Big trends in the future of CAD

Day Two: Jeff Ray, CEO of SolidWorks, says the show has so far drawn 4,400 attendees. In the future, he wants to see more sharing between DS technologies and SolidWorks. He says software developers cannot afford to "fall in love with their own technologies." Companies should never think that they own customers. Nobody does. Customers can pick whatever they want whenever they want. Ray also says Latin America is SolidWorks' fastest region of growth, even faster than China.

Also speaking was an electrical systems teacher at Long Beach Community College who has his pre-engineering students design submersible robots in SolidWorks and enter them in robotic competitions. He thinks that human-intensive manufacturing is rapidly disappearing, but we should not be all doom and gloom -- there are plenty of rich opportunities in automation. People are needed to design, build, and install robots, as well as maintain them, for example. He says a recent graduate who knows more than just one thing, say, mechanical, electrical, hydraulics, and pneumatics, have their pick of high-paying jobs.

Ex-CEO and one of the founders of SolidWorks, Jon Hirschtik gave an interesting look CAD's 50-year history. It all started in 1963 with Ivan Sutherland who wrote his M.I.T. thesis on "SketchPad: A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System." Back then, he even discussed the idea of doing structural analysis in CAD and applying constraints to models -- unheard of at the time. Hirschtik says the 1070's brought 3D modeling research at Cambridge University. Research in using B-reps as the basis of CAD was underway. And Alan Grayer and Charles Lang helped write the ACIS and Parasolid kernels. The name "ACIS" came from its developers' initials: Alan Charles Ivan System. The 1970's also brought some of the first commercial applications such as Computer Vision, Cadam, and Applicon, and a Unigraphics CAD-CAM system called "The Total Solution." By the 1980's, second-generation CAD was coming along with CATIA in 1981, AutoCAD in 1983, and Pro/Engineer in 1987. SolidWorks was developed in 1993, and since that time, there have been 16 major releases.

Hirschtik also discussed what he thinks are the big trends in the future of CAD:

Hosted computing -- Applications run on Web sites, not on PCs. Only the Web browser runs locally. This is already being done extensively in other areas (e-mail, online banking, and Google Docs).

Open source -- The source code is open for anyone to change. If they do change it, they must implement the changes in the original code. Current examples include Linux, Apache, MySQL, OpenOffice, Firefox, and Apache.

Video game technology -- Graphics quality, 3D user interfaces, and physical simulations are all things that CAD will exploit more and more in the future.

Touch Interfaces

-- Already big with the iPhone, Wii, and 3-axis mouse.

3D printing -- Can only get bigger in the future.

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