Collaboration software gets CAD support

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. - With an eye toward reducing product development cycles, Web-based collaboration vendor eRoom Technologies is adding support for CAD drawings to its online meeting room software that will let users share, edit and annotate those files.

Online collaboration on design drawings is becoming a trend in manufacturing as companies work in a more distributed fashion in their own companies and with business partners, experts say.

With eRoom Viewer for CAD Visualization, eRoom is providing browser-based access to two-dimensional and three-dimensional CAD and Electronic Design Automation (EDA) files and support for more than 200 engineering and business file formats. The company licensed the technology from Cimmetry Systems.

"Online collaboration has been one real bugaboo in trying to do design in a distributed world," says John MacKrell, a senior consultant with CIMdata. "The trend is toward online meetings that can shorten product development life cycles and take the pain out of decision making."

MacKrell says eRoom falls into the category of products that let users view and discuss a drawing but require an engineer to return to the design program to make changes. He says vendors such as CoCreate and Alibre let users collaborate and make changes online. He says it's not a matter of which class of products is better, but what fits a corporation's needs.

"The codesign products lean toward engineers with big workstations and private lines, while eRoom is simple enough to be used by anyone," MacKrell says. He also notes that CAD vendors are adding collaboration to their wares, such as the alliance 3-D design software maker Parametric Technology made with Groove Networks in February.

With eRoom, users can load a CAD file onto the eRoom server and share it with anyone with a Web browser, given that the Viewer for CAD Visualization is a server-side Java application. Users can pan, zoom and rotate a drawing; break down assemblies; and view component pieces of a drawing. Users can make annotated drawings and print them out. The CAD files can be incorporated into the access control, version tracking, notification and workflow capabilities of eRoom.

"Text files are not enough for collaboration," says Bryan House, product marketing manager for eRoom. "We are expanding from a horizontal solution to a vertical industry with specific applications."

Viewer for CAD Visualization comes in four versions ranging from 2-D view-only with pricing starting at $400 per seat to 2-D/3-D view with annotation support that starts at $1,500 per seat. The software is available now.

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