Tech Soft 3D Blog

Beyond 3D Pilot Episode with TJ McCue – If 3D Data is So Valuable, Why Isn't Everyone Using It?

Posted by Tyler Barnes on Sep 13, 2016 12:07:58 PM

In this first pilot episode of the Beyond 3D podcast, we talk about the most common topics and challenges that come up in conversations with customers, partners and industry influencers – everything from complexity and process challenges, to how to deal with tech trends such as cloud and mobile.

"The further you get away from an engineering department, the more companies struggle with getting 3D data into people's hands, and I think that's the big challenge is, 3D is absolutely- there's so much information included in 3D data, and there are people that are outside of engineering; procurement, suppliers, there's all of these people in the chain that really could benefit from access to the data, and that's the challenge is, how do you get that 3D data into people's hands so they can make good decisions based on what's happening in engineering?”

Listen to this episode:

To read the full podcast transcript, see below. 

read-transcript.png

Angela Simoes:

Welcome everybody to the Beyond 3D podcast. This is our very first episode and we're really excited. Want to just go ahead and jump in and introduce our guests here today. We have Dave Opsahl, who is Vice President of Corporate Development for Tech Soft 3D. Hi Dave.

Dave Opsahl:

Hello.

Angela Simoes:

We have Tyler Barnes, who is Vice President of Marketing at Tech Soft 3D. Hello Tyler.

Tyler Barnes:

Hello.

Angela Simoes:

We also have TJ McCue, who is a writer for Forbes and other publications, and also spent eight months on the road with the 3D RV, visiting people, talking about all things 3D. Thank you TJ for joining us here today.

TJ McCue:

Hi, good to be here.

Angela Simoes:

With this podcast, we want to talk about all things 3D, right? Everything from the technology and some trends, to process and business decisions, or business issues, and 3D PDF is something that we're going to be talking about, different trends in software development is something we're going to be talking about, and so this first episode is really just for us here to explore what are some of the most pertinent things out there that we think our listeners will be interested in, and that we'll be talking about.

Yeah, just kind of like an intro episode. To get started, why don't we share a bit about ourselves with our audience? Just take a minute or so to tell our listeners a bit about your background, and your current role. Dave, why don't you go first?

Dave Opsahl:

Well, I've been involved with 3D software for longer than I care to admit, actually. I started working with it at Boeing many years ago; I've since moved over and worked on the supplier side, software developers and a variety of different spaces like product life cycle management, or supply chain management, and visualization software is another thing I've been involved in, and today I'm working for Tech Soft 3D, and we are a toolkit manufacturer. We sell component software to people who develop applications around 3D.

Angela Simoes:

Okay. Tyler?

Tyler Barnes:

Sure. I haven't been in the industry quite as long as Dave, but prior to Tech Soft, I was at Autodesk for over a decade; spent about half that time working in product management, took about seven different Autodesk applications to market there. My last role was managing the Autodesk Inventor family of products; I managed the product management team there for Inventor for Product Design Suite, and for all of the family of Inventor products. Also spent quite a bit of time in marketing at Autodesk, so I worked on product marketing for Inventory for quite a long time, took some of the early products that you know now to market in their first iterations on the Autodesk labs, like Fusion 360, like Inventor Fusion.

Prior to Autodesk, I worked in high tech marketing for a number of different marketing agencies, and I'm now the VP of Marketing here at Tech Soft, so I'm responsible for managing the Tech Soft brand, overseeing content creation, communications strategy, product marketing. I do a lot on the inbound side as well, so market intelligence, informing product strategy, sales strategy, those types of things.

Angela Simoes:

Excellent. TJ?

TJ McCue:

All right. Well, I've been doing marketing and research work for technology companies for the last twenty five years, and have done work with the Autodesks of the world, Lenovo and HP, and as you mentioned spent the better part of a year traveling around, doing research and writing about all the people doing things with 3D scanning, 3D printing, 3D software, and I currently write for Forbes in addition to the clients that I work on marketing projects for.

