Crack out the Faraday suits and rev up those Tesla Coils, PTC is stirring the air with talks about their endeavor to define and possibly redefine (thunderous clap and loud echoing voice) THE FUTURE of MECHANICAL CAD!! CAD CAD!!

We’re out at PTC/USER 2010 in Orlando, Florida and we’ve found out as much as possible about the gameplan PTC has for product development. Could it be a new product? A new platform? Or perhaps their position on that Cloud mess and how to deliver apps to the user? Hmmm. Here’s what we know and what we think it might be.

In case you’re unaware, Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) is the company that develops Pro/E, Windchill, Co-Create, MathCAD, Arbortext and their various components.

They’ve gathers quite a portfolio of products over the years aimed at satiating your yearning for the document organizing delicacy that is well delivered product lifecycle management (PLM). Hot.

They’ve done quite well adding a collaborative layer across their products with Microsoft Sharepoint supporting it’s backbone. Problem is, they’ve not shown their vision for ripping that backbone out and adjusting it for the shift toward current web-based technologies… until today.

Project Lightning. A vision. Really.

Brian Shepherd, the Executive VP of Product Development described Project Lightning not as a product launch, but as a vision to lead in product development and the bonding of product development roles and lifecycle. That’s nice… the bonding. The slides below, however, obviously show there’s a group of product, or rather apps, that will accompany this bonding.
Here’s what PTC says Project Lightning is:

  • “The right solution for every user at the right time”
  • Solving the big unsolved problems
  • Fresh new approach building on our unique assets
  • Delivering a scalable, interoperable, open and easy-to-use set of mechanical design apps
  • Delivering the right size solution for each participant in the design process at the right time
  • fully upward compatible with what you have today

Wow, pretty obscure right? The wording suggest it’s much more than vision though. It’s delivering the right solution, delivering mechanical design apps. Our guess is that these are going to be small apps that integrate with the existing product line-up and further down it could be a platform that drives the development of that product line. They might be cloud-based or web-based, but the ideas is that you use them when you need them.

It sounds familiar – mobile apps, web apps, cloud apps… Most of the product development companies are taking a stab at them in one form or another and PTC’s main competitors, Dassault and Autodesk, have revealed their own plans to deliver cloud-based functionality to their users. Autodesk is actually already doing it with a lot of their Lab projects.

Whatever PTC is up to, on October 28th they’ll will hold a worldwide virtual event to launch and “introduce the next 20 years of mechanical CAD.” Get those suits on party people.

Everyone uses different tools. They will each have the option to use what they need to use. Click to enlarge.
Everyone uses different tools. They will each have the option to use what they need to use. Click to enlarge.
Not constrained to one option or the other. Any or all options are available. Click to enlarge.
The PTC line of products that serve as the foundation of technology. Click to enlarge.
What Project Lightning is. mechanical design apps delivered when you need them. Click to enlarge.

Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.