Slowly switching over
Getting information about the current state of the CAD industry in Russia is somewhat delicate, as the Russian government jails those it thinks have been talking negatively about its war against Ukraine. My contacts there won't speak; when they do, only in positive generalities.
I’ve gleaned additional bits of info this month from the isicad CAD news site, from business and politics daily Kommersant, and from an anonymous contact.
Following Autodesk closing its office in Russia, “licenses have not been updated or sold since the end of February. Some experts believe that desktop products will continue to be used (in a kind of legal status),” reports David Levin in isicad, quoting Kommersant. “They simply fired the office staff,” but “according to credible rumors, the dismissal is accompanied by a very significant severance pay, standard for Autodesk.”
Mr Levin writes that CAD vendors and users “have already figured out, and planned, and partly realized life without Autodesk.” Russia does have its own CAD software products, and in upFront.eZine #1136, I listed possible replacements for western CAD programs.
Mr Levin has these updates, written in his usual sardonic manner:
- “It is already clear that Nanosoft in its marketing will not have to portray Autodesk as a puny pirate or a bandit from the high road.”
nanoCAD is an AutoCAD-workalike, but cheaper and more capable.
- “Renga will probably have practically no BIM competition.” Renga is the architectural and steel design spin-off from ASCON.
Kommersant adds, “Western sanctions forced the Ministry of Construction to think about postponing the mandatory transition of housing developers to information modeling technologies (BIM) until January 2024.”
- “Autodesk will not get in the way of ASCON and Top Systems” in the area of MCAD.
Russian software won’t be entirely without foreign competition, as Mr Levin suggests that China’s ZwSoft continues to sell in Russia. ZwSoft offers an AutoCAD workalike based on IntelliCAD and a line of MCAD products based on the American program that used to be called VX.
A technology key to large industry is PLM [product lifecycle management], and here Siemens Teamcenter had dominated in areas like shipbuilding and aircraft construction. With Siemens having pulled out of Russia, Top Systems now has a better opening with its T‑FLEX PLM platform. The company is also working on discipline-specific documentation systems, such as T-FLEX Shipbuilding, “which is being developed at a very high pace.”
Some of these developments were announced during ITOPC-2022, the Eleventh Forum on Digitalization of the Russian Military-Industrial Complex, held in September, in which 861 delegates took part.
The key to any CAD program is its geometric kernel. Last decade, Russia’s government had funded the country’s own RGK kernel, but it found few takers, given the maturity of ACIS and Parasolid -- and the difficulty in switching kernels.
Top Systems had been one of the developers of RGK. With sanctions, the company is now gradually transferring its T-FLEX CAD system to RGK. The other home-grown kernel is from C3D Labs, a spin-off from ASCON.
Western CAD programs are often written by programmers in low-cost countries like China, India, Russia, and Eastern Europe. A credible source within one CAD software company tells me that about half of their programmers have now left Russia.