Justin Hendrickson joined company spokesman Blake Courter to talk with me about what's new in the mid-year release of SpaceClaim, numbered "2011+." Mr Hendrickson is a new project manager, and is in charge of who gets what in the product. He was due to give the demo, but then GoToMeeting spontaneously shut down repeatedly. We resorted to POTS [plain old telephone system].
Mr Courter didn't chortle, but he could have, as he recounted when the company launched in 2007 it effectively "re-invented" direct modeling -- even though the technology had been around for decades. "FUD [from competitors] is a tactic for the short term, but is not a strategy for the long term," he said, recounting how people [like me] didn't think the nascent startup stood a chance.
"People think of CAD startups as Jacob's Ladder, where they start at the low end and then work their way to the high end, like Catia. More 'recent' entries, like SolidWorks and Pro/E, can't; SolidWorks because of limitaitons in the dealer channel, Pro/E because of technology limitations." Throughout the talk, I noticed that one competitor was never mentioned: Autodesk.
"We are seeing success, because of accounts in the higher end lacking tools that we could provide." For the first time, SpaceClaim spokesmen are using the word "displacement." Previously, the company insisted its software merely complimented existing CAD systems; prior to today, much had been made of the claim that SpaceClaim helped conceptualize and prepare models in pre-CAD and post-CAD stages. With 2011+, it's repositioned as a 3D CAD system in its own right.
In this phone call, Mr Courter acknowledged that shop floors are now using SpaceClaim for design, such as of moulds. "Pro/E and SolidWorks are overkill for small tasks. With SpaceClaim, users don't have to worry about parent-child dependencies regenerating in the correct order." Or waiting for the regenerations to occur.
"It is fair to say that we are being more aggressive in this release as we see how our software is being used in the market." Indeed, new features in 2011+ are oriented towards detail design work, such as hole tables and the output of drawings and details.
When it comes to sheet metal design, Mr Courter scoffed that "most other CAD systems are only 80% of the way; they say 'We have enough sheet metal in here and our customers can go the rest of the way'." SpaceClaim wants to go all the way: "There is a need for a heck of lot more design with sheet metal, like double walls and hinge creation. If these were at the tip of your fingers, then you would use them, instead of creating them manually."
I found it interesting that SpaceClaim is aiming for 100% of the sheet metal designer's needs, because later Mr Courter showed me a chart in which customers self-reported their uses of SpaceClaim. Sheet metal design was near the bottom of the list, employed by a mere 18% of customers (who were allowed to choose more than one activity). Well, maybe that's the job for the new Mr Henderson. What they actually use SpaceClaim for: the top uses (40% or more) are concept modeling, model preparation for simulation, and CAD data translation.
SpaceCaim 2011+ (I keep wanting to write Space 2001) now handles JT with PMI. "Nearly every car maker has mandated using JT for data exchange. Siemens has does a great job of creating a rich format. We can claim to have to the best JT editor on the market: it's easy to use as a viewer, but can do what-if editing with parts and create new specifications."
Simulation, however, continues to be handled by partners, such as ANSYS. But one wonders when this wall also will fall.