What’s Next in Engineering Technology?

For nearly four years, I have been a guest writer here on the Synergis blog, commenting on the state of engineering document management and highlighting innovative uses of Adept. While I will still be doing that until I wear out my welcome, over the next few months I will also occasionally comment on engineering technology trends. Not just EDMS/PDM issues, but all the digital tools engineers need, and the products they will make with new technologies.

In this column and the next, I will touch on several trends. In future columns, I will explore these ideas in more detail. This article will start with trends more familiar to Adept users; the next one will gaze further ahead.

2D CAD remains essential

3D CAD is a powerful technology, but just as television did not kill radio, 3D CAD did not and will not kill 2D CAD. Rich, descriptive visual languages have evolved over the years, all based in 2D drafting. No less a 3D proponent than Dassault Systemès (Catia, SolidWorks) estimates that for every seat of 3D CAD software in use, there are between four to ten seats of 2D CAD software supporting the same mission. The differences are by industry: Construction uses more 2D seats than automotive, which uses more 2D seats than aerospace and defense. This ratio of 3D to 2D won’t be changing anytime in the near future.

DWG is post-proprietary

The three most common document formats are known by their file name extensions: DOC, PDF, and DWG. Combined, these three contain a significant percentage of the information that fuels global commerce. They all share a common bond, having been elevated from being the digital container for one product to becoming global standards.

I refer to these three file standards as post-proprietary. Microsoft (.DOC), Adobe (.PDF), and Autodesk (.DWG) created the original formats, but no longer have total control of their destiny. Autodesk still decides what happens to .DWG from one version of AutoCAD to the next. But they can’t change it radically; the company has become a victim of its own success. .DWG must always be able to work with older version of the software, with billions of existing drawings, and with a wide variety of other products.

Realistically, today the Open Design Alliance (ODA) is the industry thought leader when it comes to .DWG. Not only does the ODA create a very good reverse-engineered version of .DWG, but they keep adding new features. This includes the next topic.

Reimagining BIM

The idea of Building Information Modeling (BIM) as the next iteration of construction design technology came from academic research in the mid-1980s, and was later popularized by software vendors. Generally speaking, BIM has been about 3D CAD modeling, and not considered possible in 2D CAD. Thanks to the reinvigoration of .DWG by the Open Design Alliance, a new approach to BIM is now coming to market. CAD vendor Bricsys is leading the development of drafting-based BIM, but others will catch up. Leading process plant design software vendor Intergraph CADWorx now sells a Bricsys BricsCAD version of its popular suite, primarily because it offers both the 2D drafting and 3D BIM functionality to model and annotate while keeping the familiar 2D workflow.

CAD and Cloud 

A majority of CAD users remain skeptical of CAD-in-cloud applications, even as the new products in that space continue to grow their market share. But CAD IN cloud is not the same as CAD AND cloud. The “AND” market will grow faster than pure Cloud-based CAD services such as Onshape or Autodesk Fusion. The benefits are just too numerous. Employees can work from anywhere. Cloud reduces IT ownership and maintenance costs. Data is easily moved where it is needed. Cloud storage vendors can provide better security at lower costs than most users, especially small firms. Web services technology — such as found in the newest versions of Synergis Adept — make working in a hybrid local-cloud infrastructure easier.

IoT changes everything

The Internet of Things is about more than speakers you can ask to read a weather forecast. Industrial giants are investing billions in transforming plants, processes, and products, and that kind of change always works its way down to smaller firms. IoT is just one part of a larger set of trends regarding the interconnected use of several technologies. Real-time visualization, new operational possibilities, autonomy, decentralization, and intelligent devices are all part of the mix. I’ll explain in the next article.

If you’re considering how to better manage your product, facilities or plant data, contact us to learn more about how Adept can impact your organization.

Randall S. Newton is Managing Director of Consilia Vektor, a research and content development company specializing in design and distributed ledger technologies.

 

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