spaceclaim logoSince their launch in March of 2007, SpaceClaim, out of Concord, Mass. has been making some waves with their new solid modeler. I’m even starting to hear more talk about it amongst the casual uninterested CAD users. Their assertions to a “highly flexible design environment” make some wonder if this is a fresh approach to solid modeling.

What’s creating the interest in this new CAD system?
It seems one of the largest assets pushing interest in the subject is by people through word of mouth. Matt Lombard is one who has put up an incredible review that looks at the fundamental difference in philosophy between SpaceClaim and SolidWorks.

Personally, I’ve been interested in it for two reasons. One, it was co-founded by Michael Payne. He was part of the group that started SolidWorks and was previously VP of R&D at PTC (Pro/E) where the parametric modeling philosophy was developed that SpaceClaim goes completely against.

Two, it’s new and different. This is where I wish I could try it out. I dislike being confined to sketches and feature history. Bottom line, it limits things I’d like to do. However, I don’t like nurb modeling either. But, from what Matt says, this sounds like it may be a happier medium – create things with sketches and then finish it off with edits. In other words, form it how you want it to look. I like it.

Is there anything not to like about it though?

Two things I don’t like about SpaceClaim
I’m not so sure about the idea of changes occurring at any stage in the product lifecycle. There are enough problems with communication without changes being automatically made. I can’t speak to this too much because I haven’t tried the product and I’m not sure how revision control would be handled.

Product lifecycle is different among companies, but this could work if the process was set up so that design, engineering and manufacturer all had a part early on in the design, which is what I believe SpaceClaim intends. That would be very hard if not impossible where I work with each located in different locations around the world.

The subscription-based usage program they have is horrible, horrible. I don’t have one program that I own that uses this. If you want to create a following, go with something like Adobe does with their products.

  1. Allow trial version download
  2. Offer a standard version under $1000 price point
  3. Offer an advanced version at $1000 price point
  4. Upgrade each for lower price than the purchase
  5. Allow some to be “pirated”

Adobe may have note intended this, but look where it’s got them. In my opinion, this helps grow community, loyalty and demand.

Where are they getting their money?
SpaceClaim is funded through four venture groups, Borealis Ventures, Needham Capital Partners, Kodiak Venture Partners, and North Bridge Venture Partners. They received $7.5 million in Series A funding through Kodiak and North Bridge and $13.5 in Series B funding through all four. I imagine most of its being put into development, but is a cool $21 mill enough to go up against other CAD?

Who will use it?
This will be perfect where design is closely integrated with engineering. I can think of one good example. Design can do an entire conceptual exterior layout and export to a rendering program like Lightwave. Engineering can take the design and turn the engineering. This is one bottleneck I’ve come across. Design can’t use what engineering has, and engineering can’t use what design creates. This is even the case with AutoCAD drawing. If SpaceClaim can destroy this challenge, and still keep the flow going to production it might turn out to be an alternative. If not, there’s just no way I’d switch.

It comes in a box like everything else.
Like Matt says, this isn’t necessarily new technology, but it is new to many who don’t follow CAD industry news and if it brings on a good following and keeps getting funding like it has been it may be a bit more competition than expected.

Other Links
NovEdge interview with SpaceClaims’s Howie Markson
MCAD Online Review


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.