MCAD Tech News #106 (September 18, 2003)17 Sep, 2003 By: Joe Greco
It has been well over a year since I wrote an article for CADENCE dedicated to VX Corp. (www.vx.com) and its flagship product, VX CAD/CAM. So let's start by taking a quick look at the new products the company has released this year and then review what has been going on from a business point of view.
Perhaps due to the fact the VX CAD/CAM doesn't have a true Windows user interface (it still has more of a UNIX look and feel, which is a result of its late '80s origin), the developers seem to put a lot of effort into making every other aspect of the program as easy to use as possible. So, in Version 7 that started shipping in January, many of the changes were related to ease of use. For instance, this upgrade featured changes that allowed users to create, edit, and constrain an assembly in fewer steps. I found that positioning a component with two mates in Version 7 required four steps less.
Surface modeling in Version 7 was also made easier by allowing users to directly manipulate a face by pulling on any point. Extending curves was made simpler by a new automated tool and improvements are also made to allow users to easily change, copy, or save attributes. On the manufacturing side, changes were made to the CAM module to make a variety of high-speed roughing and finishing operations easier to setup and control.
Entirely new functions were also added to VX CAD/CAM 7. One of the biggest was a new Design Optimizer to help users study variations of their designs by imputing key values and having the system automatically develop various model configurations that best met the specified criteria.
Only six months after releasing Version 7, VX Corp., one of the few MCAD players still committed to two major releases a year, introduced Version 8. This current upgrade features several assembly enhancements, including a new option in the Drag Components command that allows users to dynamically check the interference on moving parts. The process is simple and the program's feedback is clear, as VX can either stop the assembly's movement or highlight the interfering components when a collision is detected. There is also a new Clone command that makes building a family of parts easier. While these additions are nice, it is fair to say that competing applications such as SolidWorks and Solid Edge have had similar tools for a while.
When most people think about Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM), they think of it as a one-way street; data generated from the computer runs a CNC machine. However, VX Version 8 makes this a two-way street; the company's CAM program, VX Machinist, can measure the loads on the tool during the cutting operation and then use that information to adjust the feed rate. This ensures that the tool is running as fast as it can, yet not too fast to produce excessive wear.
In addition to the aforementioned improvements in both design and manufacturing tools, there are enhancements in other areas such as drafting. The PDM and interoperability tools have also been beefed up, along with the others. All in all, Version 8 is another solid, well-rounded upgrade.
Just this week, the company announced a new product called VX Basic. Priced at only $995, and available for sale directly from www.vx.com, VX Basic could come to represent a new value point in the MCAD industry. It offers a hybrid solid-surface modeling environment, which means operations such as Booleans can be performed seamlessly between both types of entities. VX Basic contains a full sketcher and all of the most important feature-based modeling and editing tools, such as extruding, revolving, lofting, filleting, chamfering, punching holes, drafting, and shelling. It has assembly tools with interference checking and can automatically create drawing views. It also houses the tools necessary to further detail them and create a parts list. Users can import and export DXF and DWG files or output 3D IGES files.
However, as with other low cost products developed by companies that also sell higher-priced applications, there are certain limitations. For instance, the program allows for the creation of regular fillets, but not the complex ones with variable radii. In addition, the surfacing tools are not Class A, as those in VX Designer, the next product up. There is no rendering, healing, reverse engineering, sheet metal making, or PDM tools, which can be found in the Designer product priced $3,995. On the other hand, VX Basic's low price makes a great introduction product, especially when three aspects are considered. The first is the huge amount of tools that are included--quite impressive for a sub-$1,000 product. The second is the inclusion of VX's familiar Hints, which are a series of tips to guide new users along by giving them an idea of what to do next. And the third is the fact that files created in VX Basic are compatible with those produced in any other product in the VX series; this ensures that the time spent with this software won't be wasted if users decide to move up to VX Designer or one of the other three bundles: VX Mold and Die, VX Machinist, or VX End-to-End, the complete package. In fact, VX Designer comes on the same CD as VX Basic. If desired, users can unlock it and pay only the difference in the prices.
The Business End
Having a wide selection of products is one thing, selling them is another. To help in this area, just last month the company extended its global reseller network, by establishing new channels in India, Turkey, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Eastern Europe. There have also been recent reseller additions in Michigan, Illinois, California, and Canada, and by the end of the year the company is expecting more announcements in this area. In addition, the entire suite of VX products is now available over the Web at a discount (an average of about 7 to 10 percent off), from a company called Novedge (www.novedge.com).
So far, 2003 has been a busy year for VX Corp. Technically it has a strong suite of products, each positioned at different price points, which feature some of the best tools available for product/industrial designers, mold makers, and machinists. At the same time, its sales support team is growing.
However, is this enough to keep the company strong? By carving out a few niches and continuing to develop a loyal following, VX can be expected to be an important player in the MCAD/CAID industry.
VX Corp.: www.vx.com