Angela Simoes:

Excellent. I forgot to say my name, so I'm Angela Simoes. I do PR and communications for Tech Soft 3D. Thanks everybody for joining us. In your conversations with customers, partners, even prospective companies, people that want to be working with, what are some of the common themes you find come up in those conversations? Whether they be technology related, or business related ... Dave, what are some of those themes that keep popping up?

Dave Opsahl:

Well, I think on the independent software vendor side - or ISVs, is typically what we call people who develop those applications - the complexity of the data that they're dealing with is paramount in most of their minds, finding a way to deal with all the different directions the data's coming from. TJ mentioned 3D scanning and how that's being used to create 3D models of things that before, if they weren't designed that way to begin with, they'd be extraordinarily difficult to try to replicate in 3D.

There's just a constant theme of that. You know, how to absorb all that, how to make it relevant. There's always that problem of, you've got 3D data out there, but what are you going to use it for? We're also seeing a lot of attention being given to applications that aren't 3D in nature, but could be enabled by 3D for ease of navigation, or drawing relationships between information that previously would've been really hard to find a way to make, say, something like an ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning application enabled with 3D so you could navigate it with 3D, rather than trying to figure out from text exactly what it is you're looking at. It's something we see quite a bit.

Angela Simoes:

We talk a lot about 3D data, and it's been talked about in the industry for a long time, but is everybody using 3D data already, or are there still some people that are making that transition and trying to figure it out?

Dave Opsahl:

I think there's still a lot of people that are trying to figure that out. There was a company that we were talking to just earlier this week, that is over a billion euros a year in revenue, and they are still managing what amounts to a lot of their product management systems with Excel spreadsheets. You see that over and over again.

Angela Simoes:

What do you think is some of the barrier to making that transition? Is it kind of what you were saying, trying to figure out how do you take that first step and adopt?

Dave Opsahl:

Well, what I've seen is, is that the workforce or the people that have to deal with this data by and large are younger than many of us that have been in the industry for a long time, and they don't have a lot of tolerance for things that are not very easy and very intuitive to use. I think that this is another part of the complexity side of things, that it's the people developing the software trying to figure out how to satisfy the needs of those users, to make something as extremely intuitive to use, where training really is not something that's an issue.

In design applications, that's not going to be something you can do that quickly, but when it comes to an experience of say, navigating information in a document or on a webpage, if it's not brain-dead simple, it's going to be difficult to see it adopted on a wide basis.

Angela Simoes:

Right.

TJ McCue:

I think-

Angela Simoes:

Yeah, go ahead.

TJ McCue:

I think to add to that is that there's this expectation now that you can get a simple focused app to do the task you're trying to do, and so for the person as Dave is talking about, you have someone who can go download various pieces to get a job done, various pieces of software, and their expectation is if there's an engineer in the firm who's using any one of the big CAD players, and that person wants to see that document, they're not going to go spend thousands of dollars to get that C-license. They're going to want to view it, right?

That's where, obviously from my experience traveling around and spending five plus years specifically looking at 3D tech, and writing about it, and researching it, is people just want that user experience to be quick and painless, and very focused, so they'll just use the 3D capability of a PDF viewer, because they have absolutely no need of a full fledged CAD package.

I think there's some of that, and if the data is embedded in that, so much the better. If it's not just, "Okay, I'm spinning an empty model." That's interesting, but it's really cool when I can dig down in, and I can say, "Oh, it's this dimension," or "It's this part number," or "It's this spec," and that helps me to get work done from whatever tool I'm working in.

Dave Opsahl:

Yeah, it's interesting you'd say that TJ, because we refer to that - and Tyler will identify with this - as 3D on a page, where you just simply have something that might be interactive, but in the context of somebody's work flow. They want the ability to have that be related to the rest of the information they need to be able to do their job.

If that's not connected, if that's related and it's not a very clean, intuitive user experience, they're not going to do that. They're not going to adopt that. I completely agree on the app-like thing; they want something that mimics the experience they have using a mobile device every day. Yeah, you know. It's not a desktop application anymore in most cases.

