If you’ve been waiting to see what PTC’s next move is, your wait is over. If you’ve been waiting to see what direction product development tech is taking, stop.

Nearly every CAD vendor has shared their vision of what the future of product design is going to be like. Thursday was PTC’s turn. Thursday, October 28th, they launched Creo. Here’s what it’s all about.

What is Creo?

First of all, Creo is a vision. A vision of what PTC sees as the future of product development. This vision came about through customer feedback, *cough* losing large accounts *cough*, new ideas spreading their tendrils throughout the CAD industry and common problems we all face with using CAD software. But that’s how inspiration for this type of progress happen isn’t it. For all the problems that exist in 3D modeling, they nailed the major ones… some of them, but how they’ve developed this vision could very easily knock out a few more as well.

Second of all, it’s a new platform built on a “Common Data Model” porting all the functionality through a suite of product development apps. Common Data Model? Apps? Hmmm, now what does that mean?

PTC introduced four technologies that underlie the Creo platform and encapsulate the programmatic future of PTC: AnyRole Apps, AnyMode Modeling, AnyData Adoption, AnyBOM Assembly. These are not new modules for the regular line of PTC products. These are the core technologies to address the major problems they’ve identified in traditional CAD. The backend is the Creo “Common Data Model”. From my understanding, not a kernel, but a group of kernels. Like a book, with each chapter being a integral part of the whole. The parts of these ‘chapters’ providing the functionality for what you want to do are delivered as apps – tiny, easily deployed programs that are just as easily updated… or so we hope. So, this is indeed a newly developed program, not just a code re-write. Creo is a new product. Here’s a breakdown of the four technologies, or rather four aspects, of Creo, in my own words, free of any marketing drivel.

AnyRole Apps – These combine all disciplines of product development from design, engineering, analysis, tech pubs, rendering, etc. across a variety of apps within the single user interface of Creo. PTC is delivering a base set of apps with plans for partner ecosystem for further app development. An app for design tasks, an app for engineering tasks, an app for simulation tasks, an app for rendering tasks… you get the idea. My understanding is, you load an app and it shows up as an additional tab in the ribbon bar.

AnyMode Modeling – Ability to float back and forth between modeling methodology: 2D conceptualization, moving from 2D to 3D, grabbing 2D cross-section off 3D models to create alternate layouts, working between Parametric and Direct modeling environments. The parametric and direct modeling environments are separate “purpose-driven apps” to aid in the modeling process. What allows all of this? A “Common data model” which keeps features in each environment intact. All of the modeling data/feature intelligence is preserved.

AnyData Adoption – Model data from other systems can be brought in with this tech. It’s exactly what you think and dream of. This pretty much eliminates the need for those squirrelly translators. Will it bring everything in? and accurately? Who knows. But rest assure the major ones will come in… minus the features, but with “AnyMode” who needs features right?

AnyBOM Assembly – AnyBOM sits on top of PTC’s Windchill product configuration program. This basically allows you to keep a better handle on configurations. It automates assembly design from the BOM but uses Windchill and a UI to make it all more visual. It generates the 3D model, then automates the creation of all possible variations.

So with all of that, PTC takes a very different approach to product development than they ever have before. For the Pro/E users, more options. For the users of other CAD systems, thoughts about having some of this functionality in their own systems. And for both, the question if it all really makes the design process easier.

You can read more about the 4 technologies on the creo tech website.

Using Creo

During the event, there were brief demonstration of how each of the above are used inside Creo. While minimal as far as UI’s go, it has ribbon bar command navigation and enough functionality at the moment to get across that you do indeed have a lot of options when modeling. The best part of this was showing how both subdivision modeling and parametric modeling can happen in the same modeling environment. No plugin required. Much love for that. It’s something all the CAD vendors need to add to the list. In the video below, you’ll see both SubD and parametric modeling happening on the same model. The SubD modeling looks a little chunky, but also fairly simple using a triad, call the “Copilot”, to manipulate the geometry.

The creo interface. fairly minimal, but developed enough to show different modeling techniques. In this case, both subdivision and parametric modeling. (Click to Enlarge)
The creo interface. fairly minimal, but developed enough to show different modeling techniques. In this case, both subdivision and parametric modeling. (Click to Enlarge)

Another aspect demonstrated the process of bringing models back and forth between parametric (implicit) and direct (explicit) modeling modes. These were separate screens with the direct editing environment showing no type of feature tree. However, “features” could be created and manipulated. Then, after finishing with the direct modeling brought back into the parametric environment where the same elements used to create the feature could be edited. Why the two environments are separate, I have no idea, except perhaps to split up the roles each play. To me, having any modeling function in the same place would be a benefit, if not a necessity.

