Event Report: 2006 PTC/User Conference, Part 2

12 Jun, 2006 By: Sara Ferris

PTC reveals what's new with its core CAD product, Pro/ENGINEER

Last week, following the PTC/User Conference that drew nearly 2,000 attendees to Dallas, Texas, I reviewed PTC's financial outlook and overall strategy for growth. In today's edition, I'll review what the company has planned for future releases of Pro/ENGINEER. Down the road, I'll highlight some intriguing stories that PTC customers shared at last week's event.

Wildfire 3: An Overview
PTC released Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3 in mid-March, after delaying shipment for six months to improve quality, the company reported. PTC's Mike Campbell, vice-president of product management, MCAD solutions, says quite a few customers are using the new release in production, judging by technical support traffic. The additional development time appears to have paid off in terms of fewer bug reports, he says: The first shipment of Wildfire 3 was 18% more stable than the last shipment of Wildfire 2. PTC counts 335,000 commercial users at more than 40,000 customers.

Wildfire 3 continues PTC's effort to update the user interface. Campbell says the core product is complete, but work continues in other areas such as routed systems and detail drawing. Wildfire 3 is available in a 64-bit version that should appeal particularly to users designing massive assemblies. Some parts of Pro/ENGINEER are multithreaded, such as assembly retrieval, but so far performance gains from dual-core chips have been minimal because the current crop is optimized for entertainment. Campbell expects dual-core performance to improve in the coming year.

PTC's Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 3 offers an improved user interface, among other updates.

Other new features in Wildfire 3 are Adobe PDF export and improvements to sheet-metal design. A Smart Process wizard helps users capture CAE (computer-aided engineering) knowledge so designers can conduct analyses early in the design process. Wildfire 3 also implements the ASME 14.41 standards for 3D drawing annotation.

Also new from PTC is a Schools Edition of Pro/ENGINEER, a free version whose data is incompatible with the regular version but otherwise offers the same capabilities. Middle and secondary schools who send teachers through training can get as many as 60 free licenses for school and home use.

Integrating Mathcad
For the future, PTC is focusing on integrating many of its newly acquired products with its core engineering applications. As you might recall, PTC acquired Mathsoft in April. PTC's chief product officer, Jim Heppelmann, previewed the effort to integrate Mathsoft's Mathcad with Pro/ENGINEER to enable what the company calls predictive engineering -- assessing the behavior of models early in the design process. A bidirectional link between the two products will enable users to associate a Mathcad worksheet with a Pro/ENGINEER part or assembly file using the analysis feature in Pro/ENGINEER. Users can calculate critical design values in Mathcad, then map them to parameters and dimensions in the CAD model to drive the geometry. The process can also work in reverse: Pro/ENGINEER parameters can be sent to Mathcad for further engineering calculations. If anything changes, both the CAD drawing and the calculations update. An audit feature appears in the Pro/ENGINEER history tree to enable traceability of design calculations done in Mathcad.

Full integration is expected for the Wildfire 3 M030 maintenance release due in August. Users of Wildfire 2 can download a toolkit starting in July that will enable them to link Mathcad worksheets to their models. Mathsoft customers who don't use Pro/ENGINEER can continue to use Mathcad as a stand-alone solution.

Other Developments
PTC Senior Vice-President of Product Management Brian Shepherd reviewed additional development priorities in the works for future releases. In the conceptual design department, he anticipates that product requirements management will be integrated early in the design process, so that products will have a bill of requirements as well as a bill of materials.

Detailed design improvements include dynamic collision detection, annotation improvements and automatic rounding.

In CAE, work will continue on creating wizards and other tools to capture "recipes" for conducting analyses. Meshing robustness will improve so users can automatically generate meshes for virtually any model. The Mathcad integration should eventually result in tools that make tolerance analysis easier.

Improved search and reporting tools in Windchill will support proximity searching, through which you could, for example, search for all parts within 3" of "exhaust" that incorporate the material "plastic."

Security is a top concern among customers, and PTC is working on features such as shrinkwrap, which would enable users to remove selected information from models. Digital rights management can limit model access to authorized users, restrict certain functionality (allow viewing, but prohibit printing, for example) and apply expiration dates. Shepard says PTC will likely support multiple third-party rights servers in the future.

For designs that incorporate electronic and mechanical components as well as software, PTC plans ECAD-MCAD associativity so designers in both areas can work together more effectively.

In the manufacturing realm, PTC's goal is to integrate process planning with design. Toward that end, it continues work on MPMLink for Windchill.

As time permits in the coming weeks, I'll share the stories of some customers who presented at the 2006 PTC/User Conference. Lists of new features are fine, but it's more valuable to see what users are doing with them.

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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