What Is PTC’s Project Lightning?

So what is this Project Lightning that PTC is going to unveil on 28th October 2010? (see PTC’s Project Lightning Strategy Statement). And why are they making a noise about it four months earlier? I don’t know the answer to the latter. Actually I don’t know the answer to the former as well. But I think I can make a guess.

In a post titled “Pro/ENGINEER and Direct Modeling” I explained how PTC had direct modeling capabilities embedded in Wildfire 5.0 but they were hidden from the user. At that time Mike Campbell, a Senior Vice President at PTC, confirmed it as well. He wrote to me:

First off, you are correct.  These capabilities are “demonstrable” in 5.0, but hidden from end users.  A PTC Application Engineer can show them off, to share the direction that we’re headed in, but they are not production-ready, yet. So, either the reviewers are unaware of this, or they are referring to the Dynamic Edit capability as Direct Modeling.

I have a feeling that Project Lightning is Pro/ENGINEER with Direct Modeling exposed to the end user. The strategy statement gives us a good hint. After describing the three commonly used modeling paradigms (2D, 3D Direct Modeling and 3D Parametric Modeling) it reads:

Project Lightning will eliminate this need for a company to mandate a single paradigm, by offering a set of solutions on a common platform, giving each user the flexibility to invoke whichever modeling paradigm is best suited for them and the task at hand.

The statement goes on to explain how Project Lightning will have a “PLM backbone that will drive a CAD model” in the case of complicated products, thereby implying that this stuff will not be restricted to geometry creation and manipulation only. Rather it will take a more holistic view of the product development process as a whole where geometry is only part of the problem. Or rather, part of the solution.

Unlike other CAD vendors that like to show off stuff that they are working on their Labs web sites, PTC is quite reserved in that department. So while Autodesk took the route of letting the world know that they were adding Direct Modeling to Inventor by means of Fusion, if my guess about Project Lightning is correct, then I guess PTC thought it wiser to wait until they solved the problem completely before making noise about it.

I don’t have access to Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 6.0 yet. But even if I did my NDA’s with PTC would not allow me to say anything about it. However, the following image of an Alpha version of Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 6.0 at MCADCentral shows the new ribbon interface with a tab called “Flexible Modeling“. So is this the Lightning? I guess time will tell.

Click image for larger view

  • Dave Ault

    You make reference to Autodesk but I am curious to know what you could say about this effort of PTC's compared to the current programs available in Synchronous in NX and SE. Any capabilities here that you can talk about?

  • Dave,

    This is pure conjecture on my part. I don’t have access to Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 6.0 and haven't seen their direct modeling solution in action. If PTC has indeed managed to solve the problems that Autodesk has yet to solve with Fusion, it will be quite interesting.

  • nobody

    I believe PTC is now ready to make the greatest enhancement possible. They are going to make the CAD part of their overall system free – no student version, simply free. They are focusing on PLM as their source of income.

    Engineering companies in the US must compete with companies in China, and in China, where software is free, engineers not only have lower income, they have practically zero investment capital in software. Young Chinese students learn modelling of all kinds without paying anything to anyone, while students in the US do not have this opportunity.

    Lets face it, the advancements in CAD itself over the last ten years has, as PTC admits, been minimal. And if you make advancements in “flexible modelling”, or moving faces this way or that way, it is not going to be anything so dramatic. But make CAD free in countries where copyrights are respected, and then the playing field is seriously leveled and great jumps in engineering itself can occur.

    So, if PTC is indeed taking this dramatic step forward, congratulations. It is time.

    • Bob Frindt

      Riiiiiight, ptc will give it away for free, hahahahahahahhahahhaahha

  • Deelip:

    On 8 June I posted in my blog (raykurland.wordpress.com) “PTC’s Project Lightning – my guess at what it is” and basically agree with you. I said, “PTC will “screw together” CoCreate’s 2D and 3D technologies with Pro/ENGINEER to create a hybrid parametric – direct modeling system.”

  • Ray,

    I don't think it will be feasible to simply screw together the modeling capabilities of CoCreate and Pro/ENGINEER. Both are based on separate modeling kernels. They just need to add a direct modeling UI over the existing Pro/ENGINEER UI and wire it into its modeling kernel.

  • I spoke to Brian Shepherd about this and recall him informing me that Pro/E's modelling engine is strangely more robust for direct editing/modelling than CoCreates. Make of that what you will.

  • Kevin Quigley

    Wasn't CoCreate based on ACIS originally? I thought when PTC took it over they converted it to Granite (or am I thinking of something else?).

  • I don’t think CoCreate had anything to do with ACIS. It was part of HP.

  • Paul Hamilton

    Actually we started with ACIS, before ACIS was even a formal product. But from there, we developed our own kernel. There is probably not more than a few lines of original ACIS code left in the CoCreate kernel.

  • Kevin

    Al Dean – ProE's modeling is indeed much more robust. CoCreate's “what you see if what you get” is easier to use, but often gets locked-up if the geometry is complex or if there are lots of drafted surfaces and fillets (rounds). I agree with Deelip in that it would make sense to create an optional “non-parametric” entry mode running on top of ProE's CAD engine. In this way, the parametric core would actually still be in there – and could remain intact for parametric users. Could be really great ! Also – it is clear that 2 data management app's aren't needed – get rid of the TERRIBLE CoCreate Model Manager, and merge everything to a common version of PDMlink / Windchill. Cheers.

  • Magnusod

    In the latest update of PTC Product Calendar Wildfire 6.0 is no longer scheduled with a release date. I wonder if this is related to Project Lightning or just a typo?
    I have a hard time understanding that they will release the next major step in CAD design, or detailed information about it, in October and have Wildfire 6.0 scheduled as late as Q2 for C000 and Q4 for F000 based on previous calendar.

    Will there ever be a Wildfire 6.0? It seems strange that a breakthrough CAD release would only be a number release.

  • Paolo Zago

    I sometimes use “offset surface” to do small modifications to an existing model, this retains the base geometry and adds my “tweaks” in a clear and recognizable way… I hope direct modeling (which for my work and style of modeling is not very useful) will be something like that, only better!

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