Angela Simoes:

I wanted to go back to TJ with that original question, too. Sounds like you already contributed some of that, but what are some of the common things you are seeing as you talk to different companies, and work different companies, when it comes to 3D data and working with 3D?

TJ McCue:

I think the biggest one is one that we're already alluding to, is that people don't realize these tools are available, and to Dave's point, they are often times integrated; you don't even know that you can do that same thing on a desktop that you can do on a mobile device, but I think the biggest thing, and it's been over and over again, is you see 3D-

I think most people, even people that are working beside it, see it as, it's a movie, right? It's a 3D experience that you're in some visual element, it's virtual reality, or augmented reality. There's so many things that we have that are- there's 3D data already for it, right? You're sitting outside a building, with the guy who designed that building, the gal who designed that building, who's probably got all of the data points in a big file that you can take apart that wall, and see all the pieces of it.

It's mostly awareness, I think, that there are very user friendly tools to help you get a job done, that would make your life easier if you just looked around a little bit and grabbed hold of that tool.

Angela Simoes:

Yeah, I do remember that from the 3D RV tour that it was amazing; despite the amount of tons of thousands, even dare I say millions that are spent trying to make people aware of even free tools that are available, people still just don't know what's available to them, or what's capable. It's like you say "3D" and there's just this impression that, "Oh, that's too difficult, that's out of my realm." Clearly there's a education and awareness problem we're always chipping away at, right?

Tyler, what's your take on some of this? Are you seeing some of the same things, anything different that you're seeing?

Tyler Barnes:

It's funny. You mention that awareness; you know a really great example of that is something that we see all the time as the company that develops the 3D PDF technologies. Almost no one is aware that Acrobat Reader, which is installed on almost every person's desktop in the world, can view 3D. It can do measurements, and mark-ups, and sectioning, and almost everyone has this jaw-dropping moment of, "What? I didn't have any idea that I could do this. I don't need something else to view this special 3D PDF file?"

No, in fact everybody has the ability to do it, and it's just the awareness of it. I think that in terms of adoption, it depends on where in the world you're talking about. If you're talking about design creation, 3D is very much across the chasm and is mainstream. You know, back when I was working with Inventor, I'd say eighty, ninety percent of the manufacturers were using 3D for engineering, and the reason being is there's just such a big competitive disadvantage to not using 3D just in terms of having an exact replica, a digital replica of your product and being able to do things with it like run stress simulations, or how is this thing going to react if I dropped it, that type of thing.

There's just such a disadvantage to not using it. Now if you go further downstream, Dave was referring a partner that he was talking to last week, and some of the spreadsheets that they were using, and that's very typical. The further you get away from an engineering department, the more companies struggle with getting 3D data into people's hands, and I think that's the big challenge is, 3D is absolutely- there's so much information included in 3D data, and there are people that are outside of engineering; procurement, suppliers, there's all of these people in the chain that really could benefit from access to the data, and that's the challenge is, how do you get that 3D data into people's hands so they can make good decisions based on what's happening in engineering?

Angela Simoes:

It's interesting. Sorry, didn't know if that was Dave or TJ; just a quick question. I think you said about eighty to ninety percent of manufacturers are already using 3D data at the engineering level. What percentage are using 3D data for that group you were just talking about, that don't typically get access to the 3D data, or contribute?

Tyler Barnes:

It really depends on the maturity of the organization. Some companies are very advanced because they see real business benefits in tying people together through the data; whether that's using PLM, or PDM, giving people a view to what's happening in engineering and allowing them to use that data.

Smaller companies, or more conservative companies may not be as far along in that process. You see pretty different depending the organization. Dave, if you have a thought on that?

Dave Opsahl:

Well, there's a metric that gets used, but I can't actually site the source of it. I think it's just sort of a generally accepted idea that for every person in engineering, you've got somewhere between twenty five and fifty people outside of engineering, somehow involved in the live cycle of that product, whether as a user, or as somebody who's maintaining it, somebody who's doing something.

