COFES 2009 Day 1

COFES 2009 was the 10 year anniversary of this unique conference where the who's who of the CAD/CAE/CAM/PDM/PLM/BIM/GIS industries come together to talk about topics of today and tomorrow.  If you take a good look at the key participants, you will notice many names that have played a major role in the landscape we see in today's engineering tools. This list contains about 180 influential people from the entire spectrum including vendors, analysts, resellers as well as users.  Everyone in attendance is encouraged to participate in the on-going conversation, which begins at breakfast and ends late at the bar!
Thursday was registration and 3 analyst sessions covering CAD/PLM survey results, current technology trends and what is happening abroad.  All were extremely interesting and full of information to let us know where things stand currently in our industry.  The conversations, again, started in the sessions and were transported over to the pool, where refreshments were served and the conversation was intense at the bar!  I talked to many of familiar faces in the industry and met a slew of new people, which set the tone for the next two days to come.

Day 1 - Keynote

The fist "official" day was kicked off Friday morning by Chuck House (MediaX), whose keynote was titled "Innovative Engineering for a Disruptive Time", and was a great presentation. He started with examples of times in history when we have been faced with challenges in the economy and what paradigm shifts occurred from Henry Ford to waves of innovation in Silicon Valley.  He even made some jokes about  Twitter and how he never imagined how much value 140 characters had!  Chuck was a fantastic presenter, blending humor with history and really allowing the audience to understand that we have been in times like this and there is an opportunity to be great!

Day 1 - Analyst Briefing - Design, Engineering, and Social Media

The night before I met Jim Brown from Tech Clarity, who was assigned as my host (since I was a rookie COFES attendee), and was running this session.  I was extremely interested how other people in the industry view social media and how they may be using it on a day to day basis.  Jim kicked off the meeting with his assessment of how SM is allowing anyone to utilize crowd sourcing, ideation, and innovation gathering.  He continued to explain how these services (Twitter, Facebook, Instant Messaging, blogs, etc..) are allowing everyone to also have a much larger outreach than conventional approaches. It was interesting how the group picked sides almost immediately, dismissing some of the services for professional design and collaboration.  One engineer said that he doesn't see the point of some of these services for any professional activities and that chimed in another saying "I would not fly in a plane designed on Twitter!"  It was apparent that many of the participants were missing the point, believing that services like Twitter would replace conventional tools like Email.  I took the floor and explained how you can use SM tools for what strengths they all can bring to the design process.

SM services are tools, nothing more, and your ability to utilize these tools in conjunction with one another can be a tremendous resource. I then gave an example about posting a complex question in a forum, but also put a link out on Twitter and ask for help to funnel traffic to the forum to answer your question.

Jon Hirschtick then piped up and explained that these tools are here to stay and how technology is keeping up all close.  He also made the point that social networking is exactly what COFES is and how valuable it is to him, but that SM does this everyday not just once a year.  He finished by saying that we engineers simply over analyze everything! AMEN!  The final thought was everyone needs to set realistic expectations and priorities for all social media.

Day 1 - DaS Symposium - The Role of the Engineering Software Provider in Sustainability

I arrived to this session a bit late but was able to catch 3 of the presentations.  I wanted to catch Rick Chin (SolidWorks) talk about the SAGE project which was introduced at SolidWorks World 2009. SAGE is a task pane interface inside of SolidWorks that gives Engineers an insight on the environmental impact of a part based on the size, material, location of MFG, among other factors and is an effort in conjunction with PE International.

The second presentation, sponsored by Autodesk, was done by a PhD from Arizona State University.  He discussed a natural way of engineering by utilizing patterns and technologies in nature to inspire design.  He showed many examples from their website Ask Nature.

The last presentation was by Tored Dennis from Siemens PLM who explained what facets of a company that must be changed in order to really make an impact in the realm of sustainability.

Day 1 - SpaceClaim demonstration

I wanted to get another look at SpaceClaim and the direct modeling approach since I had not seen the product till right before the launch at one of their webcasts. While walking around trying to decide what session I was going to attend, I ran into Blake Courter, co-founder of SpaceClaim and invited me in for a peek. I was interested in the position of the product since it's focus is to be a conceptual modeler in conjunction to other systems like SolidWorks. Their demo jock, Roman, did a very smooth delivery of a concept of a chair with a robotic arm and an initial layout in 3D was done in about 2 minutes.  He then proceeded to bring in more complete models from SolidWorks and replace some of the conceptual parts with complete models.  Speed was obviously the key and pricing was about %40 less than that of SolidWorks.

One of the really nice features that caught my attention, besides the clean interface, was a specific tool-set that allowed users to pre-process models prior to performing simulation or analysis. These tools provided an intuitive approaches to remove small faces like engravings, healing surfaces and other anomalies in the 3D solid.  Another factoid was thrown in that SC also can read in 3DPDF and modify it, adding yet another way to start the concept phase.

SpaceClaim has about 1200 seats within about 400 customers and is "on plan", according to Blake.  I will be interested to see how SC stakes its claim (no pun intended) in the marketplace.

Day 1 - Analyst Briefing - Affordable PLM

This discussion was run by Cyon Research's own, Steve Wolfe who started by asking all the participants about the reasons that PLM is expensive.  Comments were thrown out at Steve with blazing confidence, however the meeting was quite stagnant due to the focus on the problems within the PLM/PDM space.  I could tell that after about 30 minutes of building the "CONS" list, the discussion was not progressing so Steve put a few of his own observations on the table.  He explained that PLM is expensive because it wastes the time of the most talented people because developers might not truly understand the actual release process and it is sold to IT instead of engineering and manufacturing.

The take away for me was the major problem was legacy data and how to get multiple systems to talk to one another without the loss of critical information.  The ability of systems to parse data seemed to be the key to reducing the costs in implementation and use. One gentleman said, "You know the nice thing about standards is there are so many to choose from!"  Funny...but very true!

Day 1 -Maieutic Parataxis

This, for me, was the one session I was very interested in experiencing since it give everyone an idea of some of the technologies that are in development and how they might be used in the future.  I believe there were 8, 5 minute presentations, some very interesting, others not so much.  The few that caught my eye were the VLC model viewer which can work with incredibly large models very efficiently without any detail loss.  It also brought tool-sets like interference and BOM creation in Excel.

Microsoft also gave a futuristic preview to how interfaces and communication will be done.  After the video played, it was explained how many of the core technologies that were utilized exist now and were shown where their current development states are. The highlights were multi-touch interfaces that communicate with other devices, many of which were mobile and extremely thin.  The message was essentially, information everywhere and accessible anywhere.

The one that caught my eye was Torben Sko's presentation, a PhD student from Australia, who has been working on face tracking software to be used as an input into computer games. The example was with a first person shooter game where his head actions would allow his character to peer around corners or give the Johnny Lee effect to a 3D desktop. Here, take Torben's word for it!

I have more details on all the presentations on the live blog and soon the COFES website will have the videos of the presentations for 2009.  If you are interested in last year's presentations you can visit the Maieutic Parataxis page of the COFES website.

Day 1 - A Night Under the Stars

After a long day 1, we headed up to La Questa Del Sol up in Fountain Hills, AZ for a outdoor picnic with food, drink and, of course, more conversations about all things engineering software. It was a great day of intense debate and productive conversation, unlike anything I have experienced before.  COFES has set a standard, for me, as the ultimate conference! It was created 10 years ago to be "All Hallways", which is where the most productive conversation happens in today's conferences.

Day 2 was just as action packed and I will follow up with my summary of the day's events once I get my breath! ~Lou