In the 1970s, turnkey CAD was the new thing, and it ran on Unix. The highlights: ComputerVision and Intergraph.
In the 1980s, desktop CAD was the new thing, and it ran on DOS. The highlight: AutoCAD. (Oh, and Pro/Engineer, too, though still running on Unix.)
In the 1990s, the new thing was running desktop CAD on Windows. (Well, and on Mac, too.) The highlight: SolidWorks.
In the 2000s, it turned out that the new thing wasn't the Internet, and so CAD continued on Windows. The highlight: direct editing.
In the 2010s, the new thing is portable CAD running on anything. The highlight: we don't know yet, but at least one company (Autodesk) is betting hundreds of millions it will be the cloud.
But if you were today to write a new MCAD package from scratch, what would it look like? Not like SpaceClaim, AutoCAD for Mac, or any other newish CAD package, probably. Jim Foster heads up Blackthorn Design, a brand new software company that's writing a brand-new MCAD package. Employees and advisers formerly were with SolidWorks, Autodesk, and PTC.
Blackthorn's primary aim is to figure out how to turn napkin sketches into 3D CAD models. This is something at which SolidWorks, Autodesk, and PTC have made stabs, but no one's figured out something people will actually want to buy.
In his blog entry today, Mr Foster explains his company's thinking that undergirds their software design. Read the whole thing at www.to3dnow.com/why-the-cloud-for-cad, but here is a summary:
- Files - the idea of developing our CAD application with a “no PDM required” and a “no IT reliance” philosophy became an important requirement to consider.
- OS - a new application should have the same interface on all desktop computing platforms.
- Accessibility - in the context that a mobile device may be the only computing device someone has, it had better be able to create data as well as consume data.
- Convergence - WebGL and HTML5 made it possible to build an affordable 3D CAD implementation deployed through a standard web browser.
Mr Foster admits that there are drawbacks to running CAD in Web browsers, but he figures applying the right bits of technology to specific areas of the software will make it work. "Due to the workflow we are using and how we constructs parts and assemblies, if the overall time of creation and modification is significantly faster than other desktop applications, comparing the exact number of milliseconds required to sketch a line becomes less significant."
Oh, and by the way: they're looking for more funding so that they can stop meeting around tables in Starbucks.