The Latest Chapter in CAD Software Evolution

Computer-assisted design capabilities are moving beyond engineering and into enabling real-time collaboration. Learn what innovations are driving this growth:

By Ira Breskin

CAD/CAM/CAE, once the belle of the ball, now is the industrial software girl without the curl. Sexier collaboration tools have recently stolen the limelight from these powerful configuration tools that generate a product's seminal mechanical design and related physical analysis. The shift comes amidst the continued weak across-the-board market for software that began more than two years ago.

Despite the lack of marketing muscle, CAD/CAM/CAE remains the largest and most important component of what has evolved into a $13.5 billion enterprise-centric industrial design software segment now dubbed product lifecycle management (PLM).

Most of PLM growth last year focused on collaborative tools and related services. This segment, with $4.2 billion in sales, represents 39% of the PLM market. Total growth will be almost 6.2% this year, less than half that reported in 2002. Gains last year came only from increases in services; software sales declined 7%, according to CIMdata.

CAD/CAM/CAE sales in 2003 will increase by about 2.5% to about $9.5 billion, says Ken Amann, research director of CIMdata Inc., a market research firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich. The gain, although modest, follows two years of flat sales, according to CIMdata.

At more than $8 billion CAD software represents the bulk of this mature market. Sales of the second largest category, CAM software, last year were about $1.1 billion, or 11.4% of the total. The third category—CAE—is small, but growing fast. Sales of computational fluid dynamics software, the second largest type of this analytic software, grew by 14% to $235 million, according to estimates from industry consultants Daratech Inc., Cambridge, Mass.

So what will drive CAD/CAM/CAE growth in 2003?

Better integration of CAD/CAM/CAE capability into a discrete CAD tool whose acceptance will readily extend beyond the engineering/design world, its core market, says John MacKrell, a CAD consultant with CIMdata.

For example, the latest tools generally improve:

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