MCAD Tech News #98 (May 22, 2003)

21 May, 2003 By: Joe Greco

The fourth annual Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES) was held last week in Scottsdale, AZ. Unlike tradeshows such as NDES, COFES ( focuses on discussions involving the issues of engineering software by bringing together company Presidents, CEOs, and CTOs. As in past years there were also one-on-one demonstrations with CAD-related companies, in the relaxed environment of their Tech suites.

Software Presentations

Speaking of these Tech suites, two of the MCAD industry's biggest software developers were on hand, Dassault Systemes ( and EDS (, and they each showed me their latest products. In addition to demonstrating several new tools in CATIA V5 R11, which was just released late last month, Dassault also showed me a preview of a warping tool to be introduced in R13 later this year. While I did see a canned demonstration, it was impressive, showing a new tool used to create a stylish chair in just a few minutes, simply by pulling and stretching primitive 3D shapes.

Dassault also announced its support for the HOOPS Streaming File (HSF) format, which was developed by Tech Soft America with the purpose of providing lightweight visualization of 3D models in order to allow for easier sharing of data during the product development process. This move was only sensible for Dassault but also long overdue, because Spatial Corp., a Dassault company, is one of the founding members of the OpenHSF Initiative.

At EDS's Tech Suite I received a demonstration of Unigraphics NX2, which will be released in August. The product is still being merged with I-DEAS, and that is apparent in a number of CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering) tools as well as some user interface adjustments that expand upon some of the best I-DEAS techniques. For instance, a new tool called the Product Design Advisor (PDA), which is aimed at designers in order to give them a better understanding of the manufacturability of plastic parts by providing tools to assists with core and cavity decisions. As far as the user interface is concerned, I noticed several changes in dialog boxes and modeling techniques that show I-DEAS's influence. NX 2 also features improvements in the application of textures and materials and drafting tools, as well as building upon its Knowledge Fusion set of commands.

At COFES 2003, I was also given information regarding the future of Unigraphics. Toward the end of next year, EDS expects to release NX 3, which will represent the complete merger of Unigraphics and I-DEAS. However, it was also pointed out that I-DEAS 11 would still be available at that time for those who don't want to switch to the merged product.

Hardware News

There were also several hardware vendors showing their latest products. Perhaps the most interesting was HP (, which was showing an impressive array of computers. On the lowest level, there was the Compaq Tablet PC TC1000, the company's latest pen-based system (HP just completed its acquisition of Compaq Computer earlier this month). With a 1GHz processor, 256MB of memory and a 10.4-inch screen, it isn't the ideal tool for high-end 3D CAD; however, it seems as if it would be useful for both 2D and some basic 3D tasks. See for Peter Sheerin's review of this and other tablet PCs.

On the high-end, HP, based in Palo Alto, CA, was showing its recently introduced xw4100, which is based on the latest Intel 875P chipset, and features a retail price of only $799. The company also demonstrated its Itanium 2 workstations, running a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows XP. And a rendering created in Unigraphics was finished in less than half the time on the 64-bit workstation than it would have taken on the more traditional 32-bit system.

Other Happenings at COFES

There were also a lot of interesting presentations at COFES 2003. Alan Kay, a senior fellow at HP Labs credited with many computer innovations, beginning with his time at the famous Xerox PARC lab in the early seventies, gave the keynote address on Friday. He talked about how many great achievements had been made, where creative barriers were removed, and how that needed to happen again in order for the new wave of computer innovations to occur. Saturday's keynote was given by Jeff Harrow, who wowed everybody with his predictions of future computing events. For example, based on historical data, Harrow estimates that one terabyte of storage will cost $21 by the year 2010. He also talked about new materials being developed that would eventually hold 4,000TB of information per square inch (!) and the effects that such technology would have on future products.

COFES 2003 ended with a dinner on Saturday night where The CAD Society ( presented its annual awards for Leadership, Lifetime Achievement, and Community service. This year's Leadership Award went to Tom Butta, an Executive VP at PTC for developing that company's Product First Roadmap. Carl Machover, with a lifetime dedicated to promoting and advancing CAD and computer graphics received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Finally, CJ Shirk, a SolidWorks reseller who came up with idea for the SolidWorks Retaining Program, which is aimed at helping unemployed engineers learn new CAD skills, took the Community Award.

Overall, COFES 2003 was another success. For high-level users and upper management officers wishing to learn and shape the future of the engineering software market, you should look into attending COFES 2004.

Relevant Links


Dassault Systemes:



The CAD Society: