MCAD Tech News (#247)

13 Aug, 2008

Viewpoint: Chewing the CAD

Like an Animal Farm, today's market puts power in wrong hands.

By J. Paul Grayson

Editor's note: "Viewpoint" is an occasional column that invites guest authors to express opinions about CAD-related issues. This installment is from J. Paul Grayson, CEO of Alibre.

"No question now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which." -- George Orwell, Animal Farm

The CAD software market is stuck in time, somewhere in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when mainframes and minicomputers were the primary platform of professional computing. In a fashion that George Orwell could appreciate, the CAD vendors who broke onto the scene in the mid 1980s and 1990s — aiming to change things by breaking down access barriers erected by the entrenched vendors of that day — have begun to look a lot like those they displaced. They have created a CAD Animal Farm.

It wasn't always that way. The populist vision of those who came into the market was to offer what most customers needed at a fraction of the price, and they did indeed change the market. As they succeeded and consolidated their market position, they also erected some of the same barriers they had fought so hard to break down.

A lot has changed since the early days, as you can clearly see in the accompanying timeline. I hope this "CAD Chronology" sidebar brings back some fond memories.

But I believe this look back also shows how the CAD market has changed little from the early days. Products have matured, and no one debates any longer that PCs and Windows-based CAD applications are capable of complex, production CAD; however, the hardware business has changed dramatically, and new business models such as application service providers (ASPs), open-source code, advertising-monetized free products, and freemiums have gone mainstream in other software markets — but not in the CAD market. Read more »

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J. Paul Grayson is CEO of Alibre.


Pay-as-You-Go Parts Management

By Kenneth Wong

Aligni, which describes itself as a company "for engineers by engineers," is setting its sights on an underserved market — the small and midsize manufacturers that are hesitant to make a lifelong commitment to product lifecycle management (PLM), but willing to take a chance on low-maintenance, low-cost product data management (PDM) solutions.

This week, Aligni launched an online solution for managing parts, inventory, and components. For $15 to $199 a month, you can use this online system to manage between 100 and 10,000 parts and all the associated manufacturing data: quotes, bids, sourcing, acceptable substitutes, suppliers' compliance records, etc. The product is marketed under the "no commitment, pay as you go" licensing model, better known as Software as a Service (SaaS).

On Demand Parts Management
The most basic plan from Aligni ($15 per month) is for a single user only. The rest (priced between $39 and $199 per month) has no restriction on the number of users. There's no IT overhead. In fact, you don't install the software on your network at all. As with any customary SaaS deployment, you use the system through a browser. Read more »


Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events

Northeastern SolidWorks User Conference
September 18, 2008
Westford, Massachusetts
This conference will offer 12 different technical sessions and four unique developer sessions in four time slots. Attendees will also be able to visit the product showcase and network with some of the best SolidWorks users. Read more »

Southern California CAD Summit
September 25, 2008
San Diego, California
Sponsored by U.S. CAD, the Southern California CAD Summit attracts hundreds of participants from the western region's architectural, civil, manufacturing, geospatial, and building engineering fields to learn about the latest Autodesk technologies and fine-tune their skills. Read more »

Objet Users' Meeting
October 27-29, 2008
San Diego, California
Objet Geometries' first user conference in North America will include both general and customizable breakout sessions based on individual needs and interests to help participants gain knowledge in such areas as workflow efficiency, advanced 3-D printing, postprocessing, and rapid tooling. Read more »

Lean Product Development Conference
November 18-20, 2008
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers' Lean Product Development Conference is a three-day, high-level conference and a forum for sharing tools and best practices for incorporating lean principles in the product development process. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on