Developing an engineering application has never been more complicated than it is in today's environment. As developers aim to meet customer needs and bring compelling products to market, there are challenges emerging from all corners of the industry.
In such a fast moving and complex space, one of the main challenges is simply using the right technology for your product. On the graphics side, you have technologies such as Metal, Vulkan, WebGL, and many more. If you're building for the cloud and client server architectures, there's a whole separate range of software development tools and technologies that need to be deployed. Keeping up with the ever-changing software tools landscape is critical to success. Finding the people with the right skillsets and expertise in these areas is harder than it's ever been — and companies are struggling with it.
Meanwhile, requirements around graphics and data keep increasing. Engineering graphics are increasingly more complicated —and not just because of the different technologies that are now required. Users today expect to be able to work with many different kinds of data. It’s no longer sufficient, for example, to only display CAD data, or analysis information. Increasingly, users want an application that can do extremely advanced operations such as visualizing point cloud data overlaid with CAD data —while also allowing them to do granular selection, as well as advanced analysis at fast framerates and with high visual fidelity.
Ensuring data reuse is also key. A few years ago, if you could accurately translate BREP geometry, then you were “making the grade” in the area of translation and data reuse. Having accurate geometry is merely the beginning of what users are expecting today. Users are looking for digital continuity with their data models as they move through different applications — and that requires not just accurate BREP, but other aspects of the data, including semantic and visual Product Manufacturing Information (PMI), views, metadata, and a way to accurately track these items throughout the product development lifecycle.
One of the biggest trends driving engineering software development is the customer need to view more (bigger) and more (complex) data. As an example, people don't just want to see the machine that they’re creating —they want to see their machine in the context of the factory that it's going to be operating, with all the other machines that are going to be in that factory. Similarly, they don't just want to see the building they’re designing —they want to see their building in the context of the entire neighborhood or the entire city block where it’s going to be sited. As a result, applications need to be able to handle very, very large data sets. This is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down or reversing—the current sentiment is that “you can never have too much data.”
User Experience and Performance Matter More than Ever
User experience used to be an afterthought in the world of engineering software. Customers were unlikely to switch to another vendor because they had the sunk cost of upfront license purchases and legacy data. In a world of pay-per-use and subscription business models, however, it becomes much easier for customers to switch if any aspect of the user experience is unsatisfactory. This extends beyond the user interface to the performance of the application. Basic graphics capabilities that are “good enough” are no longer sufficient. This goes for data translation as well—users don’t want to wait forever while a part or assembly is loaded. Additionally, functionality that might’ve been exotic a few years ago —like the ability to use data downstream in Additive Manufacturing workflows — is now expected. Simply put, users now expect more in the way of user experience —or they’ll move on.
Interactive 3D PDF showing rich data necessary for documentation of advanced workflows.
What the examples above clearly show is that developers need technologies that are tightly integrated and work together optimally. If, for example, your application’s data exchange and translation is very fast, but the connection to your visualization engine is not optimal, all the benefits of fast translation are gone — because it takes such a long time to visualize the data on the screen. Completeness of functionality is essential, and all modules need to work well together.
User experience and performance also inform the discussion around whether to build a native application or a web application. The answer is that it could be web or native —and in many cases, it will be both. What’s important is that customers have access to the right tool for whatever task is at hand. For example, they might want the convenience of a browser-based solution, but also the option of using a native-installed solution that can access the full power of a computer or mobile device. Developers need to be prepared to deliver on any of these fronts.
Meeting the Challenge
These competitive market dynamics demand you get a high-quality solution to market ahead of the rest. At Tech Soft 3D, we’ve put together developer kits that have helped hundreds of software companies build successful desktop, mobile and web applications.
Our HOOPS family of toolkits provides a way for independent software vendors to successfully tackle the myriad challenges they face. We do this by staying up to date with the latest technologies and paying close attention to what’s coming down the road and where things are headed. We live and breathe the very hardest aspects related to engineering software so that you don’t have to. Instead, you can focus your efforts on your product’s unique value proposition and on the things that really separate you from competitors.
Digital model containing product manufacturing information (PMI) necessary to define, manufacture and control a product
Developing an engineering application in today’s environment is not without its hurdles. But with the right tools, software developers can successfully address the challenges they face and deliver high-performance applications for today’s market. Customers demand nothing less.
To view an example of an interactive 3D PDF, click here.
A version of this article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Design News: http://www.designworldonline.com/july-2017-digital-issue-lens-see-clearly-even-shock-vibration/