CAD Manager's Newsletter (#450)

22 Jul, 2020 By: Robert Green

Whose CAD Is It, Anyway? Part 2

Readers share their opinions about proprietary data formats, the move toward cloud-based CAD tools, and more.

In the previous edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I posed several questions about how our CAD tools and data are managed, with the core debate being whether the cloud is a good idea or not. I then opened the floor to debate via e-mail and my CAD Managers Unite! Facebook group. It turns out there is still a lot of healthy skepticism regarding the cloud, and for some CAD managers, a genuine lack of trust in CAD vendors.

In this follow-up to those questions, I'll share some great feedback I received, and draw a few conclusions to clarify the debate over cloud vs. local CAD. Here goes.


Cloud Security First and Foremost

One of the more pointed responses I received came from Facebook group member S.L., who said:

"I still work in an industry where it is forbidden to have mission-critical drawings on the cloud. The logical reason is that if it's up on the cloud, someone else will have access. I have to agree with that philosophy, as pushing everything to the cloud seems to benefit mostly the software companies and not the end users."

Although this reader didn't specify the industry in their post, the fact is that military and health-care industries are not allowed to utilize any form of cloud storage for application or data storage. And since these industries are major government-regulated CAD users, how will they be treated by the CAD software industry moving forward?

Another interesting perspective on security was voiced on Facebook by R.M., who said:

"I feel like the average CAD manager, unless they are a stakeholder in the company, doesn't really care about 'control and security.' Not with a flippant 'I don't care' attitude, but they are just doing our job of making sure the guys and girls in the trenches can do their CAD work, and leaving the 'control and security' up to the IT department and Board of Directors."

R.M. makes a valid point here that we should unpack: CAD managers are indeed trying to survive and keep things running, but are we supporting a complex cloud structure of products for our own good, or simply because CAD vendors push it on management teams who buy into the hype? Whose responsibility should it be to think about security — is it IT or the Board of Directors, or should CAD managers be considering these issues as well? My thinking is that CAD managers should be engaged and thinking about these issues, if for no other reason than to avoid pointless work.

Open vs. Proprietary Data Formats

A topic that I see discussed more and more often is the idea that when CAD companies make their data format proprietary, there is no way to exit that CAD application later. Or, as R.C. from Facebook writes:

"As long as the file format stays some kind of drawing format, then hopefully there will always at least be a local copy. In virtually any organization that uses CAD for production, the CAD files are critical pieces of operational data. A lot of organizations still don't recognize that, but think of the nightmare scenario if you lost them all. How would it affect the organization? My worry is that Autodesk is going to update the DWG file (and other formats) to databases rather than file formats. I'm sure it will be a good reason, but it will really put organizations in a dependent position."

R.C. drives home two key points in my mind:

1.  Total dependence on cloud storage without robust local backups invites disaster in case a cloud service experiences problems.
2.  Unless CAD information is stored in some sort of universally supported open standard, the CAD vendor can simply change or encrypt the data to make it inaccessible unless you keep using their software.

 Read more »

Tools and Resources

Alex Herrera Provides Guidance on VR/AR for CAD
For decades, virtual reality (VR) has conjured compelling applications that promised to change the way we live and work. VR — and its sister solution, augmented reality (AR) — have struggled to live up to that potential, however. A new free guide, "Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for CAD," compiles guidance from industry expert Alex Herrera, who shares insights and predictions about how VR/AR is overcoming the challenges of the past, where the technology is heading, and how it might help you.

What's New at

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Herrera on Hardware: Chiplet Architectures Emerge as One Arrow in Industry Quiver of Technologies Extending Compute Performance
As the trend described by Moore's Law approaches its inevitable end, CAD users and other compute-hungry professionals need the industry to find ways to deliver generation-to-generation improvements in performance. Read more »

Sponsored: With New Reverse-Engineering Capabilities, VGSTUDIO MAX Makes CAD Models from CT Scans
New scan-to-CAD capabilities and enhanced digital volume correlation in version 3.4 of Volume Graphics' industrial CT software support simulation validation and creation of part digital twins. Read more »

Advocating Innovation in Trying Times, Siemens Accelerates Xcelerator Portfolio, Part 2
NX software, part of Siemens's Xcelerator portfolio, adds unconstrained concept design sketching within the 3D environment. Read more »


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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