DraftSight – A Trojan Horse

There is a view that anyone who wants or needs 3D already has it. The premise for this line of thinking is that people already jumped from AutoCAD to SolidWorks years ago and that exodus has ended for the most part. I don’t subscribe to that view. One of the reasons for that is the pretty decent number of sales of our 3D import and export plug-ins for AutoCAD. Prospects and customers often send me files that they are having trouble importing or exporting, due to which I get a pretty good idea of the kind of stuff they are working on. And trust me, its very much 3D. The IGES and STEP files they send me are almost always MCAD.

While reporting from the SolidWorks press event Ralph Grabowski mentioned something that one of the SolidWorks executives said:

“Some 2/3 of new license sales come from 2D; 1/3 from other 3D, mainly Pro/E but also more Inventor seats converting now.”

Actually, I’m not having a hard time believing that SolidWorks gets about two third’s of its new license sales from 2D. I believe there are still a lot of people out there who can or want to but haven’t made the switch to 3D.

Years ago, SolidWorks did something very shrewd which yielded it great results. They offered an AutoCAD clone called DWGeditor based on IntelliCAD 6 from the ITC as a bridge for AutoCAD users to move to SolidWorks. These users simply needed a program to view and edit their existing DWG files. And DWGeditor, in spite of all its issues, did that job fine most of the time. But now SolidWorks appears to have had enough of the ITC. The IntelliCAD 6 code is more than a decade old and extremely buggy by the ITC’s own admission. The organization’s inability to come up with the completely rewritten IntelliCAD 7 in time (it’s been delayed by years, not months) has cast huge doubts on whether it will be able to continue development and keep pace with AutoCAD. Moreover, the fact that the ITC is an organization of business rivals and not a company complicates things even further. Dassault Systemes shopped around to find a replacement for DWGeditor and finally selected ARES from Graebert to free themselves from the ITC. The result was DraftSight, which is nothing but a stripped down version of ARES.

For the past five years Graebert has been developing their ARES CAD engine. I met Wilfried Graebert and his son Robert at the ODA Conference at Leiden in Holland last year. We discussed at length about what their company was doing. Now we can all see the fruits of those efforts – ARES for Windows, Mac and Linux. Pretty soon there will be DraftSight for Windows, Mac and Linux.

As I was typing this I received this comment to my post “$0 DraftSight For Mac To Be Released Before $4000 AutoCAD For Mac“:

“I’ve looked at Draftsight as a replacement for AutoCAD LT specifically. It is an awesome product and works well. Draftsight is 2D only, but that is all we use AutoCAD for, and I’m assuming 80% of the world as well.”

I have no doubts that DraftSight will continue where DWGeditor left off. But I believe Dassault Systems has larger plans here. From this video of Live Buildings it has become quite clear to me that Dassault Systems is getting into the AEC segment in a big way. Now AEC is a segment where Autodesk has a very firm grip with AutoCAD, Revit and their verticals. For people in this segment DWG is everything and will continue to be for some time to come. Something like DWGeditor will not work for them. You need to give them something far more robust and scalable. More importantly, you need to have greater control on the technology itself and not rely on an organization with conflicting interests.

I believe that Dassault Systemes’ strategy with DraftSight is two fold. Firstly, to continue to help AutoCAD users to move to SolidWorks. Secondly, and more importantly, to infiltrate the AEC segment and slowly build a name for itself there. That’s why DraftSight is a Dassault Systems brand and not a SolidWorks one like DWGeditor was. Dassault Systemes is the one that has aspirations in AEC, not SolidWorks.

I believe just like how SolidWorks used DWGeditor to relieve Autodesk of its AutoCAD customers, Dassault Systemes will use DraftSight as a trojan horse to get into the work flow of professionals and companies in the AEC segment. And what better way than to offer it for free. What does it cost someone to have DraftSight sitting besides his AutoCAD installation? Absolutely nothing. If it sits there long enough people will start using it for real work and if it does the job then they will use it some more.

Graebert is already taking care of development. Dassault Systemes has a team doing some other parallel development like creating an API for DraftSight. All that is now needed is for Dassault Systemes to throw its money and name behind DraftSight and market the crap out of it to AEC.

Who knows, history may repeat itself once again, this time in AEC.

  • John

    I agree with your views about DraftSight.

    While infiltrating the AEC market might be a long term goal, I feel reducing the number of companies that purchase AutoCAD subscription is the short term goal.

    There are millions of dollars being wasted to have the”latest” 2D technology, which limits investment in more advanced tools.

    Just to clarify one comment made, while DraftSight is not marketed as a 3D application, it does support 3D boolean solid modeling. The detailing functions are too limited to use it as a full fledged 3D CAD application, but it can be useful in limited areas.

  • John

    I agree with your views about DraftSight.

    While infiltrating the AEC market might be a long term goal, I feel reducing the number of companies that purchase AutoCAD subscription is the short term goal.

    There are millions of dollars being wasted to have the”latest” 2D technology, which limits investment in more advanced tools.

    Just to clarify one comment made, while DraftSight is not marketed as a 3D application, it does support 3D boolean solid modeling. The detailing functions are too limited to use it as a full fledged 3D CAD application, but it can be useful in limited areas.

  • http://bausk.wordpress.com/ Bausk

    That would surely be a nice thing to happen. We in the AEC could use some competition for sure.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    John, correct me if I’m wrong but DraftSight does not come with 3D boolean stuff. It basically ARES, the lite version. ARES Commander Edition has the 3D stuff.

  • John

    I stand corrected. You can created 3D extrudes, but the subtract and union commands are not available.

    I have used DraftSight to import 3D ACIS models exported from SolidWorks and then save them as DWG.

    Sorry, I must have confused DraftSight with the ARES Mac beta version I’m also working with. My bad!!

  • Rick McWilliams

    The $0 price presents some new difficulties related to selling software. I thought that CAD software concept was sold to the executive management and then forced upon engineering. DS is going to need to have those special offsite meetings to sell something that is free. The marketing department is going to have trouble with special discounts. What about the kickbacks from the sales channel?

  • chad

    Isn’t the new ACIS based from the DS V6 platform? I’m curious to see how this will play a role?

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    DS V6 is CGM, not ACIS.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    I guess those meetings will still be there. DraftSight will be brought up when they say to DS, “But we still need some software for DWG”.

  • http://twitter.com/kabab3d babak sanayei

    Personally I see it as a way for DS to try and starve Autodesk from revenue from a very large cash cow.

  • http://twitter.com/3DSindia 3DS

    Success of any software depends on the support provided to the customer through upgrades and bug fixes. This becomes a challenge when software is offered free. Many free 2D cad software’s have failed in the past because of this reason.Hope this doesn’t repeat with Draftsight.

  • Vulcan Eager

    What does AEC stand for?

  • Vulcan Eager
  • Pingback: A Conversation With Aaron Kelley On DraftSight | Deelip.com

  • Jscook55

    Good question Vulcan, I didn’t know that either. Btw, Draftsight seems to have some limited 3d capabilities: http://www.jcopro.net/2011/03/23/draftsight-limited-3d-capability/

  • Anonymous

    thanks for your information about this things…

    you may be rigth history could possible repeats it self…
    no one knows…




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