CAD Central

30 Apr, 2005 By: Sara Ferris

PLM, Innovation Dominate COFES

Despite the theme, "Ideas in an Innovation Economy," much of the discussion at COFES this year focused on the lack thereof in today's engineering software.

Asked where the innovative software is, one group came up with Dassault's Cosmic Blobs (3D modeling software aimed at children) and Web Services. XML was mentioned, too, but was deemed an enabler, not an actual product.

Still, the 200+ attendees found much to talk about last month at this annual gathering of software vendors, analysts, press and end users charged with figuring out the future of engineering software. Engineering software is defined broadly to include products for both mechanical and AEC design, though attendance was weighted toward manufacturing.

COFES Speaker: Everything is Miscellaneous
COFES Speaker: Everything is Miscellaneous


Despite rosy reports from market researchers (see box), many at COFES attribute current PLM growth to the increasing reliance of manufacturers on outsourcing. Product data must be organized and controlled before it can be sent off to other locations. Some questioned whether such growth will be sustainable.

Many attendees believe that PLM in practice has yet to break the confines of the engineering department. Very few, if any, companies use PLM to manage the full product lifecycle.

Few PLM products available today offer the ability to capture information outside the CAD model, so thinking that goes into the conceptual design is not recorded.

Likewise, why shouldn't enterprise applications such as ERP, CRM and supply-chain management be considered PLM? They serve parts of the product lifecycle that PLM products don't currently handle.

Companies contemplating PLM, or any new tool, should consider how they measure the impact of new technology. Many never look in the rear-view mirror to determine whether the benefits used to justify the purchase of new hardware or software actually pan out. Though people will work to the metrics, managers can use that to their advantage by first identifying a goal, then figuring out a few metrics to gain that behavior.

COFES Speaker: Everything is Miscellaneous
COFES Speaker: Everything is Miscellaneous


PLM isn't the only beneficiary of the need to work with multiple locations. Developers of 3D publishing applications were well-represented at COFES this year.

IBM/Dassault plans to publish its specification for 3D XML in June, and CATIA V5 R15 will incorporate support for it. 3D XML is Dassault's format for publishing 3D models for access by those outside engineering.

In response to questions about how open the format will be given its use of the Lattice3D proprietary format for compression, Dassault says the format will be "at least as open as what others are doing," no doubt referring to UGS and its JT Open program, which requires members to pay a fee, annual maintenance fee and royalties on products sold to nonmembers of the program.

Dassault says it intends to provide the format to competitors, but it's up to them whether to adopt it or not. Also unclear at this point is how much CATIA data will be included in 3D XML.

Immersive Design showed off what it's been doing to support the U3D format that can now be used to embed 3D images in PDF documents. See for examples.

Right Hemisphere offers a server-based solution for repurposing of large numbers of documents.

Even CoCreate is emphasizing its collaborative tools, which it aims at Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers who need to deal with multiple file formats.

New Scanner Sets New Low for Entry-Level Pricing
New Scanner Sets New Low for Entry-Level Pricing

Service Strategy

Peter Marks of Design Insight suggests that manufacturing companies look for new opportunities in delivering intangibles such as services.

"Great products have service elements," he noted, "And great services have product elements." He cited examples ranging from the user community from Harley Davidson motorcycles to manufacturers of aircraft engines who maintain them.

Big picture

Microsoft anticipates that the rise of LCD monitors means that soon we'll all have 5000X 2000 displays on our desks. To help users make sense of such a large area, researcher Mary Czerwinski is working on new features for Windows.

A high-density cursor, for example, will print more often on screen to eliminate choppiness when moving it long distances. A larger display means more windows can stay open, so a new groupbar lets users group sets of windows into separate taskbars.

Other Perspectives

For more details on many of the wide-ranging topics covered at COFES, check out the report from Robert Green at and Jeff Rowe at

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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