To fill you in on the state of 3D Software and what to look forward to in 2017, read on…
We know everyone is excited to see the power of 3D printing, 3D modeling and 3D scanning, all the tools that have captivated inventors and designers. These new age tools make it possible to create, invent, and produce on a level that is unprecedented.
In a recent interview with Forbes and Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, Heppelmann shared the many TRENDS that he sees in the CAD and product development market going into 2017.
“PTC disrupted the product design and development market 30 years ago with the introduction of a revolutionary CAD product. Today, our company continues to push the technological boundaries with innovative offerings that help manufacturers build better products, optimize processes, and outperform their competitors. Going into 2017, I see the three most compelling trends related to the CAD market as being (1) the Internet of Things, (2) Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR, VR), and (3) 3D printing.
The Internet of Things is the biggest phenomenon that we have seen in our lives. Central to this trend is the changing nature of ‘things.’ IDC, a global provider of market intelligence, indicated that 70% of global discrete manufacturers would be offering smart, connected products by 2016. That means that the vast majority of all mechanical parts and products being designed in 3D CAD will end up as a ‘thing’ within the IoT. The IoT gives product designers the opportunity to get a much deeper and more accurate understanding of how their digital creations are performing in the physical world. And by using a CAD model to create what we call a ‘digital twin,’ manufacturers can track and accurately represent in digital form every experience a given product has in the physical world. These are big ideas and reflect that the convergence of the physical and digital worlds will become a mainstream idea next year. Ironically, we will find ourselves finally making good on the industry’s decades-old pledge to help manufacturers manage the entire lifecycle of their products, well beyond the development phase.
Augmented Reality (AR) is another important technology trend that is poised to become mainstream in the enterprise next year. Until recently, AR was largely relegated to the world of gaming. But we’re now seeing innovative uses in enterprise settings, particularly in sales, marketing, and service. The challenge up until now has been a dearth of content. Well, it so happens that the thousands of CAD models every large manufacturer has today represent a treasure trove of content perfect for AR. With AR, we can now superimpose rich CAD data onto the physical world for a variety of purposes, including marketing products, enhancing training, and ‘augmenting’ a service technician’s ability to deliver an unfamiliar repair procedure. We can also digitize the physical world with virtual reality (VR), and personally enter this world to see our CAD data in a fully immersive experience.
No longer for only hobbyists, 3D printing has become a mainstream reality today. We can now create a final usable product directly without requiring tooling or setup. 3D printing utilizes resources more effectively, supports tests and trials, mitigates risk, and much more.”
Big companies have focused on engineering and design professionals and looked askance at makers initially, but are now more open and paying attention to their needs. Why do you think this has occurred?
“Makers are no longer just hobbyists. Some of the biggest ideas and greatest advancements in innovation are coming from this community. These sophisticated innovators are just as motivated to solve hard problems as large-scale companies. And they’re not burdened by inflexible corporate processes. However, their needs are no less complex than large manufacturing firms. They require powerful, yet flexible tools.
In addition, these makers will increasingly influence not only tool selections within companies, but the requirements and innovation within the 3D tools themselves.“
Makers are often focused on education, and not commercial applications. Can a maker use your product on a “light” level to test out the software?
“Yes, we offer trial versions of our solutions, allowing users to try before they buy. Easy-to-access and trial tools are yet another example of how PTC contributes to a culture of global innovation.”
The Internet of Things (IoT) trend continues to grow; how do your products help inventors, entrepreneurs, makers create for this space? How do you see this IoT trend impacting your biz?
“PTC’s heritage is in helping inventors, entrepreneurs, and makers of all sizes create digital versions of physical things. We run a billion dollar business around that idea today. But in the last two years, we realized that we needed to help those same people capitalize on the emerging IoT by giving them the tools to connect their physical products to a network, to create applications to remotely monitor and control those products, and to analyze the data streaming from them. We also make our IoT and AR platform technologies easily accessible, and have created a marketplace to allow entrepreneurs to monetize ideas they have for capitalizing on IoT data – even if they don’t make any physical products. At PTC, we also are using that same platform technology to build the next generation of product development tools.”
3D Printing is obviously a regular attention-grabber for people to investigate 3D software. Do you see big challenges in helping people create “printable” models? It isn’t always the easiest thing to go from model to print.
“Originally, the purpose of 3D printing was to create a throw-away prototype of a part or product that would ultimately be manufactured with traditional or subtractive manufacturing processes. Today, with improvements in printers and materials, companies increasingly want to print production parts – parts that go straight from the printer to the final-product assembly line. Because 3D printing works with a fundamentally different set of opportunities and constraints than traditional manufacturing, an optimized design for a printed production part will look considerably different than a design optimized for traditional manufacturing, even if the functional requirements for the part are identical. Unlike prototypes, printed production parts can utilize more organic shapes both externally and internally to meet strength requirements while lessening weight, material consumption, and printing time.
To perform this optimization, designers have had to use several different software packages to design, optimize, validate, and print-check their models. In other words, what they initially designed in CAD isn’t necessarily what they ultimately printed as the downstream versions evolved. With our CAD product, however, designers iterate across these capabilities easily and quickly within one integrated environment, without creating different versions of the same design across multiple data formats. In essence, we are removing the barriers to efficiently designing for additive manufacturing.”