Greater intelligence to drive digital manufacturing

One year later, Siemens' acquisition of UGS seems to be bearing substantial fruit, not the least of which is Synchronous Technology, which is promising to make 3D modeling software as intelligent as users have long wanted it to be. A May briefing in Boston discussed business milestones achieved and previewed new products available later this year.

05/27/2008


Boston, MA – At a gathering here of more than 100 industry analysts, editors and partners from around the world, Siemens PLM Software executives discussed key milestones of the first year of Siemens’ ownership of what was UGS. The acquisition seems to be bearing substantial fruit, not the least of which is Synchronous Technology, a patent-pending technology being integrated into the next versions of the company’s Solid Edge and NX computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Tony Affuso, chairman and CEO of Siemens PLM Software, described “a strong first year” for the group. “We have successfully integrated our operations into those of Siemens while concurrently growing our business and capturing market share in the PLM industry,” he said. The company’s CAD business specifically grew 8-10% in 2007, and 25% of business was with customers new since 2006.

Chuck Grindstaff, executive vice president for products with Siemens PLM Software , said the objective of Siemens’ acquisition of UGS was to “extend information and leverage technical data to support design change, maintenance/repair and sourcing elements.” He said the company was accomplishing that by investing in five specific areas of improvement to its software: collaboration within the digital enterprise, integration of automation data, handling of product and process variety, technical evolution, and knowledge capture.

The integration of automation information—CAD models and digital mock ups containing not only physical shapes and dimension, but functional data—is an achievement that UGS couldn’t have done without Siemens, said Grindstaff. “We haven’t had that group of technical engineering available to us as openly as we do with Siemens now,” he said. He gave the example in NX of a kinematic model and an electric model combining to create a “virtual window regulator” for an automobile door panel design.

An analyst from Forrester Research, which released an April 2008 report on PLM applications, said, “Customers we spoke with conveyed Siemens PLM Software’s strategy as a key differentiator, specifically citing the company’s vision for an open product/process data platform and industry-leading integrations that drives future value.”

“We have to provide an open system,” said Grindstaff. “We need a level of abstraction that’s independent of our tool and accessible by others. That’s why we invest so much in JT [file format]. We’ve published the format and are trying to get it to be an international standard. It’s a repository for streams of data, and it’s a huge investment for us.”

Synchronous technology

The other big area of investment has been with Synchronous Technology. Siemens describes Synchronous Technology as “the PLM industry’s first-ever history-free, feature-based modeling technology that provides users with up to 100 times faster design experience than ever before. [It] combines the best of constraint-driven techniques with direct modeling.” The technology was launched via a global webcast in conjunction with this year’s Hannover Fair, and demonstrated live in Boston.

Synchronous technology allows an “instantaneous modeling experience,” the ability to make changes to models and test design ideas in real-time. It lets designers think about what they want to model, not how they need to model it. “This is going to change the way people think about using CAD,” said Jack Beeckman, PLM manager at Liebert Corp. “It allows an engineer the freedom to be an engineer.”

The technology simultaneously synchronizes geometry and rules through a new decision-making inference engine. According to Grindstaff, it accelerates innovation in four key areas:

  • Fast idea capture : “Synchronous technology captures ideas as fast as the user thinks them. Designers can devote more time to innovation with new techniques that provide the efficiency of parametric dimension-driven modeling without the computational overhead of pre-planned dependencies.” The technology defines optionally persistent dimensions, parameters and design rules at time of creation or edit, without the overhead of an ordered history, he said.

  • Fast design changes : The technology automates the implementation of planned or unplanned design changes, regardless of design origination, with or without the presence of a history tree.

  • Improved multi-CAD reuse : “Designers can reuse data from other CAD systems without remodeling, and edit other CAD system data faster than they can in the original system,” he said. A technique called “suggestive selection” automatically infers the function of various design elements without the need for feature or constraint definitions. This increases design reuse.

  • New user experience : “The technology provides a new user interaction experience that simplifies CAD and makes 3D as easy to use as 2D. The interaction paradigm merges historically independent 2D and 3D environments, providing the robustness of a mature 3D modeler with the ease of 2D,” he said. New inference technology automatically infers common constraints and executes typical commands based on cursor position. “This makes design tools simple to learn and use for occasional users,” he added.

Siemens recognized the potential of synchronous technology during the due diligence process of acquiring UGS, according to Anton Huber, CEO, Siemens Industry Automation Division. “Knowing that the digital model is at the heart of our shared vision to unify the product and production lifecycles, we have worked together to accelerate this breakthrough in CAD technology. The digital model impacts every phase of the PLM process and is key to delivering innovation faster than ever before,” he said.

The patent-pending technology was jointly developed between Siemens PLM Software’s NX and Solid Edge organizations. It is being implemented in the next versions of both products, released this month,

To view a replay of the announcement Webcast, visit www.siemens.com/plm/breakthrough .

To find out what bloggers are saying about Synchronous Technology, read analysis from DesignNews or comments from MCADCafe’s Jeff Rowe .

Headquartered in Plano, TX, Siemens PLM Software , a business unit of the Siemens Industry Automation Division, is a provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services with 4.6 million licensed seats and 51,000 customers worldwide.

--Edited by Renee Robbins , senior editor
Control Engineering Daily News Desk
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