The ‘Analyst problem” & Aberdeen’s New Digital Prototyping tool

Published 24 November 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: autodesk, digital prototyping, analyst strangeness, aberdeen research

I was fascinated by this news release. The Aberdeen Group has launched a online digital prototyping assessment tool, which utilizes the outfit’s “primary research in product innovation, helps companies identify their biggest product development challenges, compares their design practices to industry benchmarks, and quantifies potential time and cost savings by adopting Best-in-Class capabilities.”

An impressive sounding thing. Wait. There’s more. The assessment, which is in the form of a short multi-stage questionnaire is based on the group’s “unique PACE research methodology, steps through the product development process to determine where an individual company excels and helps identify opportunities for improvement.”

When you’ve registered for the assessment, you’re taken through a few questions, some of which are multiple choice, some of which are single choice from a list of options. The end goal is that the system “makes recommendations by comparing responses to prior Aberdeen research that identified design and engineering best practices exhibited by Best-in-Class companies.”

Once done you then receive a summary of how your company compare “to other organizations as well as custom tailored next steps to improve their development process.” I went through the process and while its initially interesting how the questions are structured, what language is used and the end results.

There are the basic questions, such as “How are product concepts developed?” possible responses are:

  • On paper only
  • On paper and then transferred to electronic form (2D or 3D)
  • Completed electronically, as a 2D sketch
  • Completed electronically as a 3D surface model (push and pull surface capabilities

This is pretty standard stuff, although the answers look a little odd. Considering that the only 3D related answer is a surface model, it looks a little incomplete. Where’s the potential for an intelligent 3D model? Question 3 in my survey read “How is the aesthetic look and feel of a product assessed?” with the options being:

  • By building/sculpting a physical prototype at the concept stage
  • By building a physical prototype when the design is complete
  • By reviewing a realistically rendered digital model
  • Aesthetic properties are not important in my industry

Fair enough, but you’re only allowed a single option answer. The use of physical and digital models within the product development process is typically mixed. You don’t just build a physical prototype, or use a rendered model most organizations use both. The same was true of almost every question and possible answer. You can’t give a complete answer or indeed, accurate answer, because you might typically use a mix of methods, for visualization, for simulation, for assessing product performance.

So what’s my problem? It’s nothing specific, but take a look at the URL for the assessment survey That gives it all away. Aberdeen has constructed this survey at the behest and I assume, funding from Autodesk. When you complete it, you get a quick bar chart showing how you perform according to your answers and get emailed a link to a fuller report as well as Aberdeen’s other research report (which are worth reading). There are also links to recommended products from Autodesk. Take from that what you will.

The press release has a quote from Stephen Gold, President of Aberdeen, saying that they are “pleased to provide organizations with guidance to improve their product development process. The Assessment Tool Series offers a unique opportunity for organizations to leverage our benchmark research in a highly personalized way.”

Yes, “A unique opportunity to reuse their benchmark research” (which is pretty highly regarded I might add), but as long as you do using limited answers, limited input and using language that suits perfectly the terminology of the endeavor’s sponsors . I don’t have a problem with this , but I wish analysts would be a little more honest about why they do these things. This has very little to do with their research, more to do with Aberdeen tying up with Autodesk to reuse their research methods to point users to Autodesk’s tools - its a sales tool masquerading as a scientific study. If you look at it from that point of view, then its perfectly acceptable and you can get from the results exactly what you want. But let’s not pretend it’s anything else. Analysts have a strange habit of taking what appears to be common sense, wrapping it up with ‘research’ and feeding it back to you and this does nothing to change that perception.

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Software Trends in ID jobs

Published 21 November 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: solidworks, design, industrial design, alias, pro engineer, software trends

Found this via, Jason Morris has been researching the most requested software in Industrial Design jobs and the results are fascinating. What’s first on the list? SolidWorks, Pro/E? nope, illustrator and Photoshop get number 1 and 2 positions. Below that its SolidWorks, then followed by Alias and Pro/Engineer - then Rhino brings up the 6th position. What does this tell you? This was taking from job postings not user experience, but the result tally with what we’ve found over the last few months. Industrial Designers love 2D processes for concept work and always will, despite what the software vendors might think.

The interplay between SolidWorks, Alias and Pro/E is also interesting. Alias won’t cut it on its own for many industrial design-led organisations anymore, so it usually pairs with a more ‘engineering’ led tool, whether that’s SolidWorks or Pro/E. The same could be said of Rhino. SolidWorks might be ahead of the game, but the sample is around 200, so its not a massive difference. But what it really says is that despite all the noise from other vendors, Pro/Engineer is going absolutely nowhere.

