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PLM+ targets user experience to bring PLM to the cloud

Published 09 November 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: plm, online, ondemand, plm+

Just had an entertaining phone call* with Benny Shaviv of PLM+ who are trying to bring a fresh approach to the PLM world. PLMplus (or PLM+ if you can find the extra bit on your keyboard) has the goal of solving one of the longest standing barriers to PLM adoption - ease of use.

By Ease of use, I’m not talking about implementation, cost of adoption, but rather the plain simple fact that many PLM projects fail purely because the systems in place are to complex, to hard and often too bewildering for users to accept as part of their day to day working practices. It’s a common thing to find myself talking to PLM adoptees that have not got up and running with their system purely because buy-in of users has stalled the process.

The need is there, from both a process and organizational requirement, the software is all encompassing and highly functional, but you’ll often find one of the following reasons are prevalent:

“It’s too complex and I don’t have time to use it properly - so we don’t”

“It presents me with such an overwhelming amount of data, I don’t know where to start”

“I’m a designer/engineer - I’m not a database administrator - why should I bother?”

PLM+ are looking to solve this by creating a rich application that engages the user, provides ease of implementation and on going maintenance (by allowing the user/admin, rather than costly consultant) and can be delivered over the web, in an on-demand manner (which saves hardware and infrastructure cost). The on-demand aspects are interesting. Many have tried the on-demand the approach before. PTC have PLM OnDemand with Windchill, Arena Solutions have it’s own set of tools.

Can PLM+ achieve the level of success it’s expecting? Who knows, but the time is right for web-based applications to thrive and in the wider IT world, they already are. Can that level of success be transitioned to the professional, more data-heavy world of product development? Who knows, but there’s a change in the air. Or should that be, there’s a change in the cloud. With a well respected team that have been involved in both support and sales of PLM for years, with an interesting blend of investors, timing is right. But perhaps the most interesting thing is how the team is approaching this from the user experience point of view, rather than functionality. That’s something even I can get excited about.

PLM+ is currently in closed beta and we’ll eagerly await further product news sometime next year.

*One of the things I enjoy about something like about twitter is that you find people that you need to interact with on a professional basis, but get to know them through other means, through shared tidbits of information, of personal thoughts and personal views - so you have a much better understanding and personal relationship with them when the time comes for business talk. It’s nice. Give it a try. You’ll find me at twitter.com/alistardean.

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Dassault spins out SmarTeam development and support

Published 09 November 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: dassault systemes, artizone, smarteam, israel

Dassault issued one of its classic press releases* this morning, relating to the continuation of Enovia SmarTeam’s development. Entitled “Dassault Systemes Strengthens Commitment to ENOVIA SmarTeam V5”, the release details how the a new Israel based company, artizone, has been subcontracted for the development and support of SmarTeam V5 technology. artizone is a newly created and independent company that will “develop and support Enovia SmarTeam technology under an exclusive contract with Dassault Systemes.”

What’s interesting is that artizone is comprised of many of the former team working on the SmarTeam product in Dassault’s Israel office, which has been refocussed to sales and support for the V6 platform in the region (as we reported a little while ago). artizone will be headed up by Alex Zeltcer, former CEO of the SmarTeam brand and VP of Dassault Systemes’ Value Channel.

artizone’s plan is to “continue to invest in the SmarTeam product roadmap, while supporting new customers, as well as the current installed base of more than 8,000 customers around the world.” As Zeltcer explains, “artizone has its basis in Enovia SmarTeam and leverages the same people and the same product expertise. By building an entity that is based on a solid relationship with DS on one hand, while developing new solutions for the future, everyone wins: DS customers, DS, and artizone’s employees.” Alongside taking on the SmarTeam business, artizone will start an additional, non-competitive business line in the area of online retail.

*The reason this was a classic DS press release was how the headline, alluding to a stengthened commitment to SmarTeam, was found to actually mean, we’re giving it to someone else to develop because we’re focussing on V6. And the two don’t exactly match. Or is it just me?

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FreshFiber launch 3D printed iPhone cases

Published 04 November 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: rapid prototyping, direct manufacturing, iphone, iphone cases, mass customisation, freshfiber, freedom of creation, fabber

I picked this up from the folks at Freedom of Creation (or FOC for short). A Dutch outfit called Fresh Fiber has just started producing iPhone cases using 3D printing technology. There’s no information about what process they’re using as yet, but I’ll be investigating and get back to you.

