Thoughts on 3D modeling user experience and the CAD industry

The CAD industry today is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock is business requirements. The hard place is users wanting more features AND more usability. This has made for bloated, slow, glitchy software that barely meets everyone’s minimum demands to actually keep using the software. The innovative companies are scrambling to get ahead of the death of the classical CAD software like Autocad and Creo. Most are betting on the solution is Cloud based. OnShape from SolidWorks makes Dassault Systems seems the most game changing in that they have gone entirely down the web app route creating the ability for the first time for CAD users to symultaneously collaborate in real time. Autodesk is just integrating cloud services into Inventor and proposing it as SAS even though they still have a classical desktop program.

While the web app route solves many of the problems their predecessor applications had, there is still a significant issue that will only increase with the move to the web. That issue is network glitchiness in my most technical term possible. While initiatives like Googles 1 Gb free internet for everyone sound nice, it won’t be happening to 99% of us anytime soon. The rest of us will still have to deal with our internet overlords that overcharge us for connections that are regularly unsatisfing. Even if your connection to the internet is good there are a host of other problems that can put a damper on your workflow. Server side applications are powerful but complicated and usually need downtime for upgrades and fixes at their convenience. Increasingly integrating CAD applications with the business solutions that large corporations need always costs user experience in the end.

I believe that CAD applications need to be more modular and more open. I think that the business integrations need to be sold as third party add ons from the business solution manufactures (or their partners). This would free up the CAD developers to focus on innovating where they are best instead of being chained to maintaining monolithic code bases filled with legacy code and non-cad related integrations. The modular and open nature would allow marketplaces to develop based on the real economy of user needs instead of broken features solely based on corporate strategy (cough PTC). Most of the core parts of “modern” CAD programs are based around code that has existed for many decades. Complete rewrites need to be done that take advantage of modern programming techniques and new libraries. Parallel processes and smarter cross platform code will enable developers to deliver the features that users need with the experience that they have been longing for without the costs associated with the cloud. This will not only improve the user experience but also enable professional quality CAD programs to become accessible to even kids and home hobbyists. This is my goal. Bring 3D modeling software to the masses. The 3D printing industry/movement has the most to gain from this CAD revolution. If developers like me succeed this will not replace the existing CAD manufacturers but it will level the playing field for indie developers and lower budget users to have more of a say. Maybe one year you will see me on the news and I will have brought this dream to fruition. Till then… happy cading!

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