PTC Creo 3.0—CAD Interoperability

Figure 1
– Mike Campbell, Executive Vice President, Desktop Products, at PTC Live Global 2014
Today manufacturers live in a diverse computer-aided design (CAD) world, with offshore divisions and outsourced and subcontracted manufacturing more the norm than not. Traditionally, this has entailed a high level of non-value-added effort to import non-native CAD files and to create and maintain duplicate geometry data in different CAD systems. Consequently, companies have been forced to manage many secondary formats, and to export data in neutral formats. But CAD software is changing to make data reusable and collaboratively shared in the customer/supplier’s native format (most commonly 3D CAD formats). At the forefront of these changes is product development software player PTC, and the company’s 3D product design solution Creo, now on its third version, which offers powerful CAD interoperability and design and efficiency improvements.
The latest release of PTC Creo 3.0 was announced at the recent PTC Live Global 2014 event, PTC’s premier annual conference. While the first Creo release, PTC Creo 1.0, embraced the “AnyRole Apps” and “AnyMode Modeling” breakthrough CAD themes (i.e., all of the Creo apps are lenses into the same design), PTC Creo 2.0 added the “AnyBOM Assembly” theme (e.g., the PTC Options Modeler solution) and the dedicated 2D concept engineering app, PTC Creo Layout. Now, PTC Creo 3.0 has tackled the “AnyData Adoption” problem. With PTC Creo 3.0, PTC has introduced new Unite technology, which offers ground-breaking technology in the form of enabling users to use CAD files from other systems directly in PTC Creo. The goal is to enable designers to convert data “as needed, when needed” and only convert the data that requires modification to save on effort and cost.
Unite technology in PTC Creo 3.0 enables the most common 3D CAD data formats to be used directly in the PTC Creo Parametric, Creo Direct, Creo Simulate, and Creo Options Modeler apps. Users will now be able to import SolidWorks, CATIA, NX, Solid Edge, and Autodesk Inventor files directly in PTC Creo without the need for additional software (Figure 2).
However, Unite technology supports users and organizations to “open” SolidWorks, Catia, and NX files directly in PTC Creo and to maintain them in their original format. There is no conversion required, and the files can be used as if they were native to PTC Creo. There are also no new business objects created that need to be managed.
These changes are bound to bring more users on board with Creo 3.0, as PTC’s own surveys indicate that 59 percent of users have difficulty manipulating imported models, while 42 percent of users have other CAD systems.
In a nutshell, Unite enables both “importing” of certain CAD files into Creo (and then manipulating and saving them as Creo files) and “opening” other CAD files in Creo and then manipulating and saving them as either their native CAD or Creo files (see Figure 2). These capabilities are standard functionality and available to all users who upgrade to PTC Creo 3.0.
Further capabilities are enabled through the use of PTC Collaboration Extensions. These are available for SolidWorks, Catia, and NX, and will allow design teams to ensure that changes to imported or opened data are handled seamlessly, as well as support collaboration between project stakeholders early in the process and more often. Designers can exchange (save) PTC Creo models in the aforementioned formats without the requirement for the non-PTC Creo authoring software. This will remove the need for secondary formats such as IGES or STEP files to be created and managed. It is important to ensure that consistency and integrity are maintained between in-house and outsourced design data over the course of product development. The impact of late stage design changes can also be reduced this way.
Figure 2 – PTC Creo CAD interoperability (click for larger images)
PTC Creo 3.0 will enable significant efficiencies from consolidating multiple CAD systems onto PTC Creo, as well as when collaborating with others using different CAD tools. These efficiencies enable improvements in time-to-market and product quality by allowing design teams to spend more time innovating and less time on non-value add tasks such as recreating design intent and redundant file management.
Lower costs for both engineering and IT departments should come from a reduced number of CAD platforms and the associated costs of software licenses, support, and training, as well as from increased engineering productivity and IT efficiency. This concept promotes reuse of legacy 2D and 3D data with minimal product data management (PDM) effort and enables a “Design Anywhere, Build Anywhere” strategy.

Concept Design and Efficiency Improvements for Creo 3.0
In addition to the CAD interoperability, PTC announced other major Creo 3.0 themes, illustrated in Figure 3. PTC Creo 3.0 continues to ensure that efforts undertaken at the concept design stage are reusable in later stages of the product development process.
Figure 3 – Creo 3.0 themes
In a slew of new enhancements, PTC Creo Design Exploration Extension has gotten lots of excitement from preview customers. It provides a dedicated environment in PTC Creo Parametric for developing design alternatives, investigating modeling approaches, and understanding the consequences of design changes (see Figure 4). It significantly reduces the current level of manual effort and overhead required to undertake these activities. Users expect PTC Creo Design Exploration Extension to give them the flexibility to explore multiple design concepts and the ability to keep those sets archived for future design iterations or as a historical document to remind them why a certain decision was made, before they proceed further.
Other productivity enhancements for PTC Creo 3.0 also include new and improved capabilities and workflows to make everyday design tasks easier, such as overhauled help instructions, command finder, etc.
Figure 4 - PTC Creo Design Exploration Extension

Creo’s Place in the Competitive CAD Marketplace
During the analyst group briefing at the conference, PTC executives admitted to Pro/Engineer (now Creo Parametric) being traditionally complex (and thus lots of PTC Windchill product lifecycle management [PLM] customers use SolidWorks for CAD), but things are different with Creo, and especially Creo 3.0. PTC now believes that it has surpassed the competition and set a new CAD interoperability bar with Creo 3.0 CAD interoperability.
The PTC Creo 3.0 multi-CAD capability sounds somewhat like Aras’ MultiCAD Gateway for NX, Creo, SolidWorks, JT, and CATIA via Elysium that the PLM player announced in early 2014. But, this move was only logical given that Aras has no own CAD product of its own to peddle around. Also, this is a conversion tool. With PTC Creo 3.0’s Unite technology, users don’t need to do this level of conversion.
PTC cited that the associative topology bus and Parasolid (by Siemens) geometry library (with other unnamed geometry kernels being used for other scenarios) play a major role in Creo’s ability to now open-modify-save as other CAD files. It is likely that we will see other CAD PLM providers following in this direction because pretty much every manufacturing company these days is operating in a multi-CAD environment. For its part, Windchill PLM avoids complex PDM workflows for data import-export, as this multi-CAD versioning can already be handled by Windchill via its Workgroup Manager (WWM) module, which has long been multi-CAD. There are no indications how Creo would change PDM workflows in non-PTC PDM/PLM systems.
PTC executives made it clear in their presentations that feature level information was not being maintained in Creo 3.0. The point here is that, rather than Siemens’ JT, which needs another neutral CAD format to be created and managed alongside the original CAD file, with PTC's Unite “open” capability you can use the original non-PTC Creo CAD data as it if were Creo data, so there is no longer a need for extra files, conversion, and a secondary format to create or manage.
So, the capability to be open can be game changing. At PTC Live Global 2014, the vendor provided a glimpse of PTC Creo 4.0, slated for release in two years’ time, where the major theme will be model-based definition (MBD). In the shorter term, new Creo service packs will expand on virtualization, which started from Creo 2.0 via a Citrix stack, but now CAD streaming is being investigated (to avoid the need for software on the client side). Also in the near term we should look for 3D printing enhancements, not only in terms of producing printer files, but also in terms of design for 3D printing (i.e., how to design the organic 3D printing shape of the parts and optimize their geometry).

Related Reading:
PTC Creo Elements/Direct 19.0 Is Available (June 2014)
PTC Acquires Atego, Fills Systems Engineering Gaps (June 2014)
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