Generative design is hot
PTC this week made the surprise announcement that it had purchased generative-design software maker Frustum for about $70 million. For this amount, PTC gets into generative design, which its competitors Siemens PLM, Dassault Systemes, and Autodesk had already broached.
Generate works in a Web browser and as a desktop program running in Windows. PTC also gets the TrueSolid volumetric kernel, talented programmers, and a customer base.
Between Frustum and ANSYS simulation, PTC ceo Jim Heppelmann is working on turning his company's Creo MCAD system into a powerhouse: "Creo is core to PTC’s overall strategy, and the embedded capabilities from ANSYS and, later, Frustum will elevate Creo to a leading position in the world of design and simulation."
The idea behind Generate is to minimize the volume of a part (to keep cost and weight down), yet to generate a part that can be manufactured by additive or subtractive manufacturing, but without any post-processing -- which is normally needed to prepare a CAD-designed part for being manufactured.
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Ralph Grabowski: Fustum received funding from Siemens Venture Capital, and Siemens PLM Software uses your technology in its NX and Solid Edge MCAD programs (see image above). Why did Siemens not buy Frustum?
Jesse Coors-Blankenship: I can't speak for Siemens, or to who bid or not on our acquisition, but I can say that we chose to merge with PTC because it is the best fit to realize the company's aspirations.
Grabowski: Will Siemens still be using your generative technology in NX and Solid Edge, now that PTC owns it?
Blankenship: We will continue to honor our agreements to the full extent of them, and we will immediately discuss how to accomplish that with each other.
Grabowski: Is PTC also interested in your adopting your TrueSolid volumetric kernel in its software?
Blankenship: Yes, the intention is to fully integrate all of our generative design capability into Creo over time, while continuing incubation of the technologies we have under development that the public has not seen yet.
Grabowski: In the interview we held in October, you didn't seem to be interested being acquired, saying: "We are not interested in providing a traditional CAD solution. It can't be CAD, because that already exists. We are trying to shoulder into the market as the next generation of 3D design software."
Blankenship: I don't recall being asked about my interest in being acquired at the time. What I was trying to say in this quote was that Frustum has never been interested in replacing CAD or duplicating CAD -- that was not our business strategy. Our strategy was to pioneer generative design technologies and shoulder into the market.
Grabowski: What happened?
Blankenship: It was a blue ocean strategy. There were two ways for us to shoulder into the market; i.e., integration and point solutions. We pursued both paths, and our acquisition marks the success of this strategy, as shown in the monetization of ROI [return on investment] for my investors. Our IP [intellectual property] and team found a fantastic home with PTC.
Grabowski: In the interview, you listed a number of items that you planned to add to your software:
- Implicit modeling with primitives, extrusions, and preset parts for connecting geometry
- Closer connection to manufacturing machines
- Scale the desktop software across nodes
Are these still in the works?
Blankenship: Yes. Generate will be enhanced to further learn from users and their respective use-cases. We are working out how we will deploy it and support it with PTC.
Grabowski: How quickly did this acquisition come up?
Blankenship: We have been talking with PTC for long enough to arrive at the idea of merging, but not so long that it was just talk. We love their philosophy on generative design, their modern pace, and track record of bringing transformational technology to market. They have a very impressive record of success and culture that embraces a seriousness around transformation.
Personally, I want to see our technology change the world. I want to see that transformation through. I think that can happen now to the full extent of our aspirations with PTC by the shared vision we have with their leadership who I am very impressed with.
Grabowski: What will your role be at Frustum under PTC?
Blankenship: I am very honored to become a Senior Vice President of Technology working from the new PTC Boston Seaport headquarters. It is personally a very exciting time for me and I'm very proud to continue to lead me team within PTC.
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"With breakthrough new technologies such as AR/VR, high-performance computing, IoT, AI, and additive manufacturing entering the picture, the CAD industry is going through a renaissance period, and PTC is committed to leading the way,” concludes Mr Heppelman.
Official press release from PTC: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20181120005326/en/
Frustum home page: https://www.frustum.com/