I’ve visited PTC in Boston a number of times, but this was the first time for their annual user conference, dubbed Liveworx (originally the name of one of their software packages). This was the first in-person event since 2019, owing to the covid lockdown.
One of my earlier visits was for the 2011 launch of Creo, the “new” CAD program that combined the direct editing of CoCreate (originally ME/30, Hewlett-Packard’s in-house 3D direct modeling CAD system) and the parametric editing of PTC’s own Pro/Engineer. (Creo is Latin for create.) Both programs were developed in the 1980s.
The theme for the Creo launch back then was “get out of jail,” and we were ensconced in a darkened warehouse dressed up like a jail, complete with imitation jail guards and sweeping search lights. The idea was that we were all locked in the proprietary file formats of other CAD vendors, and through direct editing Creo would “read” all of them, and so release us from imprisonment.
The marketing had no impact, I would wager to claim. SpaceClaim had already claimed the direct-editing-of-any-CAD-file mindshare by then, and most other CAD programs had also quickly added direct editing, if they didn’t already have it. PTC still sells CoCreate to loyal customers.
What is Creo+?
This year’s Liveworx featured the launch of Creo+, and I attended three sessions to better understand what it is. Creo+ is, as its name implies, the desktop version of Creo with some extensions for collaboration and administration.
For collaboration, we saw canned demos where four engineers worked on a single assembly. The parts being worked on are locked out. When one user wanted to use Ansys simulation on the entire assembly, he created a branch to work independently from the rest of the team. (This branching tech is borrowed from Onshape), and then with the agreement with the rest of the team, merged his adjusted model to the source model. There is no view-only version for non-users to join the collaboration session.
For administration, your boss assigns various levels of licenses remotely, for durations as short as 24 hours. As well, Creo+ collects analytics so that your boss and PTC can see how you’re using the software.
The extensions are written using the Atlas platform, which PTC created following its half-billion-dollar acquisition of Onshape, the world’s only real 3D MCAD running fully in the cloud. Windchill+ PLM and Arena PLM also make use of Atlas. These products make up the new Agile department at PTC.
Creo+ is not a cloud version of Creo, as originally promised by PTC following its ecstatic purchase of Onshape. It will always run on the desktop, although PTC hopes to have a version that can be streamed through a Web browser. I trust it won’t be brute-force streaming.
PTC executives emphasized that the Creo and Creo+ will be feature-identical for decades to come. However, extensions to Creo+ will be released every three months in areas of collaboration and administration. The upgrades will be forced on users, a la Onshape, with a four-week preview period to give CAD managers a chance to adjust.
Onshape had held its own user conference online last month. I did, however, take in a two-hour training session on working with Onshape. Towards the end, Onshape co-founder Jon Hirschtick entered the room and sat in the back. The big news, though, was that there is once again a free version of Onshape for non-commercial use, and it will include a simpler version of the Frustum generative modeler.
Other topics covered by Liveworx were not of interest to me, such as ALM (application lifecycle management), SLM (service lifecycle man), and PLM (product lifecycle management).
I’ve always been impressed by the energy of PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann, especially as he is one of the few CAD software CEOs who spends a lot of time with users during these kinds of conferences.
[Disclaimer: PTC provided me with airfare, hotel accommodation, and all meals.]