Almost a decade-and-a-half after ANSI 14.41 first saw the light of day, many had predicted by now that the bulk of the engineering world would have adopted Model Based Definition (MBD) by now with open arms. And while there are isolated pockets of success, the overall engineering documentation landscape looks remarkably undisturbed from 2003. In fact, if you pick up your average engineering drawing, you might feel like you’re holding a time capsule, noting what little has practically changed since draftsmen laboriously hacked things out manually back in the mid twentieth century. The only true consolation is the non-associative drawing fakery that plagued early CAD drawings has been all but banished, the relationship between model and drawing has never been tighter. In case you’ve been hiding under an oordinate dimension, CAD is in a bit of a renaissance lately, with all the hoopla generated from the rise of new-fangled cloud-centric products like Fusion 360, Onshape and others. While these new platforms present a great opportunity to take a leap forward in MBD, it’s just not happening. Did MBD just miss a very important boat? Gilligan!
There are two steadily falling barriers in the Computer Aided Design (CAD) universe: the barrier of entry to develop a new CAD platform and the barrier of accessibility to actually learn and use such software. This revolution stands to grant virtually anyone the access to the power of CAD software, be they a hobbyist, tinkerer, chartered accountant, or reasonably intelligent canine. It is a democratization of the industry, where complex tools relevant only to specialists are supplemented, but not necessarily wholly displaced, with simpler paradigms relevant to everyone. The entire industry stands to benefit, as more and more people become proficient in 3D design, free to manipulate and even additively manufacture what they can imagine. Among the entrants in this simpler, more accessible paradigm is SolidFace, which up to now has been a rather affordable yet capable desktop CAD package. But now SolidFace is moving onward up into to the cloud via their new effort, Solid Share. And they’re now looking to Kickstarter and all of you for help.
Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s PLM data on a bus. Once more than 5 people interact with that data it becomes important. But if that data isn’t integrated properly, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do? We’ve long lamented about PLM complexity as a limiting factor to adoption, including the requisite wrangling to get product data moving efficiently across an enterprise in a loose federation of heterogeneous IT systems. For the most part, this has been the sole domain of data architects and development teams, wrangling robust SOA services onto ESB highways among a bewildering hodgepodge of enterprise data platforms, APIs, and disparate data models. But hopefully things get easier from here. One of the more interesting promises of moving PLM technology forward and into the cloud is handing over the integration data modeling keys to the nontechnical business side. Let’s try to get through this without shooting any hostages.
Some might surmise that if software is eating the world, then perhaps cloud software is eating conventional software. But is this true in the enterprise? Judging from the explosion of cloud-centric solutions that have entered the market over the last few years, the answer must be an unequivocal yes. However, when we narrow the scope of the discussion to Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) there’s a perceptible shift in tone, the hand wringing and teeth grinding and grumpy grumbling commences. Maybe there’s some concern over who’s responsible for downtime or performance bubbles. Or what it really means to have your IP slightly out of your control, but not (in theory). Yet every major vendor in the PLM space has some type of cloud-flavored offering on hand. But is it really? Depending on the particular vendor, attitude toward offering cloud PLM ranges from “What, you mean there’s some other way besides cloud?” to “I guess we have to have cloud in there somewhere or people will make fun of us.” But wait, are we talking apples to apples? Is cloud PLM really cloud PLM? Oh hell, no.