MCAD Modeling Methods-Software Strategy: high-End Design Applications31 Mar, 2005 By: Sara Ferris
Powerhouse programs handle demanding design projects
Tis final installment of Cadalyst's mechanical CAD software strategy series tackles the high-end mechanical design products: CATIA (Dassault/IBM). Pro/ENGINEER (PTC) and NX (UGS).
Though in recent years all three products have become available in entry-level configurations that match the price of the midrange modelers covered in the January and March issues, their key differentiator is their extensibility. Users can assemble a custom set of capabilities by selecting from a wide assortment of modules and add-ons, which can send the ultimate cost of these programs well beyond the entry-level figure. Both UGS and Dassault offer separate programs (Solid Edge and SolidWorks, respectively) targeted at the midrange customer. PTC is unique in its efforts to serve both markets with a single application.
This extensibility extends beyond design into manufacturing and PLM (product lifecycle management). Each vendor positions its CAD offerings as one element in an overall PLM solution that encompasses digital product design, data management, collaboration and manufacturing process simulation.
Another common thread to these products is that all began as UNIX-based workstation products and have since evolved to work with Windows. That, combined with the inherent complexity of the applications, creates the perception that these programs are difficult to use.
The high-end mechanical design products are used in many application areas. They predominate in aerospace and automotive, but also find use in heavy machinery, consumer products, shipbuilding and other markets. Often, vendors will tailor versions of their program to suit the needs of particular markets. The complexity of the programs means that customers sometimes require consulting services to get up and running. In addition, the hardware required to run such powerful applications adds to the cost of any implementation.
In its most recent releases of flagship application Pro/ENGINEER, PTC has concentrated on updating the interface to make it easier to use. Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 2.0 (figure 1) makes considerable strides in this area, and now has Windows certification. It provides a Resource Center to help get new users started with tutorials, Help and a quick-reference card.
Figure 1. PTC Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire comes in an industrial design configuration with tools for surfaces, sketching and photorealistic rendering.
The program has also been updated to take advantage of Web connectivity with built-in links to parts libraries and a peer-to-peer conference center for design collaboration. Users on annual maintenance receive access to Pro/ COLLABORATE, a hosted project management and collaboration service.
Pro/ENGINEER is built on PTC's Granite modeling kernel, which the company licenses to other developers. For data exchange, Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 2.0, via its ATB (associative topology bus), bidirectionally supports Unigraphics R18/NX, CATIA V5 and Ideas import. Wildfire also creates 3D drawings that adhere to the recent ASME Y14.41 and upcoming ISO 1672 standards.
Price for the entry-level version is around $5,000 per seat, rising to around $20,000 for a full PLM implementation. Windchill is PTC's PLM application—see Cadalyst, February 2005, for more details.
PTC counts more than 35,000 customers worldwide and reported $660 million in revenue for FY2004. Pro/ ENGINEER debuted in 1988.
First released in 1982, CATIA (figures 2 and 3), an IBM PLM solution developed by Dassault Systèmes, is available in a seemingly infinite variety of configurations grouped into functional categories. For example, the Mechanical Design family includes such products as assembly design, part design, weld design, tooling design and sheet-metal design. In addition, products are also grouped according to application—aerospace, automotive, elecrical, consumer goods and so forth.
Figure 2. Lockheed Martin used CATIA to generate this digital mock-up of its F-22 fighter jet. Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin (www.lockheedmartin.com).
Figure 3. CATIA rendering capabilities are on display in this model of a MicroTurbo jet engine. MicroTurbo, part of the SNECMA group, runs 42 seats of CATIA V5 in conjunction with the SMARTEAM product data management product. Image courtesy of Microturbo.
CATIA V5 was developed from the ground up to work with Windows as well as various UNIX flavors. The company still offers its predecessor, CATIA V4, to existing customers. This reengineering effort leaves CATIA with the most unified and Windows-familiar look of the products mentioned here. CATIA is currently at V5 R14, with a new version due for release in June.
Dassault and IBM rounds out their PLM product lineup with ENOVIA and SMARTEAM for data management and Dassault's DELMIA for development of factory and production processes. The CAA V5 partner program encourages third-party developers to create integrated add-ons that extend CATIA functionality.
Dassault reported 796.6 million Euros in annual revenue for 2004 (slightly more than $1 billion in U.S. dollars at the time). The company reports that 29% of revenue goes back into research and development. Customer base is 80,000, with about half in Europe.
UGS, too, has been working on updating its legacy UNIX interface, a task made even more complicated by the ongoing efforts to integrate its Unigraphics product with I-deas, acquired through the purchase of former competitor SDRC. The latest version, NX 3 (figure 4), features a new look and feel with a streamlined interface, which, according to UGS, is designed to focus on user workflow.
Figure 4. UGS NX enables users to perform all design and engineering work, from surfacing to mechanical design, in a single system.
Unlike Dassault, which keeps CATIA and SolidWorks in separate spheres, UGS encourages cross-pollination between its midrange and high-end products. For example, the sketcher and sheet-metal module found in NX 3 resemble those that appear in Solid Edge. UGS offers a number of modules for such tasks as styling, simulation, tooling design and machining. Additional products and services are available from UGS partners.
The data management component of UGS' PLM lineup is Teamcenter . The company also recently buttressed its digital factory development stable with the acquisition of Tecnomatix. UGS will rename its E-factory line to Tecnomatix to give its factory products a single brand.
The NX Managed Development Environment, introduced in NX 3, integrates NX more closely with Teamcenter. It manages not only CAD data but also spreadsheets, simulations, NC data and associated tooling information and analysis results.
To foster smooth data exchange, UGS has adopted PLM XML as the base for products designed to transfer data between CATIA V5 and NX, Teamcenter and E-factory. UGS also developed the JT Open standard for exchange of design visualizations.
Base price for NX is $9,500. The company counts more than 42,000 customers in aerospace, automotive, consumer products and electronics, defense, heavy equipment, shipbuilding and more.
Sara Ferris is editor-in-chief of Cadalyst.