Study: Mid-Range MCAD Dominates Market
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Study: Mid-Range MCAD Dominates Market

The results of a study conducted by 01consulting on the MCAD market in Europe, are contained in a new report, through countries and industries, under two categories: high-end and mid-range.

Growing at a 6% annual rate, the market is composed of three segments: High-end, low-end and mid-range. The mid-range segment, that has already clearly overrun the value of the high-end segment, is growing at +20% annually, leaving behind the high-end segment with an annual decrease of 5%. This report provides vendors rankings under different criteria and discusses the future trends and the factors enabling them.

By providing market size and vendors positions in several industries including Automotive, Aerospace, Electronics and Industrial equipment and machinery, the report analyzes the actual trends. The market is also scanned through a geographic angle, showing the diversity of tendencies in different European regions. Vendors are ranked in each country, and for each region, the size of the market is valuated. Furthermore, main trends and facts are analyzed; thus, reasons for Dassault’s performance which goes beyond SolidWorks growth are proposed, examined and commented. Also the impact of the mentioned changes on the service companies are discussed leading to a reshaped MCAD market in Europe. To read more about this report,

Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
Although this story was quite short in length, it spoke volumes on the current state of the MCAD market and the perpetual battle of the so-called “mid-range” and “high-end.” The report indicates that mid-range products outsold the high-end in terms of revenue beginning in 2006. I also realize that the report covers the European market, but strong parallels can be drawn for the North American market, as well. The report shows that the top five European ”mid-range” vendors are Autodesk, PTC SolidWorks, UGS (Solid Edge), and think3 (remember that company here in the U.S.?).

I continue to contend (as I have for the past few years) that there is less and less that separates the mid-range (something that many now call “mainstream”) and high-end on several different levels. If nothing else, the mid-range has continued to put tremendous pressure on the high-end for the minds and budgets of potential customers.

Remember back about 10 years ago, and, yes, I realize that that is an eternity in the MCAD world. That was a time when the 3D mechanical market began undergoing a fundamental transformation that led us to where we are today. Back then, the high-end consisted of companies and products such as CATIA (Dassault), Unigraphics (Unigraphics Solutions), Pro/Engineer (Parametric Technology), I-DEAS Master Series (SDRC), BRAVO (Applicon), and EUCLID (Matra Datavision). The mid-range was just really getting started with products such as SolidWorks, Mechanical Desktop, Solid Edge, DesignWave, IronCAD, and Helix. That product mix has changed quite dramatically since then – some of the products were acquired and consolidated into other products, while others just plain disappeared.

Back then, the market began to transition away from Unix-based systems to those based on Windows NT. The first beneficiaries of the companies moving from Unix to NT were largely junior and mid-level mechanical designers. Once the critical mass was reached on the Windows side, however, there was no turning back. Beyond just the straight differences in operating systems for running the mid-range and high-end applications, the user interface that each type of product presented also started to enter the picture, too – with the former having a more familiar and increasingly ubiquitous Windows compliance, while the latter had proprietary UIs that were more often than not a challenge to navigate and understand.

Cost and capabilities always came up as factors for distinguishing the mid-range (roughly $3,000-$6,000) and the high-end (roughly $6,000+). It didn’t take long to realize, however, that unless you had really advanced surfacing requirements, such as those found in automotive and aerospace, the majority of potential users could design a lot of stuff with the mid-range applications, especially if they could be supplemented with third-party products for specialized requirements.

Although there are a number of products that have been introduced in the past 10-12 years that have influenced the shift away from the high-end in favor of the mid-range, SolidWorks probably had the biggest impact because of the decisions it made early on, including:

  • Standardizing on the Windows operating system and its associated UI components for look, feel, and behavior.
  • Pushing the superiority of 3D modeling techniques for many types of mechanical design over 2D.
  • Developing applications that did not require inordinate amounts of expensive computing horsepower.
  • Offering customers different product suites that expand upon each other at affordable cost increments.
  • Licensing commercially available software components for geometric modeling, visualization, etc. instead of developing and maintaining them in-house.
  • Focusing on developing and marketing core CAD technology and let third-party partners develop supplemental applications for specific needs.
  • Setting up a reseller network for product distribution instead of employing a direct sales staff.