The direct modeling envorinment in Creo (Click to Enlarge)
The direct modeling envorinment in Creo (Click to Enlarge)
The parametric modeling environment in Creo (Click to Enlarge)
The parametric modeling environment in Creo (Click to Enlarge)

When is it Available?

Creo 1.0 products will start being slammed out Summer of 2011 with the the 2.0 version following quickly behind in the fall, showing that PTC is shaking up their typical product delivery schedule as well. How this plays into your regular subscription and how the transition and delivery of products will happen is yet to be seen. But, what exactly is it that PTC will be shipping? I’m happy to pretend you’ve asked that, because it’s a very big part of what’s happening within the whole PTC product line.

What is happening to the other PTC products?

So, maybe you have Pro/E. Or, maybe you use CoCreate or ProductView. None are going away… yet, but they are all being wrapped up nice and pretty under the Creo name. Here’s what you’ve got.

Pro/E is now creo elements/pro
CoCreate is now creo elements/direct
ProductView is now creo elements/view

It’s all very e.e. cummings of them, don’t ya think? Good move by PTC in my opinion… rebranding, a fresh face, the whole “out with the old, in with the new” thang. This rebranding is immediate. All PTC products being shipped will carry the “Creo element” prefix as PTC prepares for the Creo 1.0 launch next summer. Will these (and the other modules) be absorbed as Apps into the main Creo Interface? That’s my guess.

For now though, it’ll be hard for users to get away from saying “Pro/E”. However, the “Pro user” moniker is sure to stick as are comments like, “Good heavens, you use Pro!?”

Latin countries should have good fun with the new name. “Creo” is from the verb “Creer” which means “to believe.” Creo means I believe. A common expression in Spain and Mexico is “¡No lo creo!” or “I don’t believe it!” Fun.

You can see the full list of PTC name changes, including name changes to modules and packages on the creo product mapping page.

Pro/E on the cloud?

You’ll not see it. It wasn’t talked about or even mentioned during the presentation. (thank God.) For good reason, too. They’re not interested in it… at least on the surface. To them, modeling on the cloud as a solution looking for a problem to solve and they’ve already got a problem to solve with model data and how it’s used in the design process. That’s what each part of Creo technology is aimed at solving. So, (for now) you won’t hear much about harnessing off-site computing power from PTC, but there’s little doubt they’ve thrown out discussing the possibilities.


PTC has definitely stepped it up a notch… two notches. They’ve obviously put a lot of thought (and money) into developing a strategy to address their customer base and the push toward parametric modeling bringing in a more fluid design workflow. They’ve focused on a core group of problems and have applied a core group of technologies against them. Specific roles having options for modeling modes with the flip of a switch of an app. There’s a simplicity in all that, which makes the design process seem cleaner. That’s good, really good for PTC whose command-to-click ratio had, in the past been an exercise regiment for mountain climbers. Hopefully as details and beta’s come out, that simplicity will be seen.

Creo is also a testament to those that have brought on the resurgence of a more natural way of modeling. CoCreate obviously provided some inspiration after the PTC acquisition, but Kubotek, IronCAD, SpaceClaim and others have been a key comparison for years in this area. That there continues to be development in direct modeling by the major CAD vendors shows it’s potential impact in the product design process.

All of this is making CAD tech development drama …riveting and full of intrigue. (Two thumbs up.) The ones who succeed are going to be the ones that can develop the programs that solve the problems, while convincing existing users to stay on board. Oh, and at the same time, attract new users. To me, it’s becoming easier to see how these programs could grow and gain exposure through word of mouth. That’s a bit different than before. People excited about their design software? “Have you tried this app!? Have you tried that app?!” Could happen, ya think?

Oh, one other interesting thought. Any CAD vendor could solve the problems PTC has focused in on. The technology is there. Most could do it within the programs they have now. Interoperability, backwards compatibility, ease of use, direct/indirect modeling, automating 3D, and managing configurations. Those ‘problems’ exist for a reason. Perhaps out of necessity, program evolutions or acquisitions, but yeah, it’s how the CAD companies make money and keep people paying.

That dynamic is changing though. There’s are different business models being explored and more ways to get customers and keep them on. PTC is showing how they plan to go about it and have displayed a vision, a modeling ideal that, while maybe not the most innovative, has the most well developed plan for how go about making it all happen.

Update 1: You can watch a replay of the event here.
Update 2: Luxion supports PTC Creo – Access KeyShot direct from Creo


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, 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.