Adding 'Simultaneous' To Design Collaboration

Dec. 21, 2004
ImpactXoft does that by enabling non-CAD experts to interpret and manipulate product designs.

Attilio Rimoldi is a software innovator who some CAD analysts have compared to Sam Geisberg, founder of Parametric Technology Corp. Both are immigrants -- Geisberg from Russia, Rimoldi from Italy -- and both are closely associated with disruptive-technology ideas about product-design software. At ImpactXoft Corp., a San Jose-based start-up founded by Rimoldi and Martin Welch, COO, the vision is focusing on facilitating simultaneous product development. "We do that with a digital product-modeling system designed to allow non-CAD experts to interpret and manipulate the design," says Rimoldi, president and CEO. He wants to overcome a barrier -- the need for a CAD "jockey" -- that slows collaboration at the design phase of product development. Consider that in engineering alone, there are mechanical, material, and thermal engineers who, while they know their sciences, often can't express what they know in CAD geometry. All of their contributions to a design project have to pass through a CAD specialist. "If you're really talking about collaboration, you've got to have your systems easy enough for everybody to simultaneously participate," says Rimoldi. He makes the point that simultaneous product development shifts the paradigm for collaborative product design. Up to now, collaborative practices have been serial and alternating, not parallel and simultaneous. In serial collaboration copies of digital product files are passed back and forth. Days and weeks pass as a design progresses serially along these steps in the development life cycle. ImpactXoft's CAD solution, called the IX SPeeD Suite, is built on three technological enablers. One, IX Functional Modeling, is a unique approach to modeling that lets the design team focus on the required functionality of the product instead of the details of geometry creation. As a result, technical and nontechnical members of the development team can easily refine product definitions. The second is IX Functional Object Representation, a scheme for sharing the large CAD files via the Internet. Rather than simplify product models to reduce their size, and thus eliminate important details, the technology captures the inherent properties of each design element and their place and purpose within a model. That makes Internet collaboration effective even with connections slower than 28.8 Kbps, says Rimoldi. The third enabler, IX Design Intent Merge, handles communications among Internet-connected team members, instantly integrating and showing all their changes on their respective desktops. Most importantly, says Rimoldi, team members are engaged in revising the actual geometry of the model, not performing mere red lining or markup. ImpactXoft gives collaborators two ways to work together. In the synchronous mode project members work together on their own manifestations of the same model in real time. In the asynchronous mode, project members work on their own tasks offline and can share, receive, and merge modeling operations whenever they choose to go online. CAD market analyst Charles Foundyller, president, Daratech Inc., Cambridge, Mass., says the software "has the potential to deliver a decisive collaborative advantage to adopters . . . ." That potential has been grasped by Nagoya, Japan-based Toyota Caelum Inc. (TCI), the subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp. that provides mechanical design automation solutions for the automaker and its suppliers, as well the rest of the Japanese market. Almost two years ago TCI became ImpactXoft's development partner and is now the distributor for Japan. TCI's brand for the product is XXen (pronounced "zen"). The product has been available in Japan since June. ImpactXoft distributes IX SPeeD Suite to the rest of the world.

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