Every one of those people has no access, generally, to a CAD system or certainly not to the CAT System that was actually designed to use whatever it is that's being built or constructed. If you think about a lot of the activity that goes around a product, think of an automobile, or an aircraft, and the maintenance of that; the operation that the training of the people actually used that complex product.

You know, there' s value in being able to use 3D as a way to make those tasks easier, more proficient, and I think that speaks to how broadly the data could be used, if people just had an easy way to consume it, to get their hands on it. Which is where we really see a lot of activity around 3D PDF, because it does have that capability.

You can create those relationships with the data, it's a tool that everybody's familiar with, very easy to use, it's available in a variety of different form factors. A lot of the things that we've been talking about are something that technology actually delivers for people.

TJ McCue:

I'll ride along on Tyler and Dave's thoughts with, I was at a NASA facility where, very specific to what you guys were talking about, they had the building model, but they had over many, many years done retrofits, remodels and changes, and they would send a maintenance crew out to fix something in the field, and the field for them was often under these buildings.

They had various sensors, or fire extinguisher things, or meters of different types, and they would literally would have- let's say they an electrician. He might spend eight hours looking for that item. These guys 3D laser scanned the entire subterranean basement type structures, and they wound up saving something in the order of one point four million dollars a year in maintenance costs, just from sending out a hundred dollar an hour electrician and letting him burn a day trying to find the specific thing he was supposed to fix, because there were so many, and it would take them so long to locate them.

Then they added that data into the building model, so when they pulled it up to do maintenance, they were able to go right to it.

Angela Simoes:

How did they add that 3D data? Was it something that they designed, did they laser scan it? Obviously that building's been there for a while, right? I can't imagine that they've had 3D data the whole time.

TJ McCue:

Right. I think from the laser scans, and my memory's a little bit rusty here on this, but the laser scans gave them the physical object from an eyeballing it perspective, and then they probably had to go in and manually identify or pull codes off of those items and potentially manually enter it, but I'm not sure about that because they made it sound like it didn't take that long.

Angela Simoes:

That's a great example, because I think a lot of - correct me if I'm wrong - but it could be that ... I'd say there's an existing structure, or an existing machine or ship or whatever it is, that the plans are currently in 2D, but someone says, "Hey, we need a 3D model of this," and the idea of, "Oh my gosh, creating a 3D model of this huge behemoth thing? That's going to take forever."

Again, it's an awareness thing of, "Well, if you had a laser scanner, you could do that fairly quickly versus having to do it all by hand, right?" Again, awareness education. Maybe people think, "Laser scanning's going to be really expensive," that sort of thing, and that's not the case anymore, right? You can do laser scanning, it's fairly affordable nowadays and really efficient.

Again, back to the awareness and education element of things. Am I off my rocker on that one?

Dave Opsahl:

No, I think you're spot on, I think that that's part of what it is that we see some of our partners developing struggle with is, because it is so affordable, you can actually use it in a lot of different places. There's just this incredible deluge of data; in the case of scanning like TJ was talking about, point cloud data that you can get in, and you can use that in a lot of different ways to reconstruct something that maybe wasn't designed originally with the aid of a computer-aided design application.

You can go in and use it in a maintenance role, we see this particularly with things that have long life cycles. If I've got something that was designed fifty years ago - think of aircraft, they're always a good example - if I have a part for which all I have are a set of 2D drawings, we actually know of cases where suppliers will no longer accept 2D drawings as a way to bid on something that they are being asked to manufacture. They insist on having a 3D model.

Well, today you can laser scan that entire model, go through and create something you can then use to automate the actual creation of that, whether through 3D printing or through subtractive manufacturing, or whatever technology you want to use. No, you're right on, Angela.

Angela Simoes:

Okay, just making sure I'm not crazy. We're coming up on our time, so we'll just go around and I'll ask with this podcast if there's one thing you'd like to see us communicate to our listeners, or talk about, something that you think is really important. What would that one thing be? Let's start with Tyler.

Tyler Barnes:

Well, one thing we didn't get to talk to is what's going on in the world of software development for engineering applications right now, and we're in a unique position here at Tech Soft in that we work with almost every single company that's in the CAD/CAM-PLM space where 3D data is important to their application, and so we have a pretty interesting view on the trends, and what challenges software developers, and their end users are facing, what their end users are driving them to do.

