Spatial Launches Online Engineering Apps

Three-D modeling software powerhouse Spatial Technololgy Inc. today launches PlanetCAD, a Web portal for manufacturing and design engineers that features a selection of online engineering applications. At launch time, PlanetCAD (which is a distinct and independently funded division of Spatial) will offer the first two of what the company promises will be a roster of seven or eight applications by year’s end.

According to Bruce Morgan, president and CEO of Spatial, the PlanetCAD applications are targeted to individual engineer end-users. “They are designed as specific remedies for specific, significant ‘points of pain,’ ” Morgan said.

For example, PlanetCAD’s 3Dshare application “attacks the interoperability problem,” according to Morgan. Specifically, it virtually eliminates the need to “heal” (repair) CAD/engineering documents that are moved from one CAD system format to another, a major headache for the digital manufacturing supply chain. (Daimler Chrysler, for example has a staff of 180 engineers dedicated entirely to healing CAD drawings.)

3Dshare will handle translations among any of the widely used CAD formats, at about one-tenth the cost of manual healing (for a typical job), according to Isaac Kato, vice president and general manager of PlanetCAD. Users upload their data files and specify the output format using a secure browser-based interface. 3Dshare notifies the customer when the job is ready for download. Jobs are billed on a per-megabyte basis.

The 3Dshare application was launched in limited beta test mode last November and has about 6,800 registered users to date.

Sister app, Bits2Parts is a system for standardizing RFQs (requests for quotes) for the highly technical rapid prototyping industry.

Both applications are built on top of Spatial’s custom-designed application server middleware and share a common database. The middleware platform was developed to address deficiencies in existing app server systems in attempting to handle both the mammoth file size and the mathematical complexity of typical CAD and 3D modeling applications.

Spatial’s middleware platform will be the foundation of future online applications and is being licensed to a variety of business partners.

Spatial is also partnering with Israeli e-manufacturing software solutions provider Tecnomatix Technologies Ltd. in another ASP initiative, announced last week. In the first stage of the initiative, Tecnomatix and PlanetCAD will join forces to deliver an e-manufacturing service for the machining industry called quote-A-part. It will let users obtain manufacturing quotes by filling in a simple template with manufacturing information and attaching the part 3D CAD data.

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