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May 23, 2014

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John Burrill

I'm still not sure what SpaceClaim is supposed to be, other than a way to modify models someone created in a different software package.
that's a perfect fit for an analysis company because simplifying models and making conceptual iterations is what analysis types do and direct editing is a much better fit for this type of work.

Dave Johnson

A very insightful post.

One company (SW) had a plan with a laser focus and executed masterfully.

The other company (SC) had "tactics that seemed to vary with the weather"

Sometimes the fundamentals of business get overlooked.

Jon Banquer

In addition to SpaceClaim marketing changing with the weather, SpaceClaim stopped listening to end users.

For years I told SpaceClaim employees that SpaceClaim lacked the needed low lever surfacing tools that something like Delcam PowerSHAPE has. I was told by former SpaceClaim founder Blake Courter that I needed to wait. Years went by and nothing happened. Once Blake Courter left SpaceClaim, communication ended. Over the years many SpaceClaim users have contacted me and told me they were experienced the exact same thing I was experiencing. All who contacted me agreed with me about the lack of low lever surfacing tools in SpaceClaim. All were very frustrated trying to get SpaceClaim to listen to them.

Before the buyout from ANSYS, I would get email from SpaceClaim employees asking me for specifics of what I was so unhappy about. I would spend an hour making a list, send it to them and never hear anything back.

I tend to think it's over for SpaceClaim as a CAD modeler and I've seen no signs that SpaceClaim's new owner ANSYS cares about SpaceClaim users like myself. I also doubt ANSYS's cares about former SpaceClaim resellers like Dave Johnson. It's really too bad because there is so much to like about SpaceClaim. What tools SpaceClaim does have are wonderful. It's always been the tools SpaceClaim lacks not the tools it has.

To me the whole SpaceClaim situation is really sad. It should come as no shock to experienced CADCAM users like myself that so few people in the CADCAM press ever questioned the constant changes in direction from SpaceClaim marketing. Their priority was keeping SpaceClaim ad money rolling in.

Major changes are needed in the CADCAM business. I'm doing my best to see that they happen sooner.

Jon Banquer
CADCAM Technolgy Leaders group on LinkedIn

Wilbur Smith

I am inclined to view your comment about "tactics that seemed to vary with the weather" very differently. I believe SpaceClaim did not intend to change directions arbitrarily. This is what VC funded companies do - they 'pivot' until they find a business model that works. The sad truth is they never did and hence sold out to (rescued by?) Ansys.

Underlying all this is a fundamental truth that we cannot ignore - around the time SpaceClaim started in 2006-7, the world really did not need another CAD system, period. Notwithstanding the smart people at the helm (Payne included) and their claim to fame about having a 'direct' modeler, it simply was'nt enough to let them stand out in a crowd of similar products from many small vendors. Was it any surprise that Alibre was bought by 3DSystems? No, because they too suffered from the same malady.

I read with amusement the various marketing angles that Blake Courter would assiduously trot out, approximately one every 12 months or so. You got to give the man some credit for being creative in the many supposedly under-served 'areas' he was able to dig out. You could smell snake-oil (some would say desperation) in those blogs.

SpaceClaim never has and never will make money as a CAD system, and from that perspective, I could'nt disagree more with the premise of your article. Ansys can see it as a good geometry-modification tool and nothing else. Trying to compete with established CAD vendors is a pipe dream. If they went into this deal, I just hope it is not because someone at Ansys really believed they can ride on SpaceClaim to complete in the CAD space. Ansys is too smart for that. If they did, this would'nt be the first time hubris did a CAx company in.

Earl Morgan

I am surprised that SpaceClaim is not more successful. However when they 1. Hide the price of the software. 2. Make it difficult to download, that's just a recipe for less people to try it out. If the software were more accessible, more people would be converted. It does needs some tweaks in functionality. Multiple hatches, paste from AutoCAD, better feature constraints, publish to AutoCad paperspace. Those things aside, It truly is amazing software. Once you go direct, you can't go back.

Ralph Grabowski

I too was frustrated at the lack of an easily downloadable 30-day demo. Demos had to be handled by dealers.

I had suggested SpaceClaim to a consulting client of mine, but as they were located in Manila, a dealer-led demo was unavailable -- as was any download. So, no sale to this 75-member design firm.

Jon Banquer

"Those things aside, It truly is amazing software. Once you go direct, you can't go back."

History based modeling wouldn't be so bad if users were given the tools to easily determine parent/child relationships and were allowed to easily modify part models with complex parent/child relationships. I believe this can be done with a powerful 3D file tree instead of a flat 2D file tree. I also believe it can be done with nodes. I'm one hundred percent convinced that what really holds direct modeling back is the lack of an advanced user interface that would make direct modeling more powerful and much faster. Driving family of parts with an Excel type spreadsheet is an answer based in the 1990's.

I think what we will see next in a newer CAD software will show the way with a radical leap in user interface efficiency. It could very well be Autodesk Fusion 360, Onshape, CADstack or something from the new Dassault line of SolidWorks products based on the Enovia backbone. I do not believe we will see any major user interface advancement first from legacy code CAD software such as SolidWorks, Solid Edge, PTC Creo, Inventor or NX. ANSYS could do it with SpaceClaim but I seriously doubt they have any real interest in doing so.

Jon Banquer
CADCAM Technology Leaders group on LinkedIn

Dave Johnson

Wilbur,

"Pivot" is what it's all about for a VC funded business to become successful. The pivoting though happens before product release with minor pivots/tweaks during development and/or soon after the product comes out.

Some would even say when it comes to CAD with that big staff of developers churning out code way that the "big pivoting" must happen even before the development begins.

What a challenge if this is true !!!

Assuming they are allowed to pivot while the product is being developed Spaceclaim had to sort out what they would be no later than 2006-2007.

Marketing/Sales then hammers away with a focused and consistent message.

This never happened and as an ex-reseller of SpaceClaim the typical feedback then and still to this day from prospects was " I don't understand what Spaceclaim does or is for".

Wilbur Smith's comment - I am inclined to view your comment about "tactics that seemed to vary with the weather" very differently. I believe SpaceClaim did not intend to change directions arbitrarily. This is what VC funded companies do - they 'pivot' until they find a business model that works. The sad truth is they never did and hence sold out to (rescued by?) Ansys.

Peter Leijnen

I think it was a very wise decision for Ansys to acquire Spaceclaim.
I believe there is an audience of conceptual engineers who would greatly benefit from having a tool that can do both very fast and flexible conceptual (but, if needed, also fully detailed) modeling and full-blown FEA in a unified environment. (I'm certainly one of them)
Ansys will have access to a lot of new seats by further developing Spaceclaim into a competing direct modeling CAD system, and at the sime time seamlessly integrating a (variable) level of their FEA into it, thus effectively lowering the treshold for potential Ansys users.

Peter Leijnen
Leijnen Engineering

Wilbur Smith

Dave,

SpaceClaim had no choice but to pivot after being in the market for some period of time simply because they read the original market need for a direct modeler completely wrong. SpaceClaim wouldnt have had a snowball's chance in hell of breaking even, let alone be profitable with their original go-to-market message. That the 'smart' people in the company did'nt quite see this in 2006 is surprising. That the VCs didnt know this is'nt.

SpaceClaim has been on life support since 2008-2009. High level exits (Payne, Courter, couple of CEOs) all point to the conflict within the company on their inability to gain traction in the marketplace. This is quite natural in a zombie company. It is a testament to the VCs to have stuck with them so far. Me thinks the plug should have been pulled about 2 years ago. Ansys should have waited their eventual flaming out (maybe they did!) and bought the assets on the cheap (which they didnt).

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