Parametric Technology Corp.Waltham, Mass.

Dec. 21, 2004
Doug Bartholomew, Samuel Greengard, Glenn Hasek, John Jesitus, Scott Leibs, Kristin Ohlson, Robert Patton, Barb Schmitz, Tim Stevens, and John Teresko contributed to this article. Parametric Technology Corp. introduced at midyear a product called ProEngine, a knowledge-loaded interface that allows users to drive the design of internal-combustion engines in ProENGINEER CAD software via a Web browser. With ProEngine users access engine templates, premade models of engine blocks, pistons, and connecting rods -- all kinds of system components that are parametrically made -- then simply by altering parameters on a Web page they create a new engine or component design. A click away are answers to questions on parameter-change implications, interactive tutorials, simulations, and other captured databases and expertise to help explain and automate the design process. Although ProEngine will be of great value to a relatively small community of engine designers, the real value of the product lies in the underlying technology Parametric Technology used to create the system -- the company's new Pro/Web.Link open-systems tool that actually links the browser technology with the CAD system. Because it is browser-based, it is easy to use and easy to change, and it allows a company to build all kinds of best practices, expert knowledge, and other applications into the system through links. In effect, it turns a casual CAD user into a power user. "Pro/Web.Link itself is a Java script applications programming interface that allows the Web browser to communicate with ProENGINEER," says Phil Burt, product-line manager for Web applications. "What you can do with that is create Web pages that can automate and standardize certain processes within ProENGINEER. You can retrieve template models, set and control parameter values to enforce company standards, do design-rule checking, add third-party applications, and link back to other databases and software applications, which can yield parameters that likewise can drive ProENGINEER." For instance, users can link into ERP or MRP databases in real time, pull in that information and let Pro/Web.Link push it directly into the design process, using the inputs as design variables. In the case of ProEngine, the internal-combustion application of Pro/Web.Link, Parametric Technology designed an entire engine in ProENGINEER and documented the total process in Web pages. Then at critical points in the process Parametric built in automation via Pro/Web.Link. "For instance, connecting rods have certain driving parameters," says Burt. "ProEngine helps you to decide which template model to use by asking certain questions about your application, and once it brings that into your ProENGINEER session using Pro/Web.Link, it asks more questions about the parameters required of the connecting rod. It will then modify those parameters in the ProENGINEER model, hiding the user from the complexity of having to know which parameters to modify." The same approach can be applied to other product families. "With the underlying Pro/Web.Link technology, you can make ProDishwasher or Pro-whatever-your-product-is," says Burt. "It can be used by any company that has a standard product that has multiple variables. For instance, a dishwasher will have many configurations of a base design. You have company standards about materials, finishes -- things that can be pulled directly into the design to drive ProENGINEER." Parts vendors could immediately obtain a customer's specifications and build them into a new part by going to the customer's Web page and enforcing those specifications in the ProENGINEER session. "You have basic intelligence built into your part right from the very beginning," says Burt.

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