It’s been 16 years since PTC paid $205 million for Rasna and its upstart Mechanica structural/thermal simulation tools. In 1995 Mechanica sales were “projected” to hit $35 million so when PTC swooped in with an offer nearly 6 times greater everyone in the business thought for sure Mr. Harrison and company had an exciting vision that might revolutionize CAE.
No such luck.
It soon became apparent that PTC was buying revenue growth and didn’t really understand or have interest in CAE. I think they’re sales force at the time found it too difficult to sell and possibly even a distraction. Soon Mechanica went to the back burner and there it has remained.
With the installment of Jim Heppelmann as President and CEO has come a grand, highly creative vision for the PTC product line. Last week I did a post on ANSYS and its lack of vision, nothing could be farther from the truth when it comes to PTC. With Mr. Heppelmann at the helm this company has vision out the wazoo. So much so that when I read a PTC press release like the one issued today I envision Bill Starbuck (Burt Lancaster) in The Rainmaker telling me a story that may defy logic but I want to believe it anyway.
In today’s media alert about the release of Creo Direct/Elements v18.0 the CAE acronym appears in the 2nd paragraph which is then followed by several references to Creo Simulation. This suggests to me that Mr. Heppelmann and company are aware that there is a lot of buzz and a lot of investment around CAE and they do not want to miss the SEO (search engine optimization) opportunity. As you read the announcement it becomes apparent that -sadly – there are no innovations for those of us who care about CAE. What is now being called Creo Simulation is still just Mechanica, a decent tool for basic structural, stress/strain, and steady state thermal analyses… pretty much what it has been since 1995 with obvious improvements to user interface, CAD integration, etc.
For me the most troubling part is not the lack of CAE innovation coming from PTC but it is the product name itself. It appears PTC perceives “simulation” to be a single app — like a prospective buyer will ask “do you guys do simulation?” and the sales rep will reply “oh yeah, we’ve got an app for that” and the buyer will say “cool“. Selling and buying CAE was not that simple in 1995 and it still not that simple in 2011. CAE, or engineering simulation, is a very broad category that includes a wide spectrum of enabling technologies and includes numerous unique and rarely integrated software applications.
I am skeptical by nature so I could be overreacting but the Creo Simulation story feels condescending to me. I love a good story as much as anyone but Mechanical Engineers need more than an app to climb the product development mountains with which they are regularly confronted. The whole Creo story is very compelling and I’m generally confident that PTC will bring some important innovations to our world but when it comes to CAE it still feels like 1995 to me.