There's also an explosion of new technology. Graphics technology is changing so fast, developer tools are changing so fast, there's all these different platforms, different browsers. Do you develop native web apps, or native apps, or web apps? There's all of these big decisions that companies are struggling with right now, and I think that's what we really want to put front and center here in this podcast is, we know this is a really exciting time to be a software developer; we also know it's a pretty scary time to be a software developer.

We're going to be talking about some of these big hairy issues, and what certain companies are doing to address these issues and stay successful, and how they're making decisions. That's what I'd say.

Angela Simoes:

Yeah, I think you identified at least three topics that could be three different episodes for the podcast, so for sure we'll be addressing all those issues. Thank you. Dave, what about you?

Dave Opsahl:

Well, if I were to characterize what I see as top of mind out in the market place right now, I think it's related to things both TJ and Tyler have talked about that the kind of experience that TJ was describing where people want to simply be able to take an app, that apps is all that's required to actually do a specific job.

This idea that mobile apps, which then have to have a cloud component behind them generally, that is as big a shift as I think I've seen since people started using solid modeling to actually create the design information they need to describe something that's being built, whether it's a ship or a plant or anything of that nature. 

This whole area around cloud and mobile is driving a lot of the technology changes that Tyler was describing, and I think that's just a really rich area for us to dig into in coming conversations.

Angela Simoes:

Excellent, yes. Another rich area for more episodes, for sure. Thank you. TJ, you actually have a unique perspective, being a writer and then also working with lots of other companies and manufacturing in a capital too. From your perspective, what would you like to see us cover on this podcast?

TJ McCue:

I think the things you've just mentioned are going to capture attention, given the audience I think you're going after. I guess the only thing I might mix in is some hardware that's sort of the eye candy; even though it is a podcast, I think like a Tango phone, for example, and those sensors they're putting in things, that's clearly going to be bringing 3D data to the table if people are aware they can do something with it, deeper than just surface scans that we see.

Angela Simoes:

Right.

TJ McCue:

I think there's like the graphics cards- they're not necessarily always the coolest things to talk about, if you're putting something inside your machine, but I think there's hardware aspects that give you better experiences with 3D data, that you don't necessarily talk straight out about 3D data, but you can talk about the tools that are making some of that easier and more detailed for people who are just walking into the field.

Not necessarily the engineer, or the designer, but many of the people who are staring to design, and invent, and create, to Tyler's experience that with Inventor, a lot of people that are using that aren't necessarily engineers anymore.

Angela Simoes:

Right. Okay. That's fair, we can describe the hardware, whether it's a drone, or a laser, or a phone. We can try and describe that.

TJ McCue:

Yeah, I think you put Dave and Tyler out in the field, you hear the drone, and them running for cover-

Angela Simoes:

Sound in the background?

TJ McCue:

"No, no, go left!"

Angela Simoes:

That's awesome. Well, thank you all for your time today; I'm excited to be kicking off this podcast with you all, I think we're going to be covering some really important topics that a lot of people still have questions about, and hopefully our listeners feel the same way, and listen in and subscribe.

Thank you to all the listeners out there who have joined us on this pilot episode. I encourage you to subscribe on SoundCloud, and eventually on iTunes, and please share this podcast with friends, colleagues, and we hope that you will join us in future episodes. Until next time, thank you everybody, and we'll see you soon.

Tyler Barnes:

Thanks.

Dave Opsahl:

Thank you.

TJ McCue:

Thanks.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for joining us on the Beyond 3D podcast, hosted by Tech Soft 3D. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review, or subscribe on SoundCloud. To listen to past episodes, or learn more about Tech Soft 3D, visit www.techsoft3D.com/blog - send us comments and suggestions at info@techsoft3D.com.

Thanks again for listening, and we hope you'll join us again on the next episode of Beyond 3D.

 

Topics: 3D PDF, CAD, CAM, , 3D CAD, ISV, Engineering