fear of change is a major barrier. “Instead of bringing the 2D user into the 3D environment, you have to give them 3D in the 2D environment they’re comfortable with,” Staples said. “They know the value of 3D, but can’t stop production to learn it. There’s simply too much risk in lost productivity during the transition.”

“Although there has been talk about the benefits of digital prototyping for years, the budget for the tools required to build and test a true digital prototype has been out of reach for most companies.” Simon Bosley, Autodesk

While vendors recognize that 3D is not practical for all users, 3D tools should be easy to access and use for those demanding a more robust design tool. Said Michael Campbell, senior vice president of product management for PTC, “The fact is that 3D CAD is much more powerful than 2D CAD, but in order to harness that power, you need to think in a different way, just like riding a motorcycle gets you somewhere faster than riding a bike. We believe the value of 3D is very compelling, and making that power accessible requires that 3D CAD products be easy to buy, easy to learn, easy to install and set up, and easy to use.”

“There will always be users that don’t benefit from 3D. The fact is that 3D CAD is much more powerful than 2D CAD, but in order to harness that power, you need to think in a different way.” -Mike Campbell, PTC
CAD providers are facing more pressure to make 3D products easier to use, which could help in 2D to 3D migration. “2D continues to provide a hands-on environment that is convenient for many design problems, such as large machine design and conceptual layout. For many jobs, 2D has been the right choice,” according to Chris Randles, president and CEO of SpaceClaim. “3D offers many benefits over 2D, but the complexity of feature-based modeling can make 3D impractical.”

The pressure of competing in today’s global marketplace is a top reason why companies are looking to migrate to 3D, according to Simon Bosley, product manager for Autodesk’s Manufacturing Solutions Division. “Being best-in-class requires manufacturers to use technology to stay ahead of their competition. Businesses can no longer be behind technology and risk extinction,” he said. “To remain successful, they must take the first step and migrate from 2D to 3D.”