Brian Thompson, PTC product manager, talks in depth about how developing a solid understanding of the differences in how users go about doing their jobs using various modeling tools was key to the development of Creo.
Q: What was one of the biggest challenges when your team set upon the task of creating this “AnyMode” modeling approach to design?
A: One of our biggest challenges was basically thinking in a different way about how our customers use CAD. After all, we are the inventors of parametric, feature-based, fully associative solid modeling so for the last two decades; we’ve preached the benefits of standardizing on this one approach. We had to learn how to think about the development of products not based upon parametric, feature-based CAD, but based on number of different approaches, many of them based on working with pure geometry, be it 2D or 3D geometry. That’s been quite a challenge and an eye-opening experience. We had to focus on resetting our thinking and our understanding of how customers want to work. We looked at the CoCreate direct modeling approach and other approaches in the industry, while keeping an eye on how these modeling approaches and the resulting geometry can maintain interoperability with parametric, feature-based tools.
Q: How do users utilize these direct modeling tools differently than parametric-based modeling tools?
A: The direct modeling approach does not require as much up-front planning or capturing of design intent early in the process. When designers use direct modeling, they start working with geometry content from the beginning; they push, they pull, they move things around, they simply strive to achieve a certain type of result without a lot of care for how they got there. That’s a fundamental difference.
In most feature-based, parametric CAD systems, designers spend more time thinking about the desired design intent and how to best capture it. They think about how they want to capture what the engineering or manufacturing design intent is for the model ahead of time. That enables them to build their model tree in a way that will capture that design intent. Parametric, feature-based modeling is a very powerful approach because it allows the designer to incorporate business logic and engineering rules into the design and ensures that downstream changes don’t interfere with this logic. But clearly, it can also seem more complex for users who don’t need to capture design intent at the early stages of product design.
Q: Do designers using direct modeling tools design without thinking of design intent?
A: They do think about design intent, but they capture that in a different way. Users of direct modeling systems think of design intent, but at best only have a limited set of tools on those systems to capture it and really link it to the model geometry. They are mostly limited to communicating their design intent on the drawing, but when they use this method, there is no link to how the model geometry is built, managed and solved. In reality, it really becomes only a set of dimensions and tolerances that communicate “manufacturing intent” at that point, which can sometimes be inconsistent with the design intent that the engineer wants to use to control the geometry.
Q: Who do you typically see using these direct modeling tools?
A: That’s a great question and, in fact, many companies today use both approaches during the product development process, so it can be actually difficult to classify the types of users who would be best suited for a direct modeling approach versus a parametric approach. That’s of course, one of the main reasons for AnyMode Modeling, to provide any user with the right approach to suit their needs at that moment in the product design process.
Having said that, one group of users who benefit from direct modeling is analysts. Analysts, who spend most of their time working in advanced simulation and verification solutions, certainly can’t keep up to speed with how a model was built and how to modify geometry using a parametric, feature-based CAD tool. They can certainly benefit from a direct approach. What does an analyst care about? They care about the geometry. They just want to easily prepare the geometry for analysis, often by simplifying it, applying loads and boundary conditions to the geometry, and then seeing how that geometry reacts under certain conditions. We’ve heard strongly from customers that they don’t want their analysts burdened with having to understand parametric, feature-based CAD. They want the simplest and fastest tools for their analysts without compromising the results, and that’s to enable them to work directly on the geometry.
Q: After gaining insight into how designers are using these modeling tools, what was the next step?
A: Once we knew what companies and users wanted, from a user-experience standpoint, and what types of products they develop, our next question was: how in the world are we going to allow them to work the way they want to work while at the same time building the infrastructure into the common data model? We needed to provide the flexibility to use the right mode for their work, while ensuring that the data is completely interoperable between the various modeling approaches. That’s a big task. We believe that our approach is unique and believe it’s going to redefine the way companies develop products.