    This model let SolidWorks (and its competition) evolve quickly and focus on what it does best – its core functionality. In fact, this paradigm is still by and large the way many “mid-range” product developers operate.

    If there is a problem with any of this, it is likely to be that a couple of the vendors develop both a mid-range and high-end product. Dassault has CATIA and SolidWorks and UGS PLM software has NX and Solid Edge. I’m sure that there are competitive sales situations where products from the same company are at odds with each other, and this will only continue to escalate over time. How this situation will ultimately be resolved is anybody’s guess, but I can just about guarantee that it will have to be addressed definitively so that potential customers are no more confused than they are now about the best application for their needs.

    All things considered, anymore, there is less and less that separates the traditional high-end products from the mid-range, and this will only become more pronounced and evident as time goes on. Knowing that, the conclusions reached in the report should come as a surprise to very few. Hopefully, in the end, it will be the customer who wins as this battle is waged.

    The Week’s Top 5
  • At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the news items that were the most viewed during last week.

    UGS PLM Software Ships Solid Edge V 20
    UGS PLM Software announced that Version 20 of UGS Solid Edge software is shipping to customers worldwide. UGS PLM Software is shipping the English version of UGS Solid Edge Version 20 and will ship nine additional languages throughout the coming 10 weeks. Solid Edge V20 features more than 170 enhancements, including:

  • Plant equipment and massive assembly design through zones, component replication and drawing review mode.
  • Design collaboration to support PLM across the value chain through new service-oriented architecture (SOA) architecture, structure editor and assembly auto-constrain.
  • Productivity improvements through Goal Seeking and tabulated drawings.

    Small Auto Racing Parts Maker Does Big Business Using SolidWorks
    A small New Hampshire company making aftermarket parts for racing cars is using SolidWorks to perform like a larger company. "It allows me to play with the big boys and source manufacturing partners anywhere on the planet," said Hardbar USA founder Gary Hoffman. SolidWorks software has helped the company develop high-performance brake parts, composite wings, racing seat mounts, camcorder fixtures, and more. As a former aerospace engineer, Hoffman has worked with virtually all the CAD packages on the market. He switched to SolidWorks last year because it was the one that most of the machine shops in his industry were using. Having a design for one car in SolidWorks makes it adaptable to other vehicles. His latest SolidWorks-designed product is a Universal Camcorder Mount that, with a twist of an allen wrench, lets drivers capture the drama on the track or the data coming from their instrument panels.

    Glass Manufacturer Reduces Time And Cost with Realistic Simulation
    Dassault Systemes announced that Glass Service Improve BV, a provider of advanced solutions for glass manufacturing, is using professional services and Abaqus Unified FEA software from SIMULIA to accelerate and optimize the development process of non-round glass bottle forming. The innovative 3D glass forming analysis method, also applicable to other forming and industrial applications, makes it possible for designers to accurately evaluate the optimum blow mold process in a virtual environment, reducing or eliminating costly physical testing. In collaboration with Glass Service Improve, SIMULIA has developed a methodology that uses an automated remeshing technique to simulate a multistage manufacturing process involving viscous materials that are subjected to high temperatures, large geometry deformation, and complex contact.

    Lowrance Improves Design Time with PTC Product Development System
    PTC announced that Lowrance, a designer, manufacturer, and marketer of sportfishing SONAR and GPS mapping instruments, has improved the design time of its marine electronics products with the PTC Product Development System (PDS). One of PTC's earliest customers, Lowrance recently used Pro/ENGINEER design and simulation solutions to develop a family of marine electronics products in only six months, cutting in half the time required using the company's previous design methods. The PTC PDS also helped Lowrance drive collaboration among its industrial designers and mechanical engineers. With the old system, design information was handed off from industrial design to mechanical engineering at one defined point in the process. This resulted in a slow, manual process to check, provide feedback and correct any design changes that sometimes occurred after a physical prototype was created. Using the PDS, both groups can work on the same model and it allows the mechanical engineers to provide timely feedback to the industrial designers.

    Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at Email Contact or 408.850.9230.

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