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The Turbulent MCAD Market

I’m not interested in being a 3D Mechanical CAD (MCAD) journalist, but since has lot happened in the last year, it’s time for my summary.

The “Big 4” have been up to a lot:

  • SolidWorks is being brought closer to its parent (Dassault Systèmes).  It’s highly probably that a new version based on the CATIA V6 CGM kernel is coming, possibly cloud based.
  • PTC has put Pro/E out to pasture, and is busy trying to get its new Creo components out.  Creo is supposedly to be modular (including history based and direct modelling modules) and app-oriented.  The vision sounds nice, but I suspect that the actual operational and pricing details will make it evolutionary, not revolutionary.
  • AutoDesk is adding direct modelling to Inventor via the Fusion program.  The free 123D program is a cut-down, stand-alone version of Inventor fusion.  123D looks quite useful, but I expect it’ll be neutered if it starts to impact Inventor revenues.
  • Siemens PLM Systems is finally getting its Solid Edge act together.  They’re concentrating on making Solid Edge the best program for machine design, and Synchronous Technology V3 (direct and history based modelling) has been getting good reviews.

There’s been even more change with many of the smaller players:

  • 3D Systems recently bought Alibre.  A few months ago Alibre introduced a $1500 bundle consisting of a RapMan 3D printer, Alibre Design Personal, and MoI.  I’ll be interested to see what happens next.
  • The $97 Alibre Design Standard deal really was a great deal, just for the translators and 3D PDF output alone, but the recent pricing and capability changes (e.g. removing almost all import and export options from AD Personal) really neutered the entry level version.
  • I’m hopeful that 3DS will provide resources so Alibre can keep improving (especially since I just paid for Alibre maintenance!)
  • ZWCAD of China bought VX, and renamed it ZW3D.
    • On the positive side, ZWCAD is trying to treat customers well, there have been no US layoffs as far as I know, they have been investing money into ZW3D (licensing more components, adding more developers, etc), appear to be listening, and probably have a good upgrade policy.
    • On the other hand, it’s taking a  (long?) while for them to get up to speed, they’re going to a reseller-only approach (e.g. you have to contact your reseller to upgrade), and they really need to spend some money and hire some good US marketing folks.
    • For example, when ZWCAD took over, they gave all customers a free upgrade to the next level.  So if you had VX Innovate, you got upgraded to ZW3D 2010 Standard, if you had VX standard, you were upgraded to ZW3D 2010 Professional.  I think this was a great gesture, but ZWCAD never received any publicity for this.
  • Think3 users are in a huge mess, and should start looking elsewhere, since there are now two versions, one from Versata, and one from the Italian bankruptcy trustee.  Deelip is the place to go for all the details.
  • I plan on discussing my experiences with Alibre, ZW3D, and 123D, but I won’t make any promises on how often I’ll have time for such posts.


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