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Quickies: new year’s news round-up

EarningsHappy New Year and welcome back! So much happened as we swapped 2013 calendars for 2014 (and dealt with blizzards, ships stuck in the ice and goodness-knows-what) that we all need a bit of a recap. In no particular order:

PTC made the last acquisition in the PLMish universe of 2013 and 3D Systems made the first two of 2014, first buying Xerox’s solid ink engineering and development labs, teams and patents for $32.5 million and then snapping up Gentle Giant Studios, a provider of 3D modeling for the entertainment and toy industry. 3D Systems says that the Xerox deal will “catapult its printers’ development and manufacturing capabilities a full decade forward and substantially accelerate its revenue growth-rate over time”. It sounds as though the point of this deal was the expertise and patent portfolio; 3DS will add “more than 100 experienced Xerox engineers and contractors” to its R&D team. Gentle Giant Studios, on the other hand, uses 3D scanning and modeling to develop and manufacture toys for global brands like Marvel and Disney and entertainment vehicles such as AMC’s The Walking Dead, Avatar, Harry Potter and Star Wars.

Earlier in December, Tech Soft 3D announced that it had acquired tetra4D and its line of 3D PDF products, including the 3D PDF Converter that converts 3D CAD data into interactive 3D PDF documents from within Adobe Acrobat. If you remember, perhaps 10 years ago Adobe and a number of AEC software providers were pushing the 3D PDF concept as a way for architectural and civil projects to communicate information to regulators, neighbors and other stakeholders, since just about everyone knew of PDFs and  no one (relatively speaking) knew of the CAD tools used to create the models under discussion. It never really caught on as most AEC work is still transmitted by paper (though online collaboration is huge for this market). In 2010 Adobe outsourced 3D PDF and tetra4D became the official provider of 3D technology for Adobe’s Acrobat Pro line. Today, 3D PDF Converter enables users to import native 3D CAD data from CATIA, Pro/E, NX, SolidWorks, Revit, Rhino, and other products –notice the distinct lack of AECish brands– to create animations, compare versions and perform other tasks with the rest of tetra4D’s suite. Tech Soft has been known for years for its PLM component and translator technologies; with tetra4D, it now has offerings (and a channel) to get directly to enterprise customers. What does it mean for 3D PDF adoption? Mainstream manufacturing makes sense as an end-market, since the objects being collaborated on (an assembly rather than an office building) are more suited to a PDF format. Too, many parts of a typical manufacturing supply chain use a different CAD tool/no CAD tool so communication by document is the norm; add in 3D and you’ve improved the level of communication immeasurably. This is a good thing — and I wonder if, someday, the pendulum will swing back to broader AEC adoption.

ANSYS announced on January 3 that it had closed on Reaction Design and adds CHEMKIN-PRO and other products to its offerings. No new details of the deal were made public, but ANSYS promises to share some during its Q4 earnings release.

Speaking of simulation, you know I’ve become interested in how we model chemistry and physics, so I’ve added companies who engage in those types of analyses to my universe. In December Accelrys, one of the larger companies creating chemical modeling software, announced that it acquired QUMAS, a provider of software supporting regulatory and quality compliance to the life sciences and other highly regulated industries. If you don’t know exactly how a chemical sample was created, your lab bench test correlation to a simulation is meaningless — this is the type of software that helps bring processes under control. There are numerous applications for this type of solution, from pharmaceuticals to oil & gas …

I’m also a big fan of flexible software licensing schemes. In CAE, the granddaddy of flexible licensing is Altair‘s, which offers customers access to partner applications through its HyperWorks and PBS Works Partner Alliance programs. (HyperWorks is desktop/cluster CAE; PBS Works is on-demand hosted CAE.) The company announced in December that over 75 partner applications from 35 partners are available through the purchase of one pool of license tokens –great for meeting peak demand, an unusual (for you) simulation need or to try out a potential purchase before fully committing– and that more partners will be joining in 2014, including Maplesoft, Sentient Science, NovusNexus, Matelys and Multiscale Design Systems. During 2013, Altair saw a “nearly 25 percent increase in customers using partner products and 62 percent of those users accessing more than one partner product for their CAE projects”.

Finally (for now, still digging through the inbox), this very cool idea: Siemens PLM, Google and Ford Motor Company have teamed up to make it possible to navigate digitally inside a physical Ford plant. Yup, inside. IntoSite, a Tecnomatix web app that uses Google Earth infrastructure, enables users to virtually navigate around assembly plants to better standardize operations in facilities around the world. You can see nifty YouTube videos here (Ford) and here (Siemens).

TTFN. More soon.

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