“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
(tacked up on the refrigerator at SpaceClaim HQ)
Blake Coulter, co-founder of SpaceClaim*, was rushing off to catch a flight to Burning Man. My first thought was to warn him he would be heading into a free-spirited art event in the California desert, that he risked being the only CAD veteran in attendance. But then it occurred to me that Blake knew this, and maybe this was even the reason he was going. For most of the year, Blake immerses himself in CAD. If you have uttered a CAD-related word online, Blake knows you. He is active on Twitter and is a voracious reader of the blogs.
But despite his artistic leanings, he had held off until he was able to welcome me to the company headquarters in Concord, MA (across the street from SolidWorks, actually) and have me see the latest release of SpaceClaim -- as well as discuss what appeared to be some new company positioning. I saw a variety of improvements in SpaceClaim, most of which will be welcomed by their user base. I hope to use the software soon so I can reveal more details.
But back to the positioning…
SpaceClaim, as far as I can tell, is a fully functional solid modeling program. Its champions say it is the easiest to learn and use. It does direct modeling, which is all the rage. Yet, all of the above have been insufficient to gain huge market penetration in a market dominated by Autodesk and SolidWorks.
SpaceClaim, having sensed an unexpected resistance, had sought what may have been an unguarded side door. The first was modeling analyses, notably with a robust partnership with ANSYS, plus other CAE players. By SpaceClaim accounts, FEA users were only too happy to abandon their clumsy modeling front ends with a “real” modeling program.This strategy seems to have had some measure of success. A recent customer survey showed over 40% of SpaceClaim users use it for FEA model preparation1.
Buoyed by this, SpaceClaim now declares they will try another side door: preparing models for manufacturing, such as sheet metal fabrication, tooling and fixturing, mold design and CNC machining. For both analysis and manufacturing, the reasons for using SpaceClaim are the same: ease of use and a large variety of formats that can be read. But with SpaceClaim 2011+, a lot of additional sheet metal capability has been added. Through a partnership with TRUMPF, a leading manufacturer of sheet metal fabrication machinery and industrial lasers, SpaceClaim now has added much sheet metal ability, such as folding hinges, hems, etc.
Still, I had questioned the oblique strategy. Even if SpaceClaim owned pre-analysis and pre-manufacturing modeling, will it be enough? What good is owning niches? Given the advantages they say they have, should they have been going after something more -- like world domination?
But now, it appears as if SpaceClaim is back in the fight. SpaceClaim is now talking of “displacing” existing MCAD software. Apparently, SpaceClaim has been successful in landing a few manufacturers who may have been using other MCAD programs.
But does a few wins signify a trend? Is this a just a small company talking big? Does SpaceClaim really have a chance? Stay tuned for more discussion.
*Blake Coulter official title: Director of Customer Development
1. 60% of SpaceClaim's customers use it for conceptual modeling, an 30% use it for NC model preparation, as found on same customer survey.