I am excited about Dassault Systèmes’ POWER’BY announcements recently. Not because I like using apostrophes for no good reason, but because I think it represents a useful evolution in CAD authoring tools. Before you jump in to correct me and note that POWER’BY is part of the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform and not CATIA or SOLIDWORKS, let me explain what I mean.
I believe one of the weaknesses of mechanical CAD today is its myopic focus on making geometry. I think Dassault has been onto something interesting as they have expanded CATIA into more of a tool for systems design than for mechanical design (reference the integration of DYMOLA into the CATIA portfolio and the introduction of CATIA RFLP as evidence of my point). In the same way, POWER’BY looks like it will make it easier for non-CAD users to quickly imagine new mechanical designs simply by mashing-up parts of BOMs of existing products. SOLIDWORKS Treehouse made an effort at this a while back (and I know a LOT of people who loved that app). POWER’BY seems like a tool in that vein – one that facilitates product structure design with connectedness to the geometry.
My thoughts on how interesting something is does not necessarily translate to success in the market. If you take the cynical view, POWER’BY may just be an opportunity for Dassault to wrap around competitive products (overlay, like my friend Oleg mentions here). You could even call it a “me too” effort similar to what PTC has done with its Unite technology, and the AnyData and AnyBOM taglines. On the other hand, POWER’BY may be exactly what many companies need to extend their current mechanical design-focused tools. If POWER’BY lives up to Dassault’s marketing messages, users will be able to take advantage of high-end downstream capabilities, like DELMIA manufacturing planning and SIMULIA simulation without first having to rip-and-replace, or translate data from, their existing mid-range CAD tools. If you’ve ever looked at moving years of legacy CAD data from one system to another, you know how big of a deal this can be.
I’d like to touch on one more thing. I think the most interesting aspect of POWER’BY is how it will allow any mechanical CAD data to be used by the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform’s variant management technology. I can’t explain the ins-and-outs of this topic in a short blog post, but if I understand it correctly, I believe POWER’BY will enable users of any 3D CAD tool to leverage their data into instance-specific, digital twin models. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of additional data required to have a digital twin, but being able to configure your virtual twin (model of the genericized product) into instance-specific representations of the physical product is one large step towards having a true digital twin.
Given that POWER’BY isn’t publicly available yet, things could still change about the technology and any Dassault products that will leverage it. Nonetheless, I am excited about what I believe is coming, and what that will enable for designers and engineers. I’m interested in what you think, too. Do mid-range CAD users care about making digital twins? Is wrap-around or overlay technology useful or just a gimmick? Please share your thoughts in the comments.