Jason’s blog is also worth exploring further. There’s some great stuff on there.

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Autodesk completes Softimage: Is the CGI industry sown up?

Published 19 November 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: design, autodesk, visualisation, maya, 3dsmax, cgi, softimage

Images courtesy of Virtual-Mechanix - here’s a nice user story about how they use the products here.

While there are many modelling systems active in the CGI industry, there have been three consistent players in the game over the last two decades: 3dsmax, Maya and Softimage (its pronounced soft-ee-marj, betraying its French Canadian roots). When Autodesk acquired Alias a couple of years ago, bringing it in house alongside its 3dsmax product, many foretold that it was game over for Softimage, who have been passed around a fair old amount in the last few years, from Microsoft (in 1994) then to Avid Technology a couple of years later.

This week the acquisition by Autodesk was completed and all of the assets of the company became part of Autodesk’s product offering for ‘Media and Entertainment’ division. Does Autodesk have the CGI industry sown up?

It’s looking that way, with a trio of products that provide it with a huge installed base. What are the companies plans with it? It seems that as its done with 3dsmax and Maya, its looking to maintain the Softimage brand and intends to “sell standalone versions of both the Softimage|XSI and Softimage|Face Robot 3D software products,” with its Softimage|Cat character animation plugin for 3ds max being built into the max product line.

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How to launch a product: Render its ass off

Published 13 November 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: solidworks, design, visualisation, hypershot, effing big wicked looking camera system

I know so little about cameras and cinematography equipment I’m not qualified to even comment about this product’s capabilities, but seeing a product launch, with these kinds of visuals, makes me a very happy man. Apparently Red was founded by Oakley founder Jim Jannard. I’ve also heard, but not yet confirmed that they use SolidWorks and from the look of these visuals, I’d say HyperShot too.

In terms of what you’re looking at, this is a Lego style configurable camera, you buy the sensor (referred to as the Brains), then add on all the accessories you want. As Martyn said to me, “Umm no idea what that camera system does other than look cool and expensive” I couldn’t agree more - but then that’s what good design sometimes, making something so ball achingly cool that you know you want it - without really knowing what it is you’re lusting after.

Oh and this thing is the 3D mount.

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NAFEMS seminar to get ‘upfront’ with CFD

Published 13 November 2008

Posted by Stephen Holmes

Article tagged with: cfd, nafems

A NAFEMS seminar in Coventry is bringing together experts from motorsports, motion and control, and telecommunications industries to present ways in which designers can apply CFD earlier.

Renault F1, Rolls-Royce, Alcatel and Parker Hannifin will be on hand to give an insight into how simulation driven product development is making a difference in their industries.

The event on 26 November is free to members of the organization as part of their membership,as well as anyone else interested, and hopes to show them the benefits that the concept of ‘upfront CFD’ or the bizarrely named ‘front-loading CFD’ in the design process.

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PTC ‘unleashes’ its six-way beast

Published 13 November 2008

Posted by Stephen Holmes

Article tagged with: ptc, pro engineer, webcasts

Pro/Engineer users, and anyone else for that matter, are being invited via webcast to listen to PTC offer its six-point mantra for helping make companies more money.

Despite sounding like a dodgy pyramid scheme, the series of webcasts will show major companies explaining how they’ve boosted their profits by improving their product development practices.

Promising a six-way initiative that can help boost productivity it seems unlikely that it will provide a definite stop to the country’s economic recession, but any advice that might help and we’re listening.

The first webcast takes place on 24 November.

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Pickle Man to keynote SolidWorks World

Published 12 November 2008

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: solidworks world, richard branson, pickle man

News just out (literally, via twitter) that Sir Richard Branson, a guy that needs very little introduction to anyone in the western world, is going to be the keynote speaker at SolidWorks World, held at the Swan & Dolphin in Orlando, February 8 - 11 next year.

Yup, the man that re-signed the Sex Pistols, brought the world Culture Club, high speed train to the UK, and founded the first space tourism company that’s ever likely to get off the ground (using a former SWW keynote, Burt Rutan’s technology) is going to speak to the assembled masses. About what, its not clear, but what ever comes out of one of the most intriguing people of our age*, its going to be interesting.

If you have the time and inclination and can justify the time, I’d recommend SolidWorks World to anyone involved with the product, the learning and networking potential are incredible and of course, its in Florida in the dead of the British winter.

*He did, on the other hand, bring us Tubular Bells. Ying and Ying I guess.

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