Truly fascinating. The ability to create customised products, either by the consumer or to create limited edition runs (Freedom of Creation’s Janne Kyttanen designed the one shown above) is something that the rapid prototyping/direct manufacturing/fabber community has talked about for many years - and it’s finally starting to happen. Looking at the forms there are decorative models, but the one that captured my imagination was Kyttanen’s design, which features a dual layer of shock absorption using forms that would be very difficult to mould in a single peice.

Here’s a short interview with FreshFiber founder Christian Dijkhof, courtesy of shufflegazine.com

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European HyperWorks Tech Forum: Day 1 continued: A quick peek at solidThinking Inspired

Published 04 November 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: altair engineering, solidthinking inspired, biomimicry, solidthinking, wolffs law, optistruct

This is another key area of focus for this 8.0 release, the launch of solidThinking Inspired. To set the scene, since Altair acquired the company, the two development teams have been looking at each other’s technology stacks and finding areas of cross-over - something that might seem at odds between teams responsible for a concept development tool and those working on hardcore simulation tools.

The first fruits of that cross pollination is solidThinking Inspired. To give you the background, this takes a technology from Altair developed for simulating the laws that apply to bone growth. While I’m not going to go into the detail, bone structure is developed by having a complex organic algorithm that build material to act and support the forces that occur within the structure of those bones. Essentially, nature takes on the role of optimisation and gives you a complex structure that’s typically perfectly suited to its operating parameters. The scientific theory that defines this is Wolff’s Law and implemented in a product called medical simulation product called OptiStruct. This is a field referred to as biomimicry, where technology is used to mimic the processes that occur in nature.

What the solidThinking team has done is taking this underlying tech and build a product (referred to as solidThinking Inspired) that gives the designer tools with which to run simulation on basic work envelopes and have the algorithm remove material where it’s not needed, giving you an optimised reference for further design work.

Base solid model defining working envelope and required geometric features

You start with a single solid model built within solidThinking that describes your rough work envelope. Most products conform to a basic size and form. In the case of a chair, you have supports (legs), a back and a seat. With a bridge, you have a span to cover, a platform for transfer and a spatial envelope for structural work, either above or below that platform. Once this is quickly sketched and modelled up, it’s transferred to the Inspire environment.

solidThinking Inspire has very little in the way of user interface, but does stack up multiplecommands into single icons nicely

This is a separate application and there’s very little in the way of user interface and the small smattering of icons is used to define the forces and constraints that act on that design envelope. You give it basic controls for where pressures and forces are expected to act on that design envelope, where it’s expected to be fixed and such.

Loads, restraints and such are added. you can give precise values or rough estimates - experiementation and inspiration is the name of the game here.

When you’ve defined the operating conditions, you then send the job off to calculate with an expectation in terms of percentage material removal. You choose say 25%, 30% and 50% and set it on its way. The system chunks through the work and presents back an optimised structure that enables material to be removed where stress are not present and retaining material where they’re needed to reach its performance goals in terms of structural stability.

You then have a number of tools available which allow you to explore the design, to vary material removal, trade off weight against strength and inspect the results in 3D. The results are a decimated polygon mesh which represents what the system calculates to be the optimum structure given your defined loads and constraints.

The Final result set- you can see that the system has removed material where possible and gives you back intriguing results.

That form can then be transferred back into solidThinking to be used as reference for more traditional design exploration.

The concept is that this gives you inspiration for new structures and new designers, which can then be used as the basis for further work in solidThinking. One thing that came up, considering the nature of the event we’re at and its heavy focus on simulation technologies, that people involved with simulation ask questions about mesh density, about how the results are generated. And for me, this misses the point entirely.

What solidThinking Inspired is about is giving the design community a new tool that, while it’s based on robust proven technology (as used by the likes of Airbus for optimising wing spans or leading architects, SOM, for designing high-rise buildings) its delivered in a manner that enables its use for creativity, rather than simulation. This is a tool that’s intended for finding new design alternatives, for providing, as the name suggests, inspiration, when working on new products. By bringing this type of technology, removing the complexity, but retaining the robustness, designers have the ability to research new structures for any given performance requirement and experiment further.

The fact that it’s based on OptiStruct gives you the reassurance that the structural forms it suggests are a better match to the functional requirements - you then have all of the power of solidThinking to assist with taking that form as the basis and developing a more refined product form. There is a download coming online very soon and it’s worth playing with. From having access to the beta for a few weeks now, it’s clear that there’s huge potential in this system and the results it gives you don’t always conform to how you might imagine they would. That for me is a benefit. it makes you think about what you’re designing in new and interesting ways. But to realise that, you can then push your creativity, design and engineering skills to see how that can be taken